No neighborhood along the eastern half of the Gaza strip — the half closest to Israel — emerged unscathed from the recent 50-day war in Gaza, which left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead.
But in Khuzaa, a middle-class farming town of around 10,000 in southern Gaza that pushes up against Israel’s border fence, survivors of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) ground invasion remember a separate kind of drawn-out agony.
During the first four days of the ground war, thousands of terrified civilians in Khuzaa found themselves caught in a tornado of deadly metals — bullets, bombs, shells, shrapnel — with no way to escape. More than in other areas, Khuzaa residents were forced to come face-to-face with armed Israeli soldiers who had taken control of the area.
Based on interviews with these civilians, as well as conversations with IDF soldiers who fought in the area, the Journal has compiled a rough outline of the battle in Khuzaa. None of the soldiers felt they could speak on the record.
Ahmad Al Najjar, 78, described the moment his elderly uncle wandered out into Khuzaa's main street and was shot dead.
IDF soldiers told the Journal they were instructed to fire warning shots at anyone who came too close to them or one of their bases — then to kill them if they came any closer. They said Hamas’ choice of an urban battlefield, and Hamas’ history of deploying plainclothes fighters and suicide bombers, made it impossible to determine who was or was not a threat.
However, more than a dozen Khuzaa residents who spoke to the Journal, and many more interviewed by Human Rights Watch and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights — non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with operations in Gaza — said they and their neighbors were deliberately targeted by the IDF while trying to flee their homes during the fighting.
The United Nations Human Rights Council suggested a few days into the Khuzaa incursion that both Hamas and Israel may have violated the international laws of war by targeting civilians.
“It is imperative that Israel, Hamas and all Palestinian armed groups strictly abide by applicable norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said to the council on July 23. “This entails applying the principles of distinction between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives; proportionality; and precautions in attack. Respect for the right to life of civilians, including children, should be a foremost consideration. Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Despite repeated requests, spokespeople at the IDF refused to comment on Palestinian witness accounts collected by the Journal.
The IDF’s foreign press branch initially said in a statement to the Journal that the events of the battle in Khuzaa were “currently under investigation” and that “once investigations will be completed, we will be able to supply you with all the information about the different occurrences.”
Later, after additional attempts over several days asking the IDF to respond to Palestinian allegations, the foreign press branch stated: “The events that you requested information about are not familiar to the IDF, according to our resources and investigations. If we receive additional details regarding these events they will be looked into again.”
Today, more than one month after the initial invasion, Khuzaa’s residential area is a gray wasteland of crumbled stucco and cement. The air, once sweet, reeks of dust and death. At the edge of Khuzaa, olive orchards have been reduced to piles of sticks and leaves, and shreds of white greenhouses jut like broken wings from sand pits where IDF tanks roamed. All that’s left of the town’s central mosque, one of nine mosques reportedly destroyed in the Israeli incursion, are a dome and a minaret wedged into a mountain of rubble.
The Ebad El Rahman mosque in central Khuzaa, along with an adjacent water tower, was destroyed in the IDF ground invasion.
“This was the best area in all of the Gaza Strip, it was a tourist area — secure and safe, with no problems and good people,” a dazed member of the municipal council told Reuters, standing next to the rubble of his former home. But after the war, he said, “Khuzaa no longer exists. It is like an earthquake hit.”
The ghost town’s demolished exterior also hints at the prolonged human suffering felt here during the first days of the IDF ground operation.
Residents of Khuzaa who were stuck in the city during the messy battles between Israel, Hamas (Gaza’s ruling government party) and other armed Palestinian factions said they tried to arrange an exodus for days. Finally, in small groups, most were able to escape via a dusty farm road on the southeast edge of town — emerging injured, dehydrated and incredulous about the horrors they’d just seen.
More information about their ordeal is likely to emerge as human-rights organizations and a United Nations fact-finding mission sift through the widespread devastation in Gaza and collect more testimony from Khuzaa and other hard-hit areas.
“We don’t know every single story that’s happened so far,” said Mahmoud Abu Rahma, international relations director for the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, an NGO in Gaza whose donors include federal agencies from Switzerland, Holland and Norway. “But for us, it’s really important to arrive at the truth. We will only introduce allegations when we are sure that a war crime was committed.”
(Abu Rahma has also been openly critical of human-rights abuses by Palestinian leaders in Gaza. In 2012, he was attacked by masked assailants after he penned an op-ed slamming violence by Palestinian armed groups against Palestinian civilians — and the silence of Gaza authorities, led by Hamas.)
Getting to the bottom of the recent battle in Khuzaa, Abu Rahma said, poses a unique challenge. “In Khuzaa, many people stayed behind,” he said. “So it’s the area where you find the most interaction between the Israeli army and civilians, and for quite a while — four days. That’s why we’re focusing on how civilians in Khuzaa were treated during these days.”
“Clouds of glory”
The Gaza ground incursion began on July 17 as an Israeli mission to take out Palestinian tunnels and rocket launchers used to attack civilian areas. On the first day of the mission, an IDF spokesperson told the Journal that “phone calls were made by IDF representatives to Palestinian leaders in the area to notify the residents of Khuzaa to evacuate the premises.”
Located just a few hundred meters from the Israeli border, Khuzaa has always been on the frontline of the Israel-Gaza conflict. Following the IDF’s brief 2009 ground invasion of Khuzaa, the United Nations found evidence that at least one woman was shot dead there while waving a white flag. At least 16 Khuzaa residents were reported killed in that operation.
This summer’s death toll in Khuzaa is believed to be more than four times as high as in 2009. The Al Mezan organization has counted around 75 deaths inside the town, although it is not known which of those were fighters and which civilians.
“It was the first time Israel attacked this area like that — they didn’t do that before,” the town’s community doctor, Kamal Qdeih, said. Residents told the Journal that based on past operations, they vastly underestimated the IDF’s intentions in Khuzaa — one reason why thousands of civilians ignored evacuation leaflets, deciding instead to stay home, brace themselves and ride out the attack.
Kamal Qdeih, a doctor in Khuzaa, said he cared for more than 100 wounded residents at once in his small home clinic during the ground war.
Again, on July 20, the IDF said it “informed the citizens of Khuzaa, via telephone and local media, to evacuate the area due to IDF scheduled operations against terror sites and infrastructures in the area.”
But when no bombs had fallen by the night of July 20, hundreds who had fled to Khan Younis, the nearest city — crowding into friends and relatives’ houses and United Nations schools — decided to risk returning home.
Hundreds of Khuzaa residents escaped via one small farm road at the edge of town on July 24, starving, injured and dehydrated after days stuck in the battle zone.
They soon realized their mistake. Residents said that the next day, the IDF bombed craters into the road leading from Khuzaa to Khan Younis, so that no vehicles — including ambulances — could come or go. (An Al Jazeera video report a few weeks later, when fighting had died down, showed this to be true.)
In homes across Khuzaa, electricity was shut off and water stopped running from taps.
In response to an inquiry about the level of threat posed in Khuzaa, the IDF stated: “During the time the IDF forces were in Khuzaa, they exposed many terror sites which were located in central residential areas, including terror tunnels and many weapon caches.”
Daniel Nisman, a military analyst at the Levantine Group and former IDF soldier who participated in Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, said: “Khuzaa, like Shujaiya, is what the Israeli military refers to as ‘the shell’ of Gaza, where the border towns are reinforced and the center is soft. In this context, Khuzaa is the main defense of Khan Younis and east Rafah.”
Like in other neighborhoods where Israel fought Hamas, the initial IDF aerial bombings cleared the way for columns of Israeli tanks and soldiers to more safely enter Khuzaa. According to young Israelis in the battle, the Khuzaa team included soldiers from the Combat Engineering Corps (who specialize in blowing up tunnels), the Paratroopers Brigade and some from the elite Golani brigade.
But they said the majority of Israeli combat soldiers who fought in Khuzaa were from the Givati brigade, the southern infantry brigade trained specifically to fight in Gaza.
As Givati tanks rolled toward Khuzaa, Col. Ofer Winter, the brigade’s commander, famously said in an interview with the Orthodox weekly Mishpacha that “clouds of glory” had guarded the fleet. “Only when the soldiers were in a secure position did the fog dissipate,” he said.
One young Givati soldier, too, told the Journal: “God was with us in every step on the way.”
Mohammed Abu Reeda, 12, peered into a partially destroyed home that IDF soldiers had occupied near their tank staging area.
Once inside Khuzaa, soldiers occupied some of the town’s multi-story, ornately decorated homes — transforming them into bases where they could take turns sleeping, strategizing and watching for Palestinian fighters below.
During various temporary cease fires in August, Khuzaa residents eagerly showed journalists the evidence they’d found of IDF soldiers living in their homes, now trashed and riddled with holes. One boy retrieved a green IDF jacket. Another pointed out a hole in his floor where the IDF had checked for tunnels. Seven-year-old Adam Abu Erjala, wearing a shirt that read “I’m a happy boy,” held out a bag of Israeli bullet casings he’d collected from his cousins’ home and posed with an Israeli mine-clearing device five times the size of his body, which he had found lying in his cousins’ front yard.
Adam Abu Erjala posed with a spent Israeli mine-clearing device he found outside his cousins' house.
Upstairs, in the frilly pink bedroom of Abu Erjala’s cousins, soldiers had drawn maps of the neighborhood onto the girls’ beds in permanent ink.
Adam Abu Erjala, 7, pointed out a map that IDF soldiers had drawn on his cousin's bed.
A pair of reporters who entered an all-girls school in Khuzaa found an anti-tank weapon that Israeli soldiers had left behind in the principal’s office. Stars of David had been spray-painted onto the walls.
Another building on the outskirts of Khuzaa, a partially demolished red-and-white farm house belonging to the Qdeih family, was filled with soldiers’ detritus — a Hebrew-Arabic dictionary, an IDF newsletter, snack wrappers, empty toothpaste tubes, rotting tomatoes and heaps of other trash. IDF tanks had ransacked the garden, turning it into a big sand pit by using it as a parking lot for armored vehicles.
But while soldiers were taking up residence in Palestinian homes, panicked civilians were sometimes hiding in homes right next door, just meters away.
“We knew the air force dropped leaflets calling for civilians to evacuate the area, but we also knew some might remain,” a 22-year-old combat soldier in the Givati brigade said. Nevertheless, he was shocked to see so many civilians still in the area when he arrived.
“The most difficult challenge in Khuzaa, in my opinion, was the citizens,” the soldier said. “Most of the fighting was in populated areas that Hamas had turned into a battlefield. And as a result, innocent civilians were injured.”
Multiple IDF soldiers said they were told Hamas was threatening to kill any civilians who left their homes. More than a dozen Khuzaa residents who spoke to the Journal, however, strongly denied this, and blamed the IDF for refusing to let them leave once fighting had begun.
A Human Rights Watch report released on Aug. 4, based on Palestinian witness accounts, found that IDF soldiers had shot, and sometimes killed, unarmed civilians as they were trying to flee. “The failure of civilians to abide by warnings does not make them lawful targets of attack… since many people do not flee because of infirmity, fear, lack of a place to go, or any number of other reasons,” said the report. “The remaining presence of such civilians despite a warning to flee cannot be ignored when attacks are carried out.”
“Khuzaa is destroyed”
Khuzaa residents sat in the rubble of their homes on the final day of a 72-hour cease fire in August.
One of the oldest men in the village, Mohammed Hussein Al Najjar, a former businessman whose relatives believed he was over 100 years old, wandered out of his home after an Israeli warplane bombed the building next door. “He was almost deaf, so he couldn’t hear us crying for him to come back,” said his nephew, 78-year-old Ahmad Al Najjar, whose dark and wrinkled face was crowned by a red keffiyeh.
Al Najjar said he heard Israeli tank fire outside. The next time he saw his uncle Mohammed, he said the old man was face-down in the road, dead in a pool of his own blood.
“I don’t know why they would do this. They’re going crazy,” Al Najjar said of the Israelis. “I used to believe in peace. But we don’t know anything about peace here.”
The 78-year-old said the Khuzaa invasion was the most horrific battle he’d seen in a lifetime of war.
Because of IDF orders to be suspicious even of apparent civilians, a 22-year-old Israeli soldier in the Combat Engineering Corps who destroyed tunnels in Khuzaa said he and fellow soldiers were forced to shoot an old Palestinian woman coming toward them when she didn’t heed their orders to stop. Even when wounded, he said, she continued crawling in their direction, so they fired again, killing her.
The soldier said he was deeply disturbed by the incident, but that Israeli soldiers had to protect themselves at all costs. While in Khuzaa, he said he was consumed by the omnipresent fear of death. Palestinian bullets were constantly whizzing by — killing one of his friends, the soldier said, and shattering the hand of another.
To effectively destroy the tunnels, IDF’s Combat Engineering Corps had to crawl deep inside them so they could lace them with explosives. They frequently came across Palestinian fighters inside the tunnels, on foot or motorcycle, and killed them on the spot.
The owner of this Khuzaa property said he had no idea how, or with what resources, he would begin to rebuild his house.
However, the young combat engineer said he watched some of his friends shoot indiscriminately at Palestinians in the area without proof they were fighters. He said they also wrote anti-Arab messages on the walls of the homes they occupied.
During a temporary cease fire in late August, evidence of the four-day Khuzaa nightmare was still everywhere in the home clinic of Qdeih, the local doctor, as he spoke to the Journal. His lone cot was streaked in blood; used bunches of gauze littered the countertops and shards of glass covered the floor; a Red Crescent apron lay crumpled in a corner.
Qdeih, a Hamas critic and supporter of the Palestinian political party Fatah, converted his modest Khuzaa home and office into an almost impossibly packed infirmary for more than 100 wounded Palestinians during the long days and nights they were boxed in by fighting, he said.
The first batch of injured was brought to his home after a group of hundreds, including Qdeih, attempted their first escape on July 22.
The group approached the line of Israeli tanks blocking the main road to Khan Younis, Qdeih said, and shouted to soldiers that they were civilians, lifting their shirts to show they weren’t wearing weapons. But, he said, the army began firing at them after telling them over a megaphone that the International Committee for the Red Cross wasn’t waiting for them on the other side, and that they should go home. (Various other witnesses confirmed this account.)
The welcome sign to Khuzaa, a lush farming town in southern Gaza, was cut down in fighting between Israel and Hamas.
According to the doctor, around 30 gravely wounded residents were carried back to his house after the attack. But one was left behind, stuck in her wheelchair: 16-year-old girl Gadir Abu Erjala, who had epilepsy and had received years of medical care in Israel.
Speaking to the Journal weeks later during a cease-fire, the girl’s mother, Hamda, was wracked with guilt about having to leave her daughter in the road. The interview took place in her home — remarkably intact compared to the rest of Khuzaa.
“The tanks were shooting at us and revving their engines,” Hamda said, raising her voice as tears fell onto her hijab. “There is no way we would have survived.”
Hamda said her teen daughter had initially begged not to go outside, but that the family needed to evacuate the girl as soon as possible, as she had run out of medicine. “There were a lot of civilians here, so we didn’t think they would do something like that,” her mother said of the IDF.
Gadir’s brother, Bilal, said he was pushing her wheelchair and approaching the line of IDF tanks guarding Khuzaa when he was shot in the hand. Bilal was forced to let go, and he and his family members — under fire — stumbled too far back to return for Gadir. The young man’s right arm is now wrapped in a thick cast.
Rasan, another of Gadir’s older brothers, said he placed countless calls to the Red Cross in the following days, trying to secure a safe passage with the Israeli army to retrieve his sister. He hoped she might still be alive. But every time he emerged from the house, Rasan said he came under fire again and had to retreat.
The Abu Erjala family lost their youngest sister Gadir, an epileptic 16-year-old in a wheelchair, when they tried to evacuate Khuzaa.
When presented with a detailed account of this alleged incident, the IDF said only that the entire battle of Khuzaa was “under investigation.” When the Journal presented more details about Gadir’s death and asked if the fire that killed her could have come from Hamas, the IDF stated that the entire incident was “not familiar to the IDF, according to our resources and investigations.” However, Israeli soldiers, speaking anonymously, said that although they didn’t witness this event, shooting at any Gazan who refused to retreat would be in accord with IDF protocol.
More than a week later, when it was finally safe for the Abu Erjala family to return for their 16-year-old, her corpse was unrecognizable — blown to bits, lying 20 meters from her wheelchair. “She tried to walk toward the soldiers,” Rasan said, his eyes wide and blank.
Her father interjected, furious. “Are there rules against that?” he asked. “Leaving people injured in the road after 10 days?”
Gadir was the light of Abu Erjala household, her mother said, and always made her brothers laugh when they were angry. “We’re missing something from the house,” Bilal said. “We still think this is like a dream. We don’t believe it happened.”
It seems that after this war, nearly every family in Khuzaa has its own tragic story of human loss.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Palestinian mother Faten Qdeih said that after watching her 7-year-old boy killed in the street, she made the impossible decision to leave his body behind and flee with her daughters, still alive. “I would rather I had died than see what I've seen,” she told the paper.
After he escaped Khuzaa on July 24, Mahmoud Ismail, a biomedical engineering student at an Egyptian university, took to Twitter to describe what he saw. “Khuzaa is destroyed… My folks and I came out alive, but I have no explanation as to how or why,” he wrote. (The Journal was not able to reach Ismail for an interview.)
While inside, Ismail said, “I watched from the window in my room, for hours, all the stages of death of a 20-year-old young man.”
The college student described running through Khuzaa with his family, looking for an escape route. “Right in front of my eyes a little boy fell from his mother's arm while she held a white flag in her other hand,” he wrote. “The boy died. She used the flag to wrap him and continued her way with the rest of her children. Horror.”
On July 24, according to the IDF, army planes dropped evacuation leaflets into Khuzaa. “This is part of the IDF's modus operandi to prevent harming civilians,” the army’s foreign press office said. “The leaflets contained messages instructing residents to evacuate areas in which the IDF was to operate. The leaflets were written in Arabic and often included visual aids.”
Another branch of the Qdeih family told the Journal they were still trapped in their basement in east Khuzaa on July 25, badly in need of food and water, when they heard bulldozers crashing into the side of the house and soldiers entering their home upstairs. When the patriarch, 64-year-old Mohammed Qdeih, decided to go upstairs to speak with them, carrying a white flag, his niece Raghad said she watched an Israeli soldier shoot him dead.
The soldier was young, with blonde hair and light eyes that showed “fear and dread,” she said. “He was trembling.”
Raghad said she and her relatives, including women and children, were then held in the house “under an atmosphere of intimidation and horror” for hours as soldiers used it as a base, moving family members into the same rooms from which they were shooting.
She was confused, then, by one small act of kindness by a Druze soldier. “We asked him to bring food for the children, and he brought bread and tuna, but then disappeared,” she said. “But the rest of the soldiers, they were fierce.”
The residents of Khuzaa are also skeptical of Israeli soldiers’ motives in their decision to transport a 75-year-old Palestinian woman to the IDF field hospital on the Israeli side of the border, and later to a hospital inside Israel, to be treated for dehydration.
“It’s confusing,” said Kamal Qdeih, 40, the neighborhood doctor. “Maybe that happened because they want to make the world think they’re OK. But if they’re really humanitarian, they should take care of humans. They shouldn’t kill civilians.”
Hamda, the mother of the epileptic girl who died, was also confused. “Why would they leave a special-needs kid, a 16-year-old girl, in the road, and they care for an old woman?” she asked. “I don’t understand.”
Yosef Al Najjar, 55, lives within eyeshot of the Israeli border fence. After his family escaped Khuzaa, he said he returned to their home compound during a brief cease fire to find six Palestinian corpses piled and rotting in the bathroom of his son’s house. Israeli bullet casings were scattered around the home, and a line of bullet holes studded the bathroom wall.
“My son doesn’t want to come back to this house anymore,” Al Najjar said. “He feels there are still souls screaming inside.”
“Khuzaa is a symbol of dignity,” a member of the Al Najjar family wrote a few meters from the bathroom where six Palestinian fighters were found apparently executed.
The human-rights organization Al Mezan has since identified the six victims of the apparent execution as fighters. All between the ages of 21 and 25, the men are “listed as combatants by Al Mezan on our lists,” a spokesman told the Journal.
Both Al Mezan and Human Rights Watch are currently investigating the incident. According to both organizations, if Israel did execute enemy fighters once they were in custody, that could constitute a war crime.
The Israeli army has repeatedly asserted that Hamas is the side committing war crimes by embedding military infrastructure inside civilian areas. For example, battlefield photos and videos released by the IDF show weapons caches and tunnel entrances located in public mosques.
A young Givati soldier who fought in Shujaiya, north of Khuzaa, told the Journal that he saw women and children used as combatants. A boy he estimated to be only about 10 years old came running toward IDF soldiers, the source said, yelling: “Allahu Akbar [God is great]!” After the IDF shot the boy dead, the soldier said they lifted his shirt to find a suicide vest.
But many Khuzaa residents believe the IDF sometimes targeted civilians and city infrastructure not to protect themselves, but to show their strength and avenge fallen Israeli soldiers.
Khuzaa residents set up a tent near their toppled water tower during a brief August cease-fire.
In a video uploaded to YouTube, confirmed to be authentic by the IDF, the army can be seen blowing up a mosque in Khuzaa. Soldiers cheer in the background. “This demolition is dedicated to the memory of three battalion soldiers who lost their lives since the beginning of the operation!” a narrator says in Hebrew, identifying himself as a member of the Givati brigade.
“Soldiers are perfectly entitled to be happy about destroying a tunnel used to carry out attacks against Israel,” the IDF said in a statement to the France 24 news channel.
Col. Winter, Givati's commander, used strong religious rhetoric throughout the war. “History has chosen us to spearhead the fighting [against] the terrorist ‘Gazan’ enemy which abuses, blasphemes and curses the God of Israel’s forces,” he wrote in a letter to his officers. And in an interview with Israeli media, Winter said of a surprise IDF air assault that killed more than 100 bystanders in Rafah, south of Khuzaa, after an Israeli soldier disappeared: “Whoever kidnaps has to know that he will pay a price. It was not revenge. They simply started up with the wrong brigade.”
The last “checkpoint”
For days at Kamal Qdeih’s home clinic, the wounded from the first mass escape attempt were laid out on every floor surface, waiting to die. Later, speaking to the Journal, survivors of the ordeal said they could see an Israeli soldiers staked out in the house next door through the doctor’s kitchen window.
Over the next few days, explosions rocked the neighborhood, and dozens more wounded were carried to Qdeih’s front door. When the doctor’s own 23-year-old brother, Ahmad, stepped outside to find water, he was killed by a drone rocket that hit just behind the home.
Qdeih’s 12-year-old daughter, Abir, tried to squeeze her neighbors’ open wounds to prevent blood loss. “I was helping my father,” she said. “I was afraid we were going to lose someone. I kept my hand there for as long as I could.”
By the morning of July 24, Qdeih estimates that the group sheltering in his home had reached around 140 people. So he squeezed everyone into a larger basement next door, thinking it would be safer.
But when a tear gas canister came flying through the window, Qdeih decided they had no choice but to try to escape again. “Injured people were lying here for days with no water, no food, no electricity,” he said. “There was one 4-year-old child. If we had waited five more hours to leave, he would have died.”
The doctor said his 9-year-old son, Hamza, told him: “Just go, don’t be afraid. I am going to support you.”
Qdeih had coordinated with the Red Cross and knew ambulances were waiting for them a few kilometers away, on the other side of the Israeli tank perimeter.
Khuzaa families searched through what remained of their demolished homes during various cease fires in August.
(The Red Cross and the Red Crescent reported that they had not, up to that point, been granted a humanitarian passageway into Khuzaa. When a Red Crescent ambulance attempted to enter the battle zone on July 25, one medic was killed and others wounded. By July 26, the Red Cross stated that “many more people in need are still in Khuzaa.”)
So the doctor’s group made one last effort, marching toward Khan Younis down a narrow farming road at the southeast edge of Khuzaa. They dragged their feet in the sand, heavy with heat and exhaustion. Survivors remembered children screaming for water.
When they reached what they called an IDF “checkpoint” on the way out of town, the Khuzaa residents said the Israeli soldiers told them to sit down. Soldiers took photos of them, they said, and peered at them through the scopes of their rifles. And after some time, when the soldiers released the group to walk the rest of the way to Khan Younis, witnesses alleged that IDF soldiers fired many rounds over their heads and near their feet to scare them.
“This was the most sad Ramadan we ever had,” the doctor said.
Members of another group that escaped via the same dirt road that same morning told the Journal that a man in their group, Mohammed Al Najjar, was shot dead by the IDF soldiers at the “checkpoint.” (Testimony provided to the Palestinian rights group Al Mezan described a similar incident.)
Khuzaa resident Khaled Al Karaa, 25, showed a reporter the road where he escaped on July 24.
The farming road where Khuzaa residents fled for their lives is now covered in a mash of cactus, greenhouse tents and tank-churned dirt. A few young men showed a reporter the spot where they said the “checkpoint” shooting had occurred.
“I think they did this to show us they’re strong and can kill us inside our own land,” Khaled Al Karaa, 25, said.
Sixteen-year-old Gadir’s wheelchair, too, sat on the main road to Khan Younis for weeks after she was killed, crumpled and gathering desert dust — another reminder to the residents of Khuzaa of all they had lost.