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The UN is demanding an investigation into how the Israeli military killed one of its Palestinian school teachers by blasting open the front door of her Gaza home with explosives in the presence of three of her children.
Wafer Shaker al Daghma, 34, a teacher at a local UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) elementary school, was killed last Wednesday as she stood preparing to open the wooden door of her home to the troops. According to UNRWA and relatives who found her body, the military used an explosive device on the door which blew most of her head from her body. They then confined the traumatised children – aged from two to 13 – for five hours while the body lay outside the door of the room where they were held.
Although the soldiers finally left the house – in darkness because of a blackout – at around 9pm, Mrs al Daghma’s 13-year-old daughter Samira was too terrified to go outside for help for another two hours because of the continued presence of Israeli armoured vehicles outside her home.
Tiles above a washbasin opposite the front door of the house were still heavily spattered with dried blood yesterday. There was a pile of splintered wooden planks from the destroyed door on the floor where Mrs al Daghma’s body, which soldiers apparently covered with a rug, had lain as the military incursion continued.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, said that the Israeli forces were using the house as a post to monitor “alleged militants”. “The children heard many gun shots but do not know where they came from,” he said. He said UNRWA had asked Israel in writing for “an impartial investigation, for accountability and allowing the facts to speak for themselves,” adding: “We again condemn the killing of innocent civilians.”
Mrs al Daghma’s widower, Majdi, 34, who was out of the house at the time, said his daughter had told him that her mother, knowing that troops were on a search and arrest operation in the vicinity, had put on a headscarf, told the children to go into a bedroom and said that she would open the door when the troops arrived. An Israeli tank had parked by the outer, open, metal door and the inner, wooden front door was then blasted open.
“Samira heard a very loud explosion and there was a lot of smoke. She looked for her mother but couldn’t see her,” he said.
Samira al Daghma said yesterday that after entering the house the soldiers had kept her, her sister Roba, four, and brother Qusay, two, in the room. “They did not let us out. There was one soldier at the door of the room. I asked him: ‘Where is my mother?’ He was speaking in Hebrew and I didn’t understand him.”
She said that when the soldiers finally left, she crawled with her siblings to a room on the eastern side of the house. “There were still tanks outside our house and if I had gone out they would have seen me. I tried to call my father on my mother’s Jawwal [cellphone] but there was no line. I lifted the carpet and saw a bit of my mother’s clothes. She was not moving. I did not see her head.”
Mr al Daghma said the family were Fatah rather than Hamas supporters. The funeral was arranged by Fatah and there were Arafat portraits in the house yesterday. The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident.
The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday promised “strong action” to stop Gaza militants if they continued their attacks after a 48-year-old Israeli father-of-four was killed by a Hamas-claimed mortar on Friday. Oxfam urged Israel to avert a health crisis as Gaza’s power station shut down, saying it had run out of fuel.