Palestinian Human Rights Lawyer Raji Sourani Describes Surviving Israel Bombing His Home in Gaza
Written by GRB on 23/10/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We have just been joined on the phone by Raji Sourani, who put this message out after Israel bombed his home in Gaza City. He said, “By a miracle, I survived with my family. My house destroyed tonight by [an] Israeli bombing, at 8:25 p.m. The area I’m living in Gaza city Tal Al Hawa was subject to bombing for almost two hours by F16 rockets. I lived with my beloved wife and son the [longest two] hours and the most horrific time in my life, where the three of us sure we are not going to survive and we will surely die in any coming bomb. We hear the F16. We hear the rocket launched roaring and the explosion whom for 25 consecutive times thinking will take our life.”
Raji Sourani, we have just reached in Gaza. Can you hear us? Raji Sourani is the award-winning —
RAJI SOURANI: Yes, yes, yes, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: — human rights lawyer —
RAJI SOURANI: I can hear you.
AMY GOODMAN: — and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza.
RAJI SOURANI: I do hear you very well.
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Raji. We can hear you, as well. Can you tell us what happened? People all over the world expressing concern, as you are a renowned human rights attorney, with your family, not knowing what had happened. What happened?
RAJI SOURANI: I think the world should be worried about the crimes going on against Palestinian civilians, who are for the 18th consecutive day in the eye of the storm. They are the target. They are the target of the F-16s, of the cannons, of the gunships, day or night, 25 hours a day. They almost destroyed — they destroyed Gaza. I mean, it’s unbelievable, this army targeting only civilians and civilian targets — towers, houses, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools, shelter places, ambulances, nurses, doctors, journalists. This is the most political army — this is the most political army in the world. This is the mighty Israel, its might and power targeting civilians. They are doing war crimes, crimes against humanity, persecution for 2.4 million people for the last 18 days.
Unfortunately, this colonial, racist West supporting them by all ways and means. They are supporting them with money, with guns, with airplanes, with all what they need to do this crime. They are complicit by supporting them politically and militarily and politically. It’s shame this is happening in the 21st century, while these war crimes not secret enough. It’s projected live on air, and the entire world see it. And the ICC prosecutor, who issued warrants against Putin because he committed war crimes against civilians, because he invaded and made occupation to Ukraine, and here we have this prolonged military occupation, we have prolonged blockade, which is criminal, suffocated people here, we have five consecutive wars, and this is the sixth, and he is doing nothing. He is doing nothing except, you know, freezing the investigation of the war crimes committed by Israel and the Israeli army.
AMY GOODMAN: Raji, you’re talking about the —
RAJI SOURANI: Gaza in unprecedented crisis —
AMY GOODMAN: Raji, you’re talking about the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Karim Khan?
RAJI SOURANI: Yes, yes. He is complicit. He is selectively dealing with the Rome Statute, with the investigations, and he’s politically charging the International Criminal Court. Shame on him. He didn’t say one statement, since day one ’til this moment. He should be the backbone of the victims who are suffering in this part of the world. And he sees that, and he knows that, and he receives reports about that. And he’s doing nothing.
So, U.S. and Mr. Biden — I’m saying to him — you are complicit. You are part of these crimes, because you are allowing, with your arms, civilians to be targeted and killed. We have almost 1,200 people for almost two weeks under the wreckage and under the destroyed houses, unable to be recovered. We have 57 families deleted, don’t exist anymore, because 20, 25, 30 of them have been killed in one second. We have churches targeted, and people died in it. We have mosques, people sheltered in it, and they were killed. Why you are allowing this to happen? Why you are seeing, watching, supporting Israel? Israel right of defense? Or it should be protecting civilians at the time of war. IHL, international humanitarian law, and human rights, Rome Statute, it’s there —
AMY GOODMAN: Raji —
RAJI SOURANI: — simply, Amy, to protect —
AMY GOODMAN: Raji —
RAJI SOURANI: — civilians at a time of war. And nobody is protecting us. We are the target of the Israeli army. They want to evict Gaza, and they create a new Nakba. They don’t want anybody in Gaza. They want us to leave. We are not leaving. We are the stones of the valley. We have been here since ever, and we will continue forever. We will not be part of the Israeli plan to evacuate Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Raji, if you can tell us what happened to your own family? When was your house bombed? And were you dug out from the rubble?
RAJI SOURANI: I’m living in Rimal area, Tal Al Hawa, the nicest place in Gaza. I have my own villa, and it’s nice, with very nice garden. It’s a two-story building. It’s me and my wife Amal and my son Basel. And we were, like everybody, I mean, you know, at our home, watching what’s going on. And out of the blue, the bombing began, began in our area — nothing special, nothing unique, nothing consist danger; otherwise, my sense will tell me, I mean, you know, I have to leave, or I will ask my wife and son, I mean, at least, to leave. But there is nothing, I mean, in that part. It’s entirely civilian, and I can tell — and I have always the reason, I mean, to say that.
And I have — the bombing began, and we thought, yes, I mean, this might be one bomb here or there. But it was very close. And the second, and then we began to realize and feel, you know, there is something big wrong happening, because sound getting closer, closer and closer. We were holding — I mean, we were not thinking or realizing that we are going to survive. That’s not easy. And I was thinking of a lot of things, I mean, my life, how I didn’t really, you know, leave like everybody leave. Should I leave, or should I stay? Why we move just in that place two minutes before the rocket of F-16, GBU-38, hit? And I felt the heat of the flame, and I saw the ball of fire. And every time, especially this one, I thought it’s our end. And this was last one, I mean, with the hit directly to my house, and the house was literally destroyed. Lucky enough, I just moved from the place where we are staying, upon the request of my son, to one tiny corridor inside the house. And if we were where we were, we are gone. We are gone.
So, we waited almost half an hour, unable to speak any words, unable to do anything. And we were really, I mean, a state of human shock. And I waited ’til, you know, there was some siren of ambulances remotely, and that means usually the bombing stopped, and they get the green light to come in. Then we began to climb our way out. But it was rather a mission impossible. And we were lucky, I mean, you know, to get out. And when we get out of the place, we just moved to my brother’s house, which is like 800 meters away from the place we are staying. This happened on the 18th. But since then ’til today, I can assure you one thing, that the entire area is of Tal Al Hawa completely abolished almost. Two-thirds of it doesn’t exist. This really beautiful area of Gaza doesn’t exist anymore.
So, we survived. We were lucky. But our neighbors, I mean, they lost 29 members, Habboush family, and others and others and others and others and others. We are collecting data. We are collecting information. This is unprecedented. I never, ever thought in my life civilians can be the target of war. They are not with Hamas.
Hamas insulted them, insulted their intelligence, insulted their military. We can understand that. In two hours, they were able to destroy the security wall, which America — which U.S. took it as the standard, and many other countries. And they destroyed it in 15 minutes, and they were able to enter. And they took over 11 military strongholds of Israel, and they killed and captured many of them. And they get back to them in Gaza, and we can understand why they are angry with them. And they took the headquarters of Gaza commandment of the Israeli military army, and they arrested generals, colonel and others, and they brought them, I mean, to Gaza. Israel has the right to be angry, absolutely angry, because Hamas showed their intelligence and their military capability means nothing, and they destroyed this illusion in two hours.
But why they are revenging from us? They should rebel from Hamas. Hamas still, I can assure you, functions like a Swiss watch in Gaza, and they are not affected. I can tell that. I can see that. We feel that. They are unable to minimize their power. They are unable to silence them. They are unable to locate where their soldiers are who were taken as prisoners of war. They are unable to do anything for them. That’s why they are revenging from us. This is the shame on the army. I mean, there is rules of engagement between the army, between the resistance movement and any army. But why civilians are the target? This is the big question. This is shame this is happening, I mean, to us. And I’m telling you —
AMY GOODMAN: Raji —
RAJI SOURANI: — the reason they wanted — yes.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you — the leaflets that were dropped this weekend on Gaza, addressed to residents of Gaza, reading, “Urgent warning to the residents of Gaza: Your presence north of Wadi Gaza is putting your lives at risk. Anyone who chooses not to evacuate from the north of the Gaza Strip to the south of the Gaza Strip may be identified as a partner in a terrorist organization.” These on leaflets. I don’t know if you saw these leaflets, but you have made a decision with your family not to move south. Can you respond to what they’re saying, that anyone who chooses not to evacuate may be identified as a partner in a terrorist organization?
RAJI SOURANI: We have been here since ever, and we will stay forever. And no power on Earth will take me from here. We are the stones of the valley. They have to understand that. And even if they destroy once and again houses on our heads, even if they took our life, we are not moving anymore. Simply, we suffered from the Nakba 75 years. They committed massacres. They killed thousands of Palestinians. They pushed us out. And now it’s time for us not to do that again, at least willingly. We cannot be part of Mr. Bibi’s plan to evacuate Gaza. He said it, from a written statement, in a press conference day one: Gazans should leave Gaza. Where to? Where to? If anybody should leave, people like Mr. Bibi, not us. Enough for the occupation. We want dignity, freedom, end of this belligerent, criminal occupation. Now people from south of Gaza began to come back to north in thousands, because there is no safe haven in Gaza, no safe place in Gaza. And we are not going to be a tool in the hands of racist, criminal, rightist Israeli prime minister. No way. We are not going to do that. We are going to stay in Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani, I want to thank you so much for taking this call, human rights attorney, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Please be safe. I know that it’s extremely difficult, with now the death toll at 5,000. Raji has chosen to stay in Gaza City near his home. People should go to our interviews with Raji over these last two weeks, of course, and beyond, before that. I also want to thank Jehad Abusalim, scholar and analyst from Gaza, executive director of The Jerusalem Fund. Thank you so much both for being with us.
Next up, “Do not use our death and our pain to bring death and pain of other people and other families.” The message of Noy Katsman about their brother Hayim, an Israeli peace activist killed in the Hamas attack. We’ll speak with Noy, as he says, “Not in my name. Not in my brother’s name.” Stay with us.