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Massive destruction at the Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarm. (Photo: supplied)

By Fayha Shalash – Ramallah

Sana’ Yassin would never have imagined that the day would come when she would see bodies at the entrance to her home, and no one would be allowed to retrieve them. 

This was the scene at the Nur Shams refugee camp, east of Tulkarm, in the occupied West Bank, during a three-day violent Israeli military invasion, which left at least 14 Palestinians dead and dozens injured, in addition to massive destruction of the area.

The storming began last Thursday, with scores of Israeli armored military vehicles and hundreds of soldiers surrounding the camp and sealing its entrances.

Yassin told the Palestine Chronicle that Israeli bulldozers immediately began destroying the streets, cutting off water and electricity while uprooting the sewage network.

Israeli bulldozers demolished the facades of dozens of shops and balconies of houses overlooking the streets, causing new massive destruction in addition to previous rounds of deliberate sabotage.

“I had visited my sick mother and returned to my home when the raid began. I heard the sound of bulldozers and military vehicles, so I quickly entered my house because I knew that this sound was a prelude to a disaster,” Yassin said.

As the invasion continued, Israeli snipers began shooting at anyone who moved, wounding many. 

Because ambulance crews were prevented from entering, the conditions of the injured rapidly worsened.

Bleeding on the Ground

For that entire time, Yassin was trying to calm her four children, who were crying and screaming due to the power outage and the deafening sounds of shelling and bullets.

“While I was trying to help them sleep, there was a very loud shooting sound near the house,” Yassin said.

“I heard screaming and looked out the window to find two young men lying on the ground, bleeding due to their wounds and burns,” she explained. “I thought the ambulance would come to save them, but everyone was prevented from approaching.”

One of the injured tried to crawl to a nearby house, but he was unable to do so due to a barrage of Israeli gunfire. 

He remained on the ground for several hours until he and the other injured person passed away. Their bodies remained there for more than 60 hours.

Yassin told us that a strong smell began to fill the neighborhood.

She prevented her children from looking through the window so that they would not be shocked by the scene.

“Every time I looked out the window, I wished I wouldn’t see the two bodies, but they remained there the whole time,” Yassin said.

“No one was able to save them when they were injured and no one was able to retrieve them after their death. It was a horrific sight that I didn’t ever expect to see in my lifetime.”

A Mother

Salim Ghannam, 29, was sniped with a bullet to the head at the entrance to his home in the Nur Shams camp. 

No one was allowed to approach him, but his family managed to drag his lifeless body into the house. 

Salim remained there – a dead body – for 48 hours, with his family crying around him, the entire time.

After the occupation army withdrew from the camp, the Ghannam family was shocked to know that Salim’s 26-year-old brother, Mahmoud, had also been killed by Israeli army gunfire in a nearby neighborhood.

Salim and Mahmoud were the brothers of Amer and Ahmed Ghannam, who were killed by the Israeli army last October. 

Moreover, their brother, Abdul Latif, died from cancer soon after. Their mother had to bid farewell to five of her sons in just six months.

Cruelest Incursion

According to many testimonies, this incursion was the cruelest ever experienced. 

The residents told the Palestine Chronicle that these levels of atrocity were not even reached during the Second Intifada.

The Israeli army indiscriminately opened fire at the residents, and carried out field executions in the alleys of the camp, while deliberately obstructing the entry of ambulance crews.

Paramedic Zahran Ahmed said that from the first moment of the raid, the Israeli army closed the entrances to the camp and prevented medics from reaching the injured.

The soldiers prevented anyone from being transferred outside the camp. 

Residents said that one elderly person who died, remained in his home for 24 hours, as his family was not allowed to move his body to the hospital morgue.

“In one case, the camp residents were able, via bumpy roads, to deliver a sick 13-year-old girl to an ambulance,” Ahmed said.

“When we arrived at the hospital, the Israeli army surrounded the vehicle, detained us for hours and interrogated us, thinking that the girl was a young man who had been shot,” he added.

The storming and siege of the camp continued from Thursday evening until Sunday morning. 


As Israeli soldiers began to withdraw from some neighborhoods on Saturday evening, paramedics managed to enter. 

The scene that met them was tragic.

One of the bodies, which was recovered by Zahran, was completely burned due to the bombing.

Another young Palestinian was killed by Israeli soldiers and then thrown from the second floor, he said.

“A 16-year-old boy was hit by a bullet in the leg and crawled to one of the houses. So the soldiers followed the traces of blood and executed him inside the house with an explosive bullet to the head,” Zahran continued. 

“One of the young men we found had his head cut off after he was directly targeted by a bomb,” he said.

Zahran explained that the bodies had head wounds, so Israeli soldiers clearly aimed at them with the intention to kill. 

Their bodies were left in the street, and due to the high temperature, began to decompose.

“One of my fellow paramedics was hit by a bullet in his leg. He remained inside the camp for 13 hours, unable to reach the hospital until his injury worsened,” Zahran said. 

“He has undergone several surgeries so far and he will need more to fully recover. This raid we witnessed was horrific, it was the harshest ever.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Fayha’ Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008 and she has been working as a reporter and broadcaster ever since. Her articles appeared in several online publications. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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