With fighting all around them, Israeli troops knocked on the door of the Samouni clan in Gaza City last weekend and told them to leave, directing them to the building owned by a relative. Twenty-four hours later, three shells slammed into the structure where dozens of people were huddling, according to survivor accounts.
A newly released United Nations report said 30 people died in the shelling, citing four unidentified survivors who spoke by telephone. It called the shelling "one of the gravest incidents" to happen since Israeli infantry and armored troops entered Gaza Jan 4 to quell Hamas rockets on Israel.
Other accounts given to The Associated Press and an Israeli human rights group provided lower casualty figures, but all agreed that shells hit the large, unfinished warehouse-like building a day after Israeli troops told them to get inside it for their safety.
The shelling allegedly occurred ON Monday, two days after Israel launched its ground operation into Gaza. It took place in the Zeitoun neighborhood, which suffered massive destruction from air strikes and shelling from the ground. The report, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, offered no evidence that the attack was deliberate.
The Israeli military denied troops had forced civilians into a particular building, which was then shelled. "We don't warn people to go to other buildings. This is not something we do," said spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich. "We don't know this case.