Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Israeli tanks deliberatedly ran over dozens Palestinian citizens

Quds Network
The Israeli army’s repeated killings of Palestinian civilians by deliberately running them over alive with military vehicles was vehemently denounced by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor on Sunday, as was the widespread destruction of civilian property. These crimes are part of Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the rights group said, ongoing since 7 October 2023.

Euro-Med Monitor documented the Israeli army’s killing of a Palestinian man who was deliberately run over in Gaza City’s Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood on 29 February after he was arrested. The man was subjected to harsh interrogation by members of the Israeli army, who bound his hands with plastic zip-tie handcuffs before running him over with a military vehicle from the bottom to the top of his body.

The incident occurred on the main Salah al-Din Street in the Zaytoun neighbourhood, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to the Euro-Med Monitor team. Israeli soldiers restrained the victim’s hands before they crushed him, and tramped on his body from the legs up, confirming that he was alive during the incident. To guarantee thorough and complete crushing, the victim was placed on asphalt rather than in an adjacent sandy area.

The victim’s mutilated body and the surrounding area bear obvious signs that a military bulldozer or tank was present. It appears that the victim was purposefully stripped of his clothes, as he was seen wearing only his underpants at the time of his death.

The ramming operation occurred before the Israeli army withdrew to the outskirts of the Zaytoun neighbourhood two days ago, as evidenced by the condition of the entrails and other body parts, which had not yet decomposed when the case was documented.

Another documented incident took place on 23 January, when an Israeli tank ran over members of the Ghannam family while they were sleeping in a shelter caravan in the Taiba Towers area of Khan Younis. As a result, a man and his eldest daughter were killed, and his remaining three children and wife were injured. Amina, his 13-year-old daughter, confirmed that her father and older sister were killed when an Israeli tank unexpectedly and repeatedly ran over the caravan, where the family had been sleeping. While her mother and two other siblings survived the attack, Amina experienced extreme pressure in her eyes, nearly losing her sight.

Euro-Med Monitor also documented Israeli tanks and bulldozers running over and crushing displaced people inside their tents in Beit Lahia’s Kamal Adwan Hospital courtyard on 16 December 2023. Several people were killed during the incident, including individuals who were initially injured and did not ultimately survive. The corpses of those who had been previously buried in the courtyard were also crushed in the 16 December incident, stated the rights group.

More recently, a Palestinian family survived a 20 February running attack after Israeli tracks ran over their tent on the shore of the Khan Yunis Sea. A female civilian said that she was shocked by the tank suddenly running over her tent.

In addition, Euro-Med Monitor has documented numerous incidents of Israeli army tanks destroying civilian property, particularly cars, during Israel’s ground incursions into different parts of the Gaza Strip. Most of these tank attacks have targeted vehicles parked in the streets without any military affiliation, indicating the Israeli army’s deliberate and systematic destruction of Palestinian property.

Euro-Med Monitor affirmed that all of these violations are part of a larger Israeli effort to dehumanise every Palestinian in the Gaza Strip, in order to justifiy and normalise the crimes being committed against them. Crushing civilians with tanks is just one of the many cruel ways the Israeli army murders Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, disregarding their humanity, suffering, and dignity. These practices reflect the desire of Israel’s government and military to collectively punish the Palestinian people, with the aim of eliminating, intimidating, and/or harming them physically and psychologically. These crimes come alongside a public incitement campaign by Israeli officials, media figures, and settlers calling for the annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza, and are also a result of the total impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators—evident by the absence of any meaningful action being taken to hold them accountable by any party or at any level.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The year 2023 was extremely fruitful for the expansion of Israel's settlements

The almost ready Qalandia 'underpass'

 The formation of the Netanyahu government in December 2022 has created unprecedented conditions for the expansion of settlements. Among them were the promotion of a record number of construction plans, minimal law enforcement against activities of settlers, substantial budgets, and almost unconditional political support for settlers, even in cases involving violence against Palestinians, according to Peace Now. The NGO publishes the following data: 

a. Establishment of new outposts and displacement of Palestinian communities – A record number of 26 new outposts were established during 2023, while 21 Palestinian communities were forcibly displaced from their homes.

b. Advancement of construction plans – A record number of 12,349 housing units were promoted in settlements in the West Bank (East Jerusalem excluded).

c. The legalization of 15 illegal outposts was advanced.

d. Structural and administrative changes towards annexation of the Occupied Territories.

e. Development and promotion of roads – Allocation of approximately 3 billion Shekels for roads in settlements, constituting around 20% of the total Israeli road investment.

  1. a. Establishment of New Outposts
In 2023, settlers established at least 26 new illegal outposts, At least ten of them were established after the 7th of October, when Hamas attacked Israel. At least 18 of them are agricultural farms. It marks a record number since the outposts started to appear under the Netanyahu government in 1996. Also settlers established a new settlement within Hebron in a Palestinian house that they claim to have bought.
The peak years of outpost establishment were during the Second Intifada, suggesting that settlers are adept at exploiting times of conflict. Enforcement by the Civil Administration against illegal construction almost did not occur in the past year under the Netanyahu-Smotrich government.  
Moreover, settlers paved dozens of new roads during the war throughout the entire West Bank. These roads enable them to seize additional land and distance Palestinian shepherds and farmers from the surroundings.

In direct relation to the establishment of outposts, approximately 1,345 Palestinians were forced to flee from their homes due to violent attacks by settlers, according to Btselem data. Twenty-one Palestinian communities were displaced and uprooted, 16 of them during the war since October 7, and 5 communities prior to that. Dozens of more families were displaced from communities that remained in place. In almost all cases farm outposts were recently established near hem, whose residents see themselves as having a goal to expel Palestinians from the surroundings. They often threaten, and attack Palestinian farmers and shepherds. 

II, Advancement of Construction Plans

In 2023, the Israeli government promoted plans for the construction of 12,349 housing units in settlements in the West Bank. These plans were either approved for depositing or validation. According to Peace Now’s estimation, this marks a  record since the Oslo Accords. Additionally, the Ministry of Housing published tenders for 1,289 housing units. In June, a plan for a 2,700 dunams new industrial zone south of Qalqilya, named Sha’ar Shomron was deposited for public review.

The Huwwara bypass road

III,  Legalization of Outposts 

15 illegal outposts underwent the process of legalization. On February 12, 2023, the security cabinet decided to establish 9 new settlements, constituting the legalization of 10 illegal outposts (see details here). Additionally, the government advanced plans to legalize five outposts as “neighborhoods” of existing settlements (more information here). All settlements are considered illegal under international law, however Israel has established criteria by which they are deemed legal according to Israeli standards.

Appendix A: List of Outposts whose Legalization was advanced in 2023:

Avigail, Beit Hoga, Haroeh, Giavt Harel, Givay Arnon (Hill 777). Mitze Yehuda (Keidar East), Malachei Hashalom, Asael, Sde Boaz, Shaharit, Mevo'ot Yericho, Noefi Yehemiya, Pné Kedem, Zayit Ra'anan, Nativ Ha'avot. 

List of outposts established in the year 2023:

Or Meir; Seorim Farm – Immanuel South; Tko’a F; Nahal Machoch Farm; Mevo’ot Yericho West; Negohot North; Sde Yonatan; Givat Haktoret; Asa’el North; Gitit South; Avihai Farm; Ohana Farm; Beqa’ot South; Bar Farm; Old Maon Farm; Shabo Family Farm; Ma’ale Efraim South East; Yahish Tzion; Susya South; Mitzpe Danny Farm; Battir West; Migdalim North; Neve Erez South; Avigayil East; Har Kanub North, Masua West.

Avigail East (Illustrations Peace Now)

  1. Structural and Administrative Changes Towards Annexation of the Occupied Territories:
  • Appointment of “Minister of Settlements” in the Ministry of Defense – Bezalel Smotrich was appointed as a Minister within the Ministry of Defense. He established a new governmental body, “the Settlement Administration,” which is designed to manage all aspects of life in the settlements. Thus far, the Civil Administration in the IDF was responsible for civilian life in the West Bank. (According to international law, the management of the occupied territory is supposed to be carried out by the military which is supposed to serve the interests of the occupied population). The establishment of the Settlements Administration signals the virtual annexation of the territories. 
  • Elimination of the Political Echelon Involvement in Promoting Settlements – The government of Israel decided on June 18, 2023, on a significant change in the planning procedures in the West Bank. It was decided that planning procedures would no longer require approval from the political echelon and the Minister of Defense (except for the stage of the allocation of the land for planning, which is in the hands of Minister Smotrich). This means that the government leaves the power in the hands of settlers and the civil servants. For more details, see here.
  1. Development and Promotion of Roads

In April 2023, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation signed a budget plan for the years 2023-2024 for the Ministry of Transportation. From a buget of approximately 16.5 billion shekels close to 4 billion shekels (3.898 billion) were designated for roads for settlements in the West Bank. This was about 24%  of Israel’s road budget. was allocated to the development of settlement roads.Roads are key to the development and expansion of settlements, and the extensive construction of highways could lead to a doubling of the number of settlers in the coming years. For example, the opening of the “Liberman Road” east of Bethlehem resulted in the doubling of the number of settlers along its route in less than a decade. It is worth noting however that in January 2024, the government approved a budget cut for the year 2024, as a consequence of the Gaza war. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

A Cultural genocide: What is left of Gaza's heritage sites


An ancient harbour dating back to 800 BC, a mosque that was home to rare manuscripts and one of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries are just a few of at least 195 heritage sites that have been destroyed or damaged since Israel’s war on Gaza began on October 7, according to an NGO documenting war damage on cultural sites. Wiping out the cultural heritage of a people is one of the many war crimes South Africa alleges against Israel in a lawsuit that was heard this past week at the International Court of Justice. It states: “Israel has damaged and destroyed numerous centres of Palestinian learning and culture”, including libraries, religious sites and places of ancient historical importance.

Gaza, one of the world’s longest inhabited areas, has been home to a pastiche of people since at least the 15th century BC, according to historians. Empires – including the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and Romans – have come and gone, at times dominating the land of the Canaanites, the ancestors of the Palestinians, leaving relics of their own cultural heritage behind. Greeks, Jews, Persians and Nabateans have also lived along this stretch of coast over the centuries.

Strategically located on the Mediterranean’s eastern shores, Gaza was always in a prime position on the trade routes from Eurasia to Africa. Its ports made it a regional hub for commerce and culture. Since at least 1300 BC, the Via Maris – a route running from Heliopolis in ancient Egypt, cutting across Gaza’s western coastline and then crossing into Syrian lands – was the main route that travellers would take on their journeys to Damascus. 

“The crime of targeting and destroying archaeological sites should spur the world and UNESCO into action to preserve this great civilisational and cultural heritage,” Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said after Gaza’s Great Omari Mosque was destroyed in an Israeli air strike on December 8.

As a result of that particular strike, an ancient collection of manuscripts kept at the mosque may be forever lost. “The manuscript collections remained in the vicinity of the mosque and are currently inaccessible because of the continuing conflict,” Columba Stewart, the CEO of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML), told Al Jazeera soon after the strike.

The 1954 Hague Convention, agreed to by both Palestinians and Israelis, is supposed to safeguard landmarks from the ravages of war. Isber Sabrine, president of an international NGO that documents cultural heritage, explained that crimes affecting cultural heritage are part of the “collateral damage of genocide”.

“Libraries serve as cultural repositories, and attacking them is an attack on cultural heritage. What is happening now is a war crime. It goes against the first Hague convention,” Sabrine said. “Israel is trying to erase the connection of the people with their land. It’s very clear and intentional. Gaza’s heritage is part of its people, it’s history and their connection.” While cultural genocide erases tangible heritage like museums, churches and mosques, intangible heritage includes customs, culture and artefacts. These, too, have been damaged, including the Union of Palestinian artists on Jalaa Street in Gaza City and the well-known clay pots once baked in the city’s al-Fawakhir district.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, UNESCO said: “While priority is rightly given to the humanitarian situation, the protection of cultural heritage in all its forms must also be taken into account. In accordance with its mandate, UNESCO calls on all actors involved to strictly respect international law. Cultural property should not be targeted or used for military purposes, as it is considered to be civilian infrastructure.”

Here’s a closer look at some of the sites that have been destroyed or damaged:


The Rafah Museum had completed a 30-year project to curate a collection of ancient coins, copper plates and jewellery, making it Gaza’s main museum of Palestinian heritage. It was an early victim in the war, destroyed in an air strike on October 11.

Qarara Museum 

Farther east and once sitting on a hilltop, Al Qarara Museum (also known as the Khan Younis Museum) was opened in 2016 by Mohamed and Najla Abu Lahia, a husband and wife team who said they wished to preserve a history of Gaza’s lands and heritage for generations to come. Its collection consisted of about 3,000 artefacts dating back to the Canaanites, the Bronze Age civilisation that lived in Gaza and across much of the Levant in the second century BC. All that remains of the museum now are shards of pottery and smashed glass that has been blown out of the widows during an October air strike.ICOM-Arab told Al Jazeera this museum was given advanced warning by Israeli forces to empty its contents and evacuate to the south of Gaza.

The Mathaf al-Funduq, a small museum opened in 2008 and housed in the Mathaf Hotel in northern Gaza, was damaged by shelling on November 3.

Qasr al-Basha

In Gaza City, the 13th-century Qasr Al-Basha, or Pasha’s Palace, was turned into a museum in 2010 by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, and a collection of artefacts from different periods of Gaza’s history was on display. The site was hit by Israeli air strikes on December 11, damaging its walls, courtyard and gardens. Like many of the heritage sites in Gaza, this building has changed ownership and functions several times over its history. The two-storey fort, built by Mamluk ruler Sultan Zahir Baybars in the mid-13th century, was once a seat of power, constructed as a defence against the Crusaders and Mongol armies. 

During the 17th century, it was used by Ottoman rulers and once served as lodgings for the French commander Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799 when he entered Gaza to try to stave off an expected Ottoman invasion of Egypt, where the French held court. Before the 1948 Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians became refugees during the creation of Israel and many fled into Gaza, the palace served as a police station for the British, who controlled the area, and later, it became a Palestinian girls school.

Rashad Shawa Cultural Center

During a week-long pause in the Israeli bombardment that began on November 24, Palestinians were able to briefly survey the extent of the damage to their homeland. It rapidly became clear that many public service buildings had been destroyed, including the Rashad El Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza City, once the venue for peace talks between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and US President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Samir Mansour’s community bookshop, which was painstakingly restored after the Israeli bombardment of 2021, was also badly damaged.

The Library of the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City was once filled with rare manuscripts, including old copies of the Quran, biographies of Prophet Muhammad and ancient books on philosophy, medicine and Sufi mysticism. The library, established by Sultan Zahir Baybars and opened in 1277, once boasted a collection of 20,000 books and manuscripts. Many of the rare books and manuscripts housed there were lost or destroyed during the Crusades and World War I, leaving only 62 books. These hard copies have now also been destroyed in a strike on the Omari Mosque on December 8. A digitisation project of these books was completed last year by the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library and at the British Library and are accessible online at HMML Reading Room.


Gaza’s Tourism and Antiquities Ministry estimated that as many as 104 mosques have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the Israeli assault. This includes the Othman bin Qashqar Mosque in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood, which was built in 1220 at the site where Prophet Muhammad’s great-grandfather is believed to have been buried. It was badly damaged in an air strike on December 7.

The Othman bin Qashqar mosque as it looks now

The Sayed al-Hashim Mosque, built sometime in the 12th century and rebuilt in 1850, was damaged in an October air strike. This mosque, built of sturdy limestone in the Old City of Gaza, is of great significance for Muslims because it’s said to house the tomb of another of Prophet Muhammed’s great-grandfathers, Hashim bin Abd Manaf. Local lore says he was a merchant travelling back to Mecca from Syria when he became ill, died and was buried in what is now Gaza’s Daraj neighbourhood. A brief interlude of Crusader dominance followed the mosque’s contruction before the Mamluks took over and rebuilt it. It would later be renovated under the watch of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Majid in 1850 and again after damage in 1917 during World War I. Early in the current war, the mosque caught fire during an Israeli air strike, which damaged its walls and ceilings.

The great Omari mosque

The Great Omari Mosque has been a site of religious worship in one form or another for about two millennia. Known in Arabic as Al-Masjid al-Omari al-Kabir, it’s thought to be the first mosque built in the Gaza Strip 1,400 years ago. On December 8, it was destroyed in an Israeli air strike. Built out of local sandstone to accommodate as many as 5,000 worshippers for congregational prayers, all that remains is its Mamluk-era minaret, bent and broken. “This was more than just a mosque for the community,” Sabrine said. “One man told me he felt more sad about the destruction of the mosque than that of his own home.” 

Named after the second caliph of Islam, Omar bin Khattab, it was built in the seventh century on top of the ruins of an ancient church built in 406, which itself was built over the foundations of a pagan temple to the Canaanite fertility god, Dagon. Like many historical sites that outlive the people who built them, this one has different stories behind it. According to one account, Samson, an Israelite warrior mentioned in the Old Testament who was known to hold his strength in his hair, became buried under the rubble of the structure after he brought the walls of the pagan temple down upon himself. Others say the temple fell after the Byzantines burned down all pagan sites when they took over rule of Gaza from 390. 

The great Omari  mosque now

Ayyubid conqueror Salah al-Din turned the building back into a mosque after the Crusaders had converted it to St John the Baptist Cathedral. The mosque had been used as a place of worship by the local Muslim community since 1291 and had served as a focal point for gatherings and cultural activities.

In partnership with the British Library Endangered Archives Programme, HMML last year digitised a selection of ancient, single copy books from the mosque’s library that are unavailable “anywhere else in the world”, an HMML adviser told Al Jazeera. Works included the 14th century Book of Sufi Poems of Ibn-Zokaa and books by famed Gazan jurists, including Sheikh Skaike. The December strike was not the first time the mosque had been hit. It was also struck on October 19 and was also damaged during World War I and again during the 2014 assault by Israel on Gaza. 


The floor of the Byzantine Church of Jabalia, built in 444, was once decorated with colourful mosaics depicting animals, hunting scenes and palm trees. Its walls were adorned with 16 religious texts written in ancient Greek, which dated back to the era of Emperor Theodosius II, who ruled Bynatium from 408 to 450.

Floor of the Byzantine Church of Jabalya

 The Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Ministry reopened the church in early 2022 after a three-year restoration in collaboration with a French organisation, Premiere Urgence Internationale, and the British Council. At the time, the ministry’s Nariman Khella said: “The church was discovered during the paving of Salah al-Din Street, and the first thing that was discovered were two tombs, one for an old person and the other for a young child.” That same year, a farmer discovered a series of intricate mosaics nearby. The state of the tombs and the nearby mosaics remains unclear. As for the historic church itself, it was destroyed in October by Israeli air strikes.

The Monastery of Saint Hilarion is in an area called Tell Umm Amer in Nuseirat village on the coast and dates back to about 340 during Roman rule of the region. A “tell”, is a flat-topped mound, or hill, often marking the position of an ancient city. To withdraw from worldly life and immerse himself in spiritual pursuits, Saint Hilarion, a Christian who is said to be the founder of monasticism, built a small and simple room for himself in what he thought was a secluded spot in today’s Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Despite his desire for solitude, pilgrims sought him out in search of cures for ailments and spiritual guidance. Buildings around his simple room spread over the years, eventually becoming one of the largest monasteries in the Middle East.

Floor of the monastery of St. Hilarion

Within the 25-acre (10-hectare) monastery’s sanctuary, there would eventually be five churches, a burial site, a baptism hall and ancient baths. Mosaics and limestone decorated the floors and walls to welcome pilgrims travelling the Via Maris from Egypt to Damascus. Damaged in an earthquake in 614, the site lay abandoned until Palestinian archaeologists started excavations in the late 1990s. The site, which UNESCO added to its Tentative World Heritage list in 2012, has been damaged in the Israeli bombardments.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius has been located in Zeitoun for 16 centuries. It was struck and damaged on October 19. Considered to be the third oldest church in the world, Saint Porphyrius was built in 425 on the foundations of an ancient pagan site and was named after the Byzantine saint who had made it his mission to close down the pagan temples. He is thought to have been buried on the grounds of the church.

Like other significant sites, this church was turned into a mosque in the seventh century but reverted back to a church in the 1150s when Crusaders reclaimed it. Renovated in 1856, it has remained a place of worship for Gaza’s Christian community to pray and seek shelter during times of conflict. In the October 19 Israeli bombing, 17 people were killed when the roof of the church caved in. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said targeting the church “constitutes a war crime”. The neighbouring Ottoman-style Katib al-Wilaya Mosque, built in the 15th century, sustained damage in the same attack.

Church of St. Porphyrius

The Holy Family Church, built in 1974, is Gaza’s only Roman Catholic church and a shelter for the local community. It was hit in an air strike on November 4. A school in the church complex was partially destroyed. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem confirmed that shrapnel from Israeli military strikes on buildings near the Holy Family Church had destroyed water tanks and solar panels on the roof of the church.

Other heritage sites 

Ard-al-Moharbeen, or the Roman Necropolis, was unearthed last year by archaeologists from Palestine and France after construction workers building new homes discovered tombs at the site. At least 134 tombs dating from 200 BC to 200 AD with skeletons still intact were found in what is believed to be a Roman necropolis. Two intricately decorated lead sarcophagi were discovered, one with grape harvest motifs and the other featuring dolphins. Fadel Alatel, an archaeologist in Gaza and part of the Heritage for Peace network, was working on this excavation before October 7. He told Al Jazeera he was fearful of what may have happened to these rare tombs.

“This is in the area where white phosphorous was dropped. Its damage to the site is unknown,” he said. “Also the winter weather and heavier rains may mean the rare discovery could be destroyed.”Alatel has worked to preserve Gaza’s heritage and archaeology through countless Israeli air strikes but said this time the situation is much worse and he has been unable to return to the site to survey the extent of the damage.

Forensic Architecture (FA), an investigative journalism agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, has been documenting the destruction of cultural heritage in Gaza in its investigation Living Archaeology. On October 8, one day after the Hamas attacks on Israel that started the war, researchers at the agency using satellite technology found evidence of three large craters from Israeli rockets at the archaeological site.

In a report, FA stated: “This disregard for and destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage both diminishes Palestinian claims to statehood and denies Palestinians their fundamental right to access and preserve their own heritage.”


The fate of another ancient site, a harbour, is known. It has been destroyed. Located in the northwest corner of Gaza, the enclave’s first known seaport, Anthedon, also known as Balakhiyah or Tida, was inhabited from 800 BC to 1100 AD, or from the Mycenaean era to the early Byzantine age. It became an independent city during the Hellenistic period. After Roman temple ruins and mosaic floors were discovered on the 5-acre (2-hectare) archaeological site, it was placed by UNESCO on its Tentative World Heritage list in 2012. Other remains date back to the late Iron Age and the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. 

The Hammam al-Sammara, or Samaritan Bathhouse, was destroyed on December 8. It had pre-dated Islam and was likely established by the Samaritans, a religious sect of ethnic Jews who lived in the Zeitoun area, also known as the Jewish Quarter. The area had a thriving Jewish community until Crusader rule in the 12th century. The last Palestinian Jewish family lived in the neighbourhood until the 1960s. 

Hammam al-Samara
The only other piece of Jewish history in Gaza was the King David Mosaic, which dates to 508. It was discovered at the remains of a sixth century synagogue and depicted King David playing a harp. It was transferred to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem after Israel captured the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six-Day War.

At one time, Gaza City had 38 bathhouses. Many were lost during wars and occupation because there were a lack of resources to maintain them. The Hammam al-Sammara was the last one remaining. A sign once hung by its entrance stating it had been restored in 1320 by Mamluk ruler Sangar ibn Abdullah. The site was a popular meeting place for Gazans to socialise and seek cures for ailments under its traditional vaulted ceilings. With intricate, inlaid marble tiled floors the hammam was still heated using traditional wood-fired ovens and aqueducts.

Located northeast of Nuseirat, the fortified city of Tell el-Ajjul, or Calves Hill, sits between the Mediterranean Sea and Wadi Gaza. It was established about 2000 to 1800 BC and has been damaged in the Israeli bombardment. British Egyptologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie discovered the site in the 1930s after he moved east into Palestine after excavating Giza’s Great Pyramid. Here he discovered gold jewellery and ancient coins used by the Hyksos, Romans and Byzantines. Most of his discoveries made between 1930 and 1934 when Gaza was under the British Mandate now reside at the British Museum’s Institute of Archaeology in London. Other finds included imported pottery from Cyprus, bottles and scarabs, with many pieces dating as far back as the Bronze Age about 3,600 years ago. The artefacts also suggest Tell el-Ajjul was once a trading hub. 

Status unknown

The status of Gaza’s many other historic sites remains unknown. According to Alatel, it is difficult to keep up with the situation on the ground because it “changes every five minutes”. Local photographers have been unable to return to many sites to assess the damage because of the dangerous situation.

Khan Younis caravanserai (Barquq's Castle) 

 These are a few of the sites whose condition is not yet known:Dating back to the 14th century, the Khan Younis caravanserai was built to serve the needs of people travelling along the Via Maris. Named after its Mamluk founder, Younis al-Nuruzi, the khanate, or khan, was a type of inn that was popular in the region from around the 10th century, offering a place for travellers to rest and take a break during their journeys. This caravanserai, built in 1387, has a mosque, a post office and storage rooms.  During an archaeological excavation from 1972 to 1982, a collection of unique, human-shaped pottery coffins were discovered at Deir el-Balah Cemetery, dating back to the late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC).

Located in the Daraj neighbourhood, the Sufi mosque of Ahmadiyyah Zawiya was established in 1336 by followers of Sheikh Ahmad al-Badawi, a well-known 12th century Sufi scholar who lived in Gaza. Sufi worshippers would gather there for collective prayers on Mondays and Thursdays. There has been shelling in the area, Alatel said, but it is as yet unknown what has become of the sacred site. “All our heritage sites are clearly marked, yet the Israeli military strikes, the tanks and the bulldozers continue,” the archaeologist said. “But I have faith all this will end. Even if they attempt to destroy our past, we will build back Gaza’s future.”


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: The chilling testimony of a captive in Gaza


Walid Anwar Yousif al-Khalili (35), a Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS) Paramedic from Gaza City, married and father of 3 children, has given the following testimony to PCHR on 02 January 2024. (Taken from PCHR)

📑“I work as a paramedic at PMRS next to al-Quds Hospital in Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City.  At 10:00 on Monday, 13 November 2023, I met by coincidence Dr. Marwan al-Refati, the owner of Family Pharmacy in Gaza.  I was wearing the PMRS paramedic uniform (a white coat with yellow lines bearing the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems) and carrying a first aid kit. I was on my way to check on 3 persons injured in Abu Jalal Dughmosh’s house, so Dr. Marwan accompanied me.  After checking on them, we left the house together and walked on al-Mughrabi Street towards Barcelona Stadium in Tal al-Hawa neighborhood, southern Gaza City.  At around 11:00 when we arrived at al-Sena’ah Street, east of the stadium, I heard a gunshot that hit Dr. Marwan in his abdomen.  I looked to the west from which the bullet was fired, and saw Israeli soldiers in a residential building right to the west of the Barcelona Stadium.  Only few seconds later, the Israeli soldiers, particularly snipers, fired another bullet at Dr. Marwan’s forehead, so he fell on the ground and left to bleed to death.  The Israeli snipers continued shooting at me, so I hid behind a truck parked in the area and luckily did not get injured.  At the time, I was hearing the Israeli tanks opening fire and firing artillery shells.  All of this happened at the beginning of the Israeli forces’ ground invasion into southern Gaza City.  I stayed behind the truck until 01:00 on Tuesday, 14 November 2023, when I managed to crawl towards al-Sena’ah Street and entered an apartment on the second floor in an empty residential building.  I stayed there until midnight on 15 November, when I heard 3 consecutive explosions and saw a red glow lighting the area.  Suddenly, I heard Israeli soldiers screaming, so I knew the attack was by the Palestinian resistance groups.  Shortly, the soldiers raided the building I was staying in and blew up the apartments’ doors, including my apartment, with explosives and grenades. I went to hide in a closet while the Israeli soldiers were searching the apartments, which were all empty.  They then left the building and fired shells and incendiary bombs, setting the building on fire.  I rushed out of the apartment toward the elevator, which was out-of-service, and used its ropes and cables to climb down until I reached the basement and got out through the window to a nearby villa, which was empty as well. I stayed in the villa for some time and slept until noon out of exhaustion.  I then went to the villa’s roof to see tents set up by the soldiers with Israeli tanks and vehicles surrounding the area.  I went downstairs and sent 2 messages to my wife and Dr. ‘Aaed Yaghi, PMRS’s Director, telling them about what happened with me.


📅 At around 15:30 on Wednesday, 15 November 2023, the Israeli soldiers raided the villa amid shooting and I saw laser lights, so I shouted at them to stop and help me in Hebrew.  The soldiers stopped shooting and one of them ordered me to take off my clothes, except for my boxer, and sit with his head down on knees. I was then handcuffed behind my bank and blindfolded, and they then walked me out to another house.  They removed the blindfold and I saw 20 soldiers in green uniforms bearing the American flag.  Suddenly, they started punching me and continued for a long time, fracturing some of my breastbones.  They then set me to a polygraph asking me why I was here and I answered them in details.  They then asked me if I did any phone calls and I said yes but the polygraph made a sound.  Suddenly, I was beaten and electrically shocked, so I changed my answer to no I just sent 2 text messages to my wife and my boss.  However, they kept beating me and showed me pictures of a tunnel accusing me of coming out of it, kidnapping Israelis and Americans, and being a from the Hamas elite forces spying on the Israeli soldiers and existing in a combat zone.  I denied all of that, but they electrically shocked me 5 times and severely beat me all over my body, causing unbearable pains due to breaking my ribs and injuring my head.  After not being able to bear the pain anymore, I admitted to all the accusations and they took me handcuffed behind my back, blindfolded and wearing only my underwear in a troop carrier, where there was a soldier speaking Arabic fluently and treated me well.  He offered me water and biscuits and loosen the blindfold and the plastic ties. The carrier travelled for some time and then stopped to throw me on the ground.  The soldiers again beat me while I was on the ground, spit on me and peed as well.  They then brought me back to the carrier, which kept going and then stopped again to deploy the Israeli soldiers in other places.  All the way I was subjected to the same abuses.  I was then taken to a destroyed house, where I stayed all night and was forced by the soldiers to sleep on the floor that was covered with broken glass and scattered rubble; during which, the soldiers were stepping on me causing bruises all over my body.


◼️In the morning, I was taken in the troop carrier to Israel and I knew that after hearing setters’ children swearing at me and seeing them from behind the blindfold. We arrived at a military site that I did not know where it was nor its name.  I appeared before a military investigator from the Golani brigade, who forced me to take a pill presumably of hallucinatory effects with a very small amount of water and when I asked for more water, the investigator refused.  The soldiers then put me a diaper and a kaki jumpsuit and I lied on the bed after they placed an iron ring around my head and steel handcuffs in my feet that were both used to sporadically shock me in the head and feet.  The investigator started to utter specific words waiting for my answer like (weapon-Hamas-hostages-tunnels- October 7th) and when I do not answer or the investigator did not like my answer, he shocks me.  Honestly, I was feeling very weird like flying in the sky and not fully aware to be able to respond to the questions.  I remained like this for days during which I was forced to take the hallucinatory pills and electrically shocked, imagining myself in our house and calling my family.  They offered me no food nor water and I was still wearing a diaper not feeling like going to the bathroom.


◼️Few days later, I was taken in a bus to a detention facility, which I did not where it was nor its name, while I was blindfolded and handcuffed.  After being examined by several doctors inside the prison, the doctors noticed how exhausted I was and decided to cease the investigations with me for 2 days.  I stayed in a room without windows and with one bed.  Two days later, I was then subjected to investigations by 2 investigators identifying themselves from the Shin Bet along with 5 other masked persons, who stood behind the chair I was tied to with my hands to the back and my feet to the chair feet. Before starting their investigation, I was forced to take the hallucinatory pill and the masked persons strongly pulled my hands to the back, causing me a severe pain and I fainted for some time.  They then started investigating me and again addressing me with the same accusations that I belong to Hamas and took part in the October 7th events as a member of al-Qassam’s elite forces.  I denied all of that, so they forced him into Shabeh (shackling his hands and legs to the chair) until I wished to die wanting relief from pain and agony. This continued for several hours sporadically, and they then forced me out to a yard for sometime with my hands tied.  Whenever I move my hands, the cuffs press on my writs, causing injuries and leaving signs on them.  They then returned me to the investigation room and forced me again in the Shabeh position but this time tying me to the door for hours.


◼️Afterwards, I was taken to a prison that may have been called Itamar, according to what some of the detainees later learned. The prison contained several iron cages with 100 detainees in each and surrounded by barbed wires. All detainees were blindfolded and tied with plastic wires as well as steel handcuffs in front of them. They gave the detainees clothes (gray pajamas), a mattress, blanket, and food, which were only 3 small meals that is barely enough for one person, and they hardly allowed the detainees to go to the bathroom. The prison routine on a daily basis from 05:00 in the morning until 12:00 midnight was the soldiers forcing the detainees to sit on the ground on their knees and prevented them from speaking to each other all the time while most of the detainees were subjected for interrogation every two days.


◼️In one of the interrogation sessions, an investigator interrogated me introducing himself from the Mossad and that he came to interrogate me about me involving in kidnapping foreigners, especially Americans. He threatened to kill me if I did not confess, and persons accompanying him started punching me for some time and then again forced me to take a hallucinogenic pill. They took me to another room, where I heard gunshots and soldiers pretending to escape and that members of Hamas took over the place and entered the room asking me about the brigade I belong to, where I live, and the mosque near me. I told them I am a paramedic and do not belong to Hamas or Al-Qassam (it turned out that they were so-called “birds”, who are deployed among detainees to deceive them and obtain confessions from them). They then left, and soldiers came in and took me to another place, which was a container.  There was an investigator who said he was from Golani brigade. The soldiers tied my feet with a chain and pulled me to the ceiling. My head was dangling down putting his head into a bucket of water. I was extremely thirsty so I drank a large amount of water. They pressed my head down in the water for some time, and shackled my hands and feet that I barely touched the ground in front of the investigation room for several hours. After taking me down, they returned me to the room, and the investigator drew an ambulance on the wall asking me to drive it and bring Sinwar, Hamas Leader. I told him there was no fuel in the ambulance, so he gave me an electric shock. I pretended to be driving the ambulance and heading to Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City. After I returned, I told him that Sinwar had gone to Egypt. The investigator laughed and said that he would go to Al-Nasr neighborhood in Gaza City and bring Sinwar. A female soldier then came in, gave me a piece of chocolate, and took me back to the cage.


In one of the investigation rounds, they took me naked except for my boxer to a yard, poured cold water on me, and turned on the fans, causing me to freeze.


♦️While I was in the cage inside the prison, one of the detainees died in the same cage.  The detainees got outraged, carried him, and chanted that he was a martyr of torture, so the soldiers stormed the cage I was in and the other cages, threw sound bombs, and assaulted all the detainees with batons. Two days later, a second detainee (foot amputee/a person with disability) died in a nearby cage after being severely beaten on the head when the soldiers raided the cages. Although I was blindfolded, I noticed subjecting other detainees into shabeh positions in the cold rainy weather, whether while interrogating them or in order to punish them because they spoke to each other. I was also hearing the Israeli soldiers calling the detainees by their names for interrogation, punishment, or Shabeh. One of the names I heard was Dr. Muhammad Abu Silmiyah, Director of Al-Shifa Complex in Gaza City, Dr. Saif El-Jamal and Dr. ‘Abd Rabbo.


♦️I want to add that I was subjected to Shabeh on a wire twice only for speaking with a detainee next to me. during my last night in the prison, the soldiers called about 30 detainees, including me, and took us in a bus for several hours with our hands and feet tied, blindfolded and looking down.  They beat us all the way to Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. After arriving, the border guards forced us to collect the trash and clean the yard inside the crossing for a while.  They then told us to run to the west towards an UNRWA place. When we arrived, a female UNRWA employee of a foreign nationality received us and gave us food and drinks (rice, meat, biscuits, chocolate, tea, and coffee). We ate the food after being deprived of food for a long time, as we were only offered small meals and not sometimes no food at all (baguette, labneh, tuna, and jam, but in small amount). Afterwards, we walked until we reached the Rafah crossing, where we met individuals introducing themselves from the Internal Security. They wrote down our personal data, and allowed us to leave.  We took a minibus that drove us to Rafah, where I learned that the date was 23 December 2023, and thus my detention was for 41 days. I was able to reach my colleagues in the PMRS who evacuated from Gaza City to Rafah, and others who were already residents of Rafah and I am staying with them now.