The Deir el-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip was rocked Monday by an explosion centered in an uninhabited house belonging to Alaa al-Danaf, a field commander of Izzadin Kassam, the military wing of Hamas.
Izzadin Kassam blamed the explosion on Israel, claiming it was an assassination attempt on their field commanders.
But speaking on the condition of anonymity, camp residents said that Hamas was using the house to store weapons. Neighbors said that in the past they had appealed to Hamas to cease their activities in the camp, but were quickly silenced.
The testimony confirms the IDF’s denial of any Israeli involvement in the explosion.
An IDF representative told The Media Line that the Israel Air Force was not active in Deir el- Balah at the time.
“Usually when such explosions occur the armed groups in Gaza announce it’s Israel’s fault,” said Hamdi Shaqqura, deputy director for program affairs at the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
“But our investigations often find that this is not the case.”
Shaqqura said armed groups try to hide the existence of bombs in residential areas, because local residents “would not agree to live on a barrel of explosives.”
The rights group sent a team of field researchers and attorneys to collect testimony from victims and eyewitnesses following the explosion. Witnesses told the rights group they saw a red glow emanating from the house before the explosion.
Isma’il Younis, 12, a neighbor, told The Media Line he was home watching TV when a red ray appeared, followed by a huge boom that rocked the house, cutting electricity and sending plumes of smoke into the air.
Another neighbor added that the moment of the explosion felt like an earthquake, and she was unable to see her children due to the density of smoke and dust.
Early in the morning following the blast, eyewitnesses in Deir el-Balah told The Media Line, six Hamas minivans arrived to collect debris from the site. Witnesses also told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that they saw Hamas activists surround the house in question and collect shrapnel and bombs, removing any evidence of weapons.
The rights group concluded that the explosion ignited within the house and occurred “for no apparent reason, similar to some incidents in the past.”
The group speculated that the explosion was caused by faulty manufacturing or bad storage of bombs.
In February 2008, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that Ayman Fayed, a member of the Al- Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, his wife, three of his children and three neighbors had all been killed by an explosion in the Bureij refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip.
A report, released by the rights group at the time, concluded that the explosion was likely “an internal one,” citing eyewitness accounts of smoke and fire rising from the house seconds before the explosion.
The group warned armed groups in Gaza not to stockpile explosives in residential areas, which threatens civilian lives and is against international humanitarian law.
Justin Alexander, a Middle East analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the lack of space in the Gaza Strip, coupled with Israel’s monitoring of open agricultural areas, accounts for armed factions’ operations within residential areas.
“There aren’t many nonresidential areas in Gaza,” he told The Media Line.
Israel says the terrorist groups, both in Gaza and in Lebanon, have a policy of operating from residential areas to make it harder to hit back at them and to cause civilian casualties that can then be blamed on Israel.
The UN Fact Finding Mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone found that Palestinian armed groups in Gaza had fired rockets from within urban areas during its Operation Cast Lead in January 2009.
Thank you for joining us from occupied Bethlehem, you have been listening to Palestine Today from the International Middle East Media Center, for constant update, please visit our website at www.imemc.org. This report has been brought to you by Brian Pennis.
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