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Nuseirat, anatomy of Israel’s massacre in Gaza

In News, World
June 11, 2024

It was hailed as a great success in Israel. A bloody, violent ambush that turned into a massacre of nearly 300 displaced people who were going about their day as best they could.

Suddenly, they found themselves “descending into the depths of hell”, Al Jazeera’s Maram Humaid wrote on June 8.

An Israeli raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp, ostensibly to free four Israeli captives held there, but reportedly resulted in the death of three more including one US citizen, according to the Qassam Brigades.

That is, besides the at least 274 Palestinians killed.

What happened in Nuseirat? How did Israel kill so many people? Here is a breakdown of the attack:

What happened?

The attack on Nuseirat was ostensibly to free four captives taken on October 7: Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40.

It began around 11am, with what witnesses say were several civilian trucks and cars entering a neighbourhood near the camp’s market.

INTERACTIVE - Gaza Nuseirat attack civilian vehicles-1718110060
[Al Jazeera]

One was loaded with furniture to appear it was moving displaced people, while another had commercial markings on its exterior. There were what appeared to be civilian vehicles in the group, as well.

To provide air cover, Israeli forces started bombing from above, hitting the busy market area the hardest, likely to spread as much panic and distress as possible, as well as to inflict maximum casualties.

INTERACTIVE - Gaza Nuseirat attack air bombardment-1718110071
[Al Jazeera]

Telegram channels began circulating news that bombings could be heard in the camp at around 11:35am.

At a certain point, the convoy separated into two groups of vehicles. Later, investigation revealed that each group had headed towards a location where Israeli captives were held.

The three male captives were at one location, where Al Jazeera believes that a witness account details how soldiers got to the house.

There, heavily armed soldiers jumped out of the vehicles and ran through a cluster of makeshift tents put up by displaced people.

The witness describes how everyone cowered in fear inside their flimsy shelters, little more than a piece of fabric between them and the armed soldiers.

INTERACTIVE - Gaza Nuseirat attack camp-1718110049
[Al Jazeera]

At the end of their run, they arrived at a garden wall, through which they punched a hole to approach a quiet apartment building from the back.

Al Jazeera has not been able to ascertain whether this was the only access point to this building, which is surrounded by a garden on at least two sides and likely faces onto a road.

Noa Argamani was held at another location, in a building facing a narrow, tree-lined street.

There, a truck pulled up, supported by soldiers who were shooting on sight, killing one person at the entrance of the building. From footage Al Jazeera has reviewed, there were no weapons to be seen near or on the killed individual.

A ladder was extended from the truck to allow soldiers to clamber into an apartment through its balcony.

All reports Al Jazeera has gathered indicate that Israeli soldiers were shooting people on sight in buildings they entered, as well as on the streets that the soldiers moved through.

To support the operation on land, the Israeli army reportedly moved armoured vehicles in from the other side of Salah al-Din Road at the line between Nuseirat and Bureij refugee camps.

At a certain point during the raid, more Israeli soldiers landed in a helicopter on Gaza’s shore, not far from the US-built pier.

INTERACTIVE - Gaza Nuseirat attack extraction-1718110040
[Al Jazeera]

Analysis would indicate that these were to provide backup, if needed and to evacuate the captives.

After the four individuals were retrieved, the convoy of disguised trucks and civilian vehicles headed out of the camp towards the sea, taking the Nuseirat road.

From there, the four were loaded onto the Israeli military helicopter and lifted off, leaving carnage behind as the bewildered people of Nuseirat tried to comprehend what had happened.

What did the people in Nuseirat do when this horror was over?

The wounded were taken to Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Balah, quickly overwhelming both medical and morgue facilities.

A widely shared video on social media shows the few remaining medics in the hospital standing in the middle of countless people lying on the floor, in agony, bleeding and screaming.

The medic in the middle of the shot is bereft. He can no longer move around because there are so many patients lying on every square inch of the tile floor, there is nowhere for him to put his feet.

It is not clear how he continued that day, how he triaged wounds, and how he made the decision of who to allocate the nearly nonexistent hospital resources to.

Translation: In light of what the Israeli occupation army has done to decimate the Gaza healthcare sector, injured people cover the corridors of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital after the massacre that the Israeli occupation army committed in the Nusierat refugee camp.

Within the hour, as staff frantically tried to treat the overwhelming number of wounded, the hospital received an evacuation order from Israel’s military. The hospital was in an area previously designated by Israel’s military as a safe zone.

But the operation, deemed by the Israelis and their international allies as a resounding success, not only killed numerous Palestinians, but a few hostages as well.

The Qassam Brigades posted a video to its Telegram channel on Sunday that showed three unidentified corpses, their faces covered, claiming they belonged to three captives, including one who was a US citizen, whom Israel killed during its raid.

Wait… Israeli soldiers snuck in how?

Israeli forces were “perfidiously hiding in an aid truck”, UN Special Rapporteur of the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese said. “This is ‘humanitarian camouflage’ at another level,” she wrote on X. Israel has denied the accusation.

How many people were killed or wounded?

At least 274 people died in Saturday’s massacre, including at least 64 children, and more than 700 were injured, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Among those that Israel killed, according to Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, are three Israeli captives, one of whom has US citizenship.

Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed on Saturday that “dozens” of Palestinians had been killed in the attack, telling a briefing that he “knew of less than 100” casualties, but he “couldn’t say” how many were civilians.

How were so many people killed to rescue just four?

Witnesses describe a violent ambush, with indiscriminate shooting and air raids.

Camp resident Anas Alayyan said Israeli soldiers committed mass executions on the street.

“I went down to the street and found bodies everywhere,” he told Al Jazeera.

INTERACTIVE - Gaza Nuseirat attack aftermath-1718110029
[Al Jazeera]

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