Gaza mourns the dozens dead in latest Israeli attack: ‘I lost everything in the blink of an eye’

Tanks and aircraft struck over 350 targets in Gaza, killing 25, including two pregnant women and three children

Bel Trew
Gaza
Tuesday 07 May 2019 17:43
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Gaza: Footage shows buildings destroyed in last wave of airstrikes

The only reason Mohamed, 26, was not dug out of the rubble of his home like the rest of his family, was because he stopped for a quick chat.

He remembers how his father, a security guard at al-Awda hospital in north Gaza, was grumpy that his oldest son was home late on Sunday evening.

But a split-second decision to say hello to a neighbour meant he was only at the gate of their five-storey building when the Israeli airstrike hit, saving his life.

His father, mother and brother were killed.

“This fire ball just consumed the top of the building and suddenly everything was dust,” Mohamed Abu Al-Jidian told The Independent at the family funeral in Beit Lahia, Gaza.

With no home left to gather in, the surviving relatives lined up plastic chairs in a nearby building site.

“I tried to go up to save my father but the fire was too strong and the debris too much. I couldn’t get to them,” he added.

The family were given no warning by the Israeli forces or the “knock on the roof” preliminary missile, as some buildings are.

Instead, there was a deadening roar as the strike chewed off the entire top floor of the building, leaving brick-toothed holes.

“There was no reason for our flat to be hit, so I thought at first the explosion must be behind the building,” he said.

The body of his 11-year-old brother Abdul-Rahman was the first to be found alongside their neighbours the al-Ghazali family.

Among the dead was a four-month-old girl.

Mohamed’s mother Raghda, and father Talal, 50, were not located until a day later: there was so much debris it took rescue workers 24 hours to claw through concrete to find them.

“I don’t understand it, my father was a hospital guard, he isn’t affiliated to any political [or armed] group. There isn’t anything in this building but people’s homes,” he added.

Over the weekend the deadliest fighting in years erupted, pushing the population of Gaza towards breaking point.

Since Saturday morning, armed groups in the enclave have fired more than 700 rockets and projectiles at Israel, killing four civilians: the first Israeli civilian fatalities since the last war in 2014.

In retaliation, Israeli tanks and aircraft struck over 350 targets in Gaza, killing 25 Palestinians, including two pregnant women and three children, according to Gaza health authorities.

For a tense few days it seemed like both sides were hurtling towards another war, until Egypt and the United Nations were able to broker a fragile truce which holds, for now at least.

But in Gaza, many of the strip’s 1.9 million strong population believe it is only a temporary pause.

They fear they will be unable to survive another round of fighting.

(Tamer al-Wakeel / Bel Trew)

The 25-mile long enclave has been brought to its knees by a crippling 12-year Israeli and Egyptian siege imposed after Hamas, a militant group, swept control of the area.

The civilian population have already struggled through three wars between Gaza’s armed factions and the Israeli army since 2009.

According to the United Nations, the humanitarian situation is so dire Gaza may become completely uninhabitable by next year.

More than 70 per cent of the youth are unemployed, the highest jobless rate in the world.

Ninety-seven per cent of the water is undrinkable and more than half the population lives under the poverty line. Until relatively recently families were existing on less than six hours of electricity a day, which also means key infrastructure like sewage plants have not been operating properly.

On Tuesday, Qatar said it was sending $480m (£367m) to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to try to plug the immediate funding shortfall. The money will pay for health and education programmes, as well as “urgent humanitarian relief” and electricity.

However, families of those who lost their homes in the last round of airstrikes say these are only temporary measures, and it will not help them if another protracted conflict starts.

Tamer al-Wakeel, 30, whose home in Gaza City was levelled on Sunday afternoon, said he does not even have a roof over his head to hide under if war does erupt.

(Tamer al-Wakeel / Bel Trew) 

The multi-storey building that once housed his flat is now lying on its back like a fallen chest of drawers. Brightly coloured ceilings are stacked horizontally on their sides.

The block’s owner and his son speak of being ruined under their breath.

Tamer, meanwhile, picked through a mound of concrete which used to be his daughter’s room.

“I lost everything in the blink of an eye, all I have right now are the clothes on my back” he said, retrieving a ripped child’s jumper with a pink moon on it.

“All we can do is pray the ceasefire will hold forever.

“We are psychologically at the end of what we can cope with.”

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