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Witness - A girl called Jewel - Almaza's Story


Just days into Israel's war on Gaza, in early January, the extended Al Samouni family, some 48 men, women and children, was attacked in the homes they occupied together in the south of Gaza - and almost all of them were killed. Thirteen-year-old Almaza - 'jewel' - is one of the very few who survived the attack in which 30 members of her family died, many before her own eyes. A Girl Called Jewel is Almaza's story, a heart-breaking eye-witness account of the war in Gaza.

Transcribed here...

I am Almaza Ibraheem Helmi Mahmoud Samouni. I'm in the seventh grade. I am thirteen years old. In the future, when I become a politician, I can work on children's rights for those who have been deprived of their families, and were brought up as orphans.

Every minute, I remember my family. Every minute I remember when they were martyred in front of my eyes. I looked at my nephew, I saw that he was martyred. Also, I looked the other way, I saw all my family martyred. They were dead, lying together, one on top of the other. Really, it was a scene I couldn't believe. All my family is gone at once. Thirty of my tribe were killed. It is completely unjust.

Now, when Eid comes, I won't see my uncles. On the day of Eid, I used to visit my uncles, go to uncle Talal's home... go to Rashad's home and go to Atia's home. What have I done to be deprived of my family, to be deprived of my uncles and my mother?

(praying at cemetery)

Allah is great, Allah is great! Allah is great, Allah is great! Witness there is no God but Allah. I witness that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. Come to pray, come for success. Praying is in progress. Allah is great, Allah is great! There is no God but Allah.

(Almaza speaking)

I was at home. We were unaware of anything. In the early morning about 6AM, the israelis started invading. First, they invaded with planes, and when they knew the area was safe for them, the tanks and bulldozers followed after. About four o'clock at night, there were suddenly shells and bullets coming inside our house. We went into the living room. We were very close to my uncle Talal's house. There's only a narrow pathway between us. They started firing shells that made a very loud noise and gave off a strong smell. Eventually we couldn't hear or breathe, we were suffocating. We were about to die and then suddenly the israelis blew a hole in the wall and pointed their weapons at us. The look of them frightened me of course. If they're coming at night, how would you know who they were? You could not even see their shadow.

They kicked us out of the house and sent us to Wael Samouni's house. We stayed there for three days without food, without water. Even the little children who wanted to drink - and some were about six months old - there was not even anything for them.

We stayed there for three days. My brother went to get some wood, but when he was about to leave the house, they fired a missile at him and he was martyred. So, we had to go inside. I was left with my sister-in-law and her nine month old baby. They executed the baby. They opened fire on him. The little boy was martyred in front of her eyes, while he was in his mother's arms, cradled by his mother. He was executed right after they executed his father.

I went inside where I found them all martyred. I saw three missiles in the house. All of them were martyred. All of them were bleeding and they were in a pile, one on top of the other. A lot of bleeding...bleeding over each other.

(Almaza makes tea for children and surviving family members)

We used to study here. We used to play here. This was my brother's room, here's my mother's room... and here are my siblings' room who were all martyred. May Allah bless their souls. This is where my books were, and I used to put my satchel here. I have alot of memories.

(Almaza picks clothing from the rubble of her destroyed family home)

This was mine when I was little. This was my mother's, may Allah bless her soul. This belonged to my brother Nassar, may Allah bless his soul. This is mine, I used to wear it when I went to the mosque. This is also mine. And this was my nephew Mo'tasem's, may Allah bless his soul. This is my mother's robe, may Allah bless her soul. This is my brother Ismail's, he was martyred.

Here is my uncle's house. We used to bake here. Here we used to play "idreas" with stones. Here is the mosque. Here we used to learn the Quran, pray and have lessons in Quran verses.

(Demolished mosque and damaged Qurans shown)

Here, of course, was the praying place for men, and the upstairs there was a floor for the women. Here you can see the maryrs (poster). There is my brother Mohammad Ibraheem Samouni, and that is my cousin Walid. Here is the dome of the mosque, where a crow used to stand. The dome was so high. This is the dome.

We used to study here. Our teacher used to sit over here. It was a sitting room with the breeze blowing through. We used to come to study here and learn the Quran. Here, we used to have our meetings, bring the chairs and sit. The sheikh would sit here. This was a room where we used to sit and study.

(Almaza comes down from the mosque, a mound of rubble)

(Al-Samouni chicken farm shown, carcasses being buried)

Here we used to raise a lot of chickens. A lot.
The israelis bulldozed it and killed them all.

Here there were olive trees from which we used to get olive oil and store olives to keep. Here was a pomegrante which we used to make the famous local dish 'Rummaniyya'. I used to love pomegrante, I used to love 'Rummaniyaa' as it's called. This is also where my uncle's wife's house was, my uncle who was martyred. My uncle Atia, he was her husband. My cousin was also martyred. Also, there were lots of orange trees here, there were citrus trees. Lots of trees...

(camera pans across flattened orchard and homes)

(Almaza goes to her old school)

This is the school. The destroyed school. They targetted the school with burning phosphorus bombs. They burned the school. The lab that we used to go to, it was also burned. We had drawn a map. Even that was destroyed, as you can see. They didn't leave anything untouched. This was the lab I used to go to an do everything. It was bombed as well. Here was the library where we used to borrow storybooks and sit and write. They've all been destroyed too. We used to go to a morning school, then this was switched to the afternoon.

(Almaza's cousin speaking)

Now there are about sixty orphans, maybe more, they are all orphans. What have they done? A girl of two and a half who's now an orphan. Who will play with her, who's going to teach her? Her mother, father and elder brothers are all martyrs. Can a girl who's twelve or thirteen years old raise an eighteen month or two year old girl? No, because she doesn't ask or respond. When my mother was martyred, she was in her arms. We asked her: "Do you want to go to see your mother?" She said: "No, because mum is dead, she was shot by the plane. I don't want to go to her."

There was so much bleeding from here and here (points to her face and neck). I don't want to go there. She refused because when my mother was martyred, she was in her arms and with my father. When they were putting the bandage on my father when he was injured, she wouldn't ask about her or about anything else. She just keeps on screaming.

(Almaza speaking)

We used to play here. The place was an empty yard. It was bulldozed. There is "idreas" (a game they play)... No, it's useless. Come in and play... wait, wait... I have the right to claim my rights, because they deprived me of my mother and my sisters...deprived me of living in a good home...and in a safe place. They took it all away and destroyed everything. This area was pretty, full of everything, trees, it was a nice green area. You can imagine what it looked like... When the israelis came in, they left nothing...

We will never leave our place here. We will remain in it and Allah, please God, may make it easy for us, to help us rebuild our homes and live in them, insha'ALLAH.


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