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Gaza crisis: ‘My son was going to the mosque. I had no idea I was going to find him dead’

A father mourns his 10-year-old child, hit by flying shrapnel as rockets and air attacks announce the end of a 72-hour ceasefire
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A grief-stricken father has denounced international inaction over Palestinian deaths in Gaza after his 10-year-old son was killed as he chatted with friends on the way to a mosque for Friday prayers.

Ibrahim al-Dawawsa’s life was the first lost after the end of the 72-hour truce which had renewed hopes of a new deal to end the month-long war.

He was killed close to his home in Gaza City by what local police and the family say was shrapnel, from a missile fired by an Israeli drone, which sheared through his head. Israel had launched air strikes after rockets were fired by Hamas militants as talks in Cairo deadlocked over the two parties’ conflicting demands.  

Northern areas in the Gaza Strip bordering Israel were virtually deserted as residents either stayed away or left their homes fearing an escalating return  to hostilities. Some returned to UN schools used as refuges or to relatives’ homes closer to the centre of Gaza city. Residents leaving Beit Lahiya and its border suburb Atatra, reported hearing shelling after the three-day ceasefire ended at 8am. 

As relatives and neighbours gathered to mourn Ibrahim opposite his home in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City, his father taxi driver Zuheir Dawawsa, 55, said that his son was intending to accompany him to prayers but went on ahead.

Four other boys  were injured  when the missile struck the covered building site where another mosque is being reconstructed after it was bombed in Israel’s attack on Gaza in November 2012.


Mr Dawawsa told The Independent: “We had been doing the washing for prayers and I was still at home when Ibrahim left. I heard an explosion and I walked out of the house to see what it was. My son had been going to the mosque. I had no idea I was going to find him dead.” 

Standing with his two other sons – Mohammed, seven, and Shadi 11 – Mr Dawawsa asked how they were expected to cope after seeing the body of their brother, whom he described a studious pupil who liked football and basketball.

With his hand on Mohammed’s head, Mr Dawawsa added: “He is a very young boy who has lived through three wars. He should be playing and doing other things than mourning his brother. You can imagine that now the boys  will grow up wanting revenge and to get Israel out of here.”

On the funeral procession from a mosque to the cemetery, one of the largest in the Gaza Strip, young men flew yellow  flags of Hamas’s rival faction Fatah – which is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Dawawsa said: “We are all Palestinians, Fatah and Hamas. But yes, we are a Fatah family.”

Smoke rises following Israeli air strikes in northern Gaza City (EPA)

He added, however: “My son was the first to be killed after the ceasefire. Where is the ceasefire? Where are human rights when this genocide is going on in Gaza? Where is the international community?”

Later, an Israeli airstrike hit a house in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood which police said had been occupied  by 20 people. The prominent Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar belong to the extended clan who lived in the house, but it was unclear whether they were close or distant relatives.

Earlier in the day, Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, seemed a virtual ghost town. The only residents visible in its main street were two young men on a motorcycle, riding south with an electric fan retrieved from one of the dozens of multi-occupied houses that have been demolished during military ground and air assaults. Israel justifies the attacks on the border areas as part of its search and destruction of Hamas tunnels.

In a slightly less deserted Atatra, Yusuf Subah, 24, said women and children had left that morning amid fears that the war would resume but that the younger men were staying to watch over livestock.

All the residents that The Independent spoke to affirmed support for Hamas’s stated goal of ending the seven-year blockade on the movement of goods and people, but differed on what constituted a victory. Some predicted a fall in Hamas support if the blockade was not lifted. Mr Subah said: “We won this war and the resistance represents all Palestinian people.” But a relative, Dr  Ayed Subah, 40,  disagreed, saying: “If the result of the war is to lift the siege and get a better life for the people then it’s a victory. But if they don’t then what was the sacrifice of our children. Was all that for nothing?”  

In an abnormally quiet Beit Lahiya, Samir Sada, 55, who knows Hebrew after working for 25 years as a builder in Israel, complained at the lack of support for the Palestinian cause by Arab countries – including Egypt. She said: “What Hamas is asking for is possible – the end of the siege. If they do not get it at least it tried.”