New Series of Personal Testimonies, 'Lives Destroyed,' Reveal How One Year after Operation Cast Lead, Life in Gaza is Not Back to Normal

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On 27 December 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights will release the first of 23 personal testimonies which examine how, a full year after Operation Cast Lead, the survivors of this brutal offensive are coping with their loss, trauma and disabilities. One testimony will be released on each day of the Operation Cast Lead commemoration, 27 December 2009 to 18 January 2010.

"As a human rights organisation working here on the ground, we are forced to focus our energies on investigating and documenting the serious human rights violations perpetrated daily in the Gaza Strip," says Issam Younis, Al Mezan's director.

"As a result, we are sometimes unable to find the time to remind people why upholding human rights is so important. The pain, anguish and misery of the survivors persist for years or even decades after the bombs have fallen. Through releasing this series of personal testimonies we hope to show the world that life in Gaza is not back to normal; for many, it will never be back to normal."

Excerpts from the Testimonies

Day 4 of Operation Cast Lead: The Hamdan Family

"Hanadi (the children's 18-year-old sister) went into shock after what happened. She didn't speak at all during the three days of mourning after her little sisters and brother were killed. That morning, as soon as she heard the explosion, she turned to her brother Abdel Kareem and said, 'The children are dead.' It was Hanadi who told them to take out the garbage. She'd seen people moving around in the neighbourhood so she thought that everything was okay...Hanadi can't cope with what happened. She can't bear it. She keeps saying that she wishes that she were dead. She wants to be killed by Israeli shelling."

Day 8 of Operation Cast Lead: The Al Err Family

"I have four girls who are alive. I have two boys and another girl who are dead. I don't feel as though they are dead. I still talk to them. I tell them everything I used to tell them before. I still buy them clothes. They aren't dead. They're just away. They are going to come back," says Leila before her stepson, Nahedh, gently leads her out of the room before coming back to explain, "Leila has become very unstable. She has sort of lost her mind. I think it's because they bulldozed her children in front of her. She went hysterical at that point...When we first used to go to the cemetery she kept trying to dig up the earth around the graves with her hands. Even now we have to stay with her all the time; 24 hours a day. Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF) are following her condition. When we told them we were moving to a fourth floor apartment they advised us not to. They think she might throw herself out of the window. They still come to us every week.

Al Mezan is issuing the 23 testimonies in advance of their official publication date to the media with this press release (http://www.mezan.org/en/center.php?id_dept=70). The testimonies are embargoed until the relevant date as indicated in each testimony. JPEG versions of all photographs are available on request. Interviews with the victims detailed in these testimonies can be arranged by Al Mezan.

Media Contacts

- Mahmoud Abu Rahma, mahmoud@mezan.org , 0599 609 310; (English and Arabic)
- Sara Bailey, sarab@mezan.org, 0598 184 274 (English)