Reuters / May 16, 2023
GAZA – When an Israeli missile struck the residential block of the Nabhan family in Gaza four days ago, no one was killed, but a family with five disabled members were among 45 people made homeless.
For the five siblings, three of whom are on wheel chairs and all five of whom suffer from physical disability, muscular dystrophy and convulsions, the misery was multiplied, as their wheelchairs, medicine, special beds and bathroom were buried under the rubble.
The family now lives with relatives close to their old shelter. Every morning relatives carry them out as people continued to flock to the site, some showing sympathy at their harrowing experience, and others carrying gifts for the girls.
“The house blew up while we were being moved out. Our wheelchairs, medicine and clothes were inside. Nothing was left,” said 16-year-old Hanin, who has a disability in both legs.
The others are aged 3, 18, 29 and 38. The emotional toll of losing the house seemed to have worsened the older brother’s mental state, as he has become very nervous, always shouting and sometimes crying, his relatives said.
According to officials from Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, the latest round of Israeli air strikes, which began on May 9, have destroyed 15 residential blocks, containing more than 50 apartments. In addition, 940 buildings have been damaged, 49 beyond repair.
The Israeli military says it takes every effort to limit civilian casualties and damage and accuses the militant group of hiding command centres and other military sites in residential areas.
On May 13, Hanin’s older brother Jalal received a call from a private number, but he went out to let his cousin respond as he stutters while talking. The caller was an Israeli officer who ordered them to evacuate the house five minutes before they bombed it.
The cousin, Hussam Nabhan, 45, tried to stall with the officer, telling him the house included disabled people, but it was all in vain, he said.
“He told me you to have five minutes. We rushed to the house and found the girls lying on the ground. Thanks to the neighbours we have been able to take them out and we managed to leave the house by a miracle,” he told Reuters.
The mother, Najah, 57, said they failed to take anything from the house even the identity cards.
“The house was the girls’ shelter, they had got a disabled toilet, wheelchairs, a bed to sleep. Things that had been difficult to get, now there is nothing,” Najah said.
“How am I going to carry her after the wheeler was gone, also the (healthy) mattresses were gone,” she added.
The Gaza Strip is home to 2.3 million Palestinians in cities, towns, and refugee camps squeezed within an area of 365 square km (141 square miles). Its borders are sealed off by neighbouring Israel and Egypt, citing security concerns with Hamas, which runs the territory.
Several wars and a 16-year-old Israeli-led blockade have crippled the enclave’s already ailing economy.
Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi, editing by William Maclean