Thursday, September 17, 2009

723. The Mission considers, however, that the testimonies of the witnesses strongly suggest
that already before daybreak on 4 January 2009 the Israeli armed forces were in full control of
the al-Samouni neighbourhood. The Israeli soldiers had taken up position on the roofs of the
houses in the area. According to several witnesses, the soldiers on the street spoke to residents
who had ventured out of their houses.410 In some cases (for instance, at the house of Saleh al-
Samouni and at the house Iyad al-Samouni was in, see below), they entered the houses nonviolently
after knocking on the door. According to Saleh al-Samouni, the prolonged
identification of all the persons present in his house (his father identifying each family member
in Hebrew for the soldiers) took place outside. The soldiers appear to have been confident that
they were not at immediate risk of being attacked.

724. The Mission also reviewed the submission it received from an Israeli researcher, arguing
generally that statements from Palestinian residents claiming that no fighting took place in their
neighbourhood are disproved by the accounts Palestinian armed groups give of the armed
operations. The Mission notes that, as far as the al-Samouni neighbourhood is concerned, this
report would appear to support the statements of the witnesses that there was no combat.411

Note 411: “The hidden dimension of Palestinian war casualties…”. Only 4 of the more than 100 entries in the submission refer to combat action in Zeytoun, the much larger part of Gaza City of which al-Samouni neighbourhood is a part. The incidents in Zeytoun that are mentioned reportedly occurred on 6, 7, 11 and 13 January 2009, and consist of Palestinian combatants opening fire against Israeli troops with rocket-propelled grenades, a mortar (in one case) and detonating an explosive device.
It is difficult for me to say that there was or was not military activity in the Samounis' neighborhood on January 4th. However, Goldstone takes the absence of any mention of incidents in the Al Zaytoun neighborhood (in which the Samounis lived) in an Israeli report as evidence that there was no significant fighting there on January 4th. Goldstone's other evidence is indeed Palestinian Arab witnesses.

I do not know how big Al Zaytoun is either. However, it seems pretty clear that there was still fighting in Al Zaytoun on January 4th. PCHR names:

495 Mustafa Zuhdi Mustafa Erhayem
498 Mohammed Fou’ad Mahmoud al-He
515 Mohammed Bassam Mohammed ‘Anan
530 Hassan ‘Isam Hassan al-Jammasi
580 ‘Ateya Rushdi Khalil Aal-Khuli (16 years old!)

all as militants, actively fighting Israeli forces as they were killed in Al-Zaytoun on January 4th.

In addition, (576) Ayman Mohammed Mohammed ‘Afana (policeman) was an Al Qassam Brigades member killed in that neighborhood on that day.

And the fighting continued in Al-Zaytoun on January 5th:.
639 Mohammed Mohammed Nabih al-Ghazali (PCHR)
641 Rashad Helmi Mahmoud al-Samouni (see below) (PCHR)
681 Ahmed Hassan Abdul Karim Abu Zour listed as "resister" on PMoH site (#226)

Again, this doesn't mean that Goldstone is incorrect concerning the immediate area of the Samouni house, but it does indicate that the commission ignored easily-available data that could indicate that their implication that no fighting was taking place in Al-Zaytoun is wrong.

In para. 713 and footnote 404, they list the names of every member of the al-Samouni extended family that was killed. One of them is Rashad Helmi al Samouni (male, aged 42), whom the PCHR lists as being killed a militant. (Not only that, but another al-Samouni is listed as having been killed on January 5th: Mohammed Ibrahim Helmi al-Samouni, listed in PCHR as a civilian but who was a member of Islamic Jihad.)

So one of the civlians Goldstone lists as being killed was in fact a terrorist.

At the very least, a small amount of fact checking would have uncovered these inconsistencies. Yet Goldstone says without reservation:

721. The Mission found the foregoing witnesses to be credible and reliable. It has no reason to doubt their testimony.
I think there is more than enough reason to doubt their testimony.

(UPDATE: I misread Goldstone and thought that the commission was saying that the al-Samouni deaths were on Jan. 4th. One person with that name was killed on Jan. 4 in al-Zaytoun, but as far as I can tell he was a civilian. I corrected the post above.)

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