I’m still trying to make sense of what happened to the Men of Beit Hamoun, which post I will update shortly. However, what’s become clear in my research is that the story of the women given by the press, and subsequently taken up in the blogosphere, is inaccurate, and that the truth is even more remarkable and tragic.
The press version of the story is that two women were shot dead when a group of around 150-300 unarmed women broke a IDF seige of a Mosque in Beit Hamoun on Friday 3 November, allowing the men trapped inside to escape. In fact two separate incidents appear to have been confused here.
The most detailed incident-based reports of the invasion of Beit Hanoun that I have been able to find are from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), both of which publish weekly summaries, which can be cross-referenced.
According to the PCHR the Mosque incident happened, not on the Friday, but the day before:
At approximately 12:00 on Thursday, 2 November 2006, IOF besieged al-Naser Mosque in the center of Beit Hanoun. There were a number of resistance activists inside the mosque. Approximately 150 women from the area around the mosque moved to lift the siege. IOF responded by heavy gunfire at the women. One woman was seriously wounded to the head. Medical crews were not reach the injured woman. She lay bleeding on the ground for a long time before she was transferred to the Beit Hanoun Hospital, where her wound was described as serious.
The OCHA confirms (PDF link) that “A Palestinian woman was injured by the IDF in Beit Hanoun” on 2 November, but give no further details. No women are reported dead that day.
The second incident, which happened the following day does not appear to have involved a Mosque, other than perhaps being near to one. According to the OCHA, there were five fatalities in all:
3 November: Five Palestinians, including two women and two boys, aged 15, 16, 18, 22, and 42 years were killed, and 38 Palestinians – mostly women – were injured when the IDF opened fire in the direction of a group of women who tried to enter Beit Hanoun.
The PCHR thinks there were two casualties among the women, plus a further four in a separate incident a few hours later:
At approximately 7:00 on Friday, 3 November 2006, a group of about 300 women from several areas in the northern Gaza Strip organized a demonstration and headed to Beit Hanoun. When the demonstration reached the outskirts of Beit Hanoun near ‘Izbit Beit Hanoun, IOF fired at them. Two women were killed and 40 others were wounded. Ambulances were not able reach the bodies of the dead. The wounded were evacuated to hospital at 20:00. The two women who were killed are:
1. Rawda Ibrahim Jaber, 48, from Jabalya refugee camp; and
2. Ibtissam Yousef Mas’oud, 44, from Jabalya refugee camp.
At approximately 11:00 on Friday, IOF continued indiscriminately shell of areas in the towns of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia, and Jabalia. Four Palestinian civilians, including two children, were killed by the bombardment near ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam Mosque in Izbit Beit Hanoun:
1. Ahmad Sahweel, 15, from Beit Hanoun, hit by a live bullet to the chest;
2. Hamza Mohammed Karsou’, 18, from Beit Lahia, hit by a live bullet to the chest;
3. Hamdi Ramadan ‘Abdul Dayem, 16, from Beit Hanoun, hit by a live bullet to the chest; and
4. Mohammed Ahmad Sabbah, 20, from Jabalya, hit by a live bullet to the chest.
In additions, scores of civilians were wounded, including a journalist of Ramatan news agency, Hamza al-‘Attar, 22.
It isn’t clear how indiscriminate shelling can cause bullet fatalities. What is clear, despite minor discrepancies in the listed ages, is that five of the six fatalities identified by the PCHR correspond to those given by the OCHA.