Homeless of Gaza: residents recall shocking moment apartment block was obliterated

Nagham Mohanna

The National  /  May 12, 2021

Gaza authorities said dozens of Israeli air strikes have destroyed two high-rises and damaged 550 homes.

Palestinians in Gaza city have recounted harrowing stories after escaping death from Israeli air strikes that flattened one apartment tower block and caused significant damage to other buildings in the vicinity.

Um Hazem al-Sayigh, who is in her 80s, lost 30 years of memories when her apartment was destroyed.

“I can’t stop crying. I lived 30 years in this home, all my memories and life were there,” Ms Al-Sayigh told The National.

Her apartment in Al-Minna building, metres from the devastated Hanadi high-rise, was destroyed in the blast that followed the strike by Israeli warplanes.

“The walls are rubble. My kitchen is gone. Luckily my daughter and I are still alive as we heeded the warnings from neighbours to evacuate the building,” Ms Al-Sayigh said.

The 13-storey residential tower block collapsed after it was hit by an Israeli air strike, bringing vows of retaliation from Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

The Israeli army says it targeted Hamas offices in the building in response to rocket attacks from Gaza at targets in Israel.

Hamas said it has fired more than 100 rockets in response to Tuesday’s air strike.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said that 60 Palestinians – including 14 children – have died in some of the worst violence in the area in years.

At least six people were killed in rocket attacks on Israel, including a woman near the city of Tel Aviv.

The authorities in Gaza say dozens of Israeli air strikes over the past three days have destroyed two high-rise buildings and damaged 550 residential units.

Tensions in the region have escalated amid warnings of a third intifada [uprising].

These were sparked by the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

They were raised higher when Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, in the Old City of Jerusalem, firing stun grenades at Palestinian protesters.

The Hanadi high-rise building was evacuated before the air strike, following Israeli warnings.

The National was at the scene as residents searched for belongings in the ruins.

One resident, whose apartment in another building nearby was damaged, could not believe that the towering building was reduced to rubble within moments.

“I spent all my money to buy our apartment and now we are homeless. We are helpless to do anything,” said Hadia Sakallah, 34, a mother of four.

Ms Sakallah recounted the air strike.

“I was sitting with my children, who were terrified by the deafening sound of bombing. I was at home when the tower was targeted by a warning rocket.

“I was confused where to go – I don’t have any other place to go. My children were crying.”

“Before leaving our home, my daughter asked me to take her new clothes for Eid,” Ms Sakallah said.

“We ran out looking for a taxi, but we couldn’t find any. Now the apartment is destroyed.

“The windows are blown out, the furniture damaged, the walls have collapsed.

“The smell of smoke is everywhere and we don’t have any other place to go.”

Nagham Mohanna is a print journalist at the Gaza Center for Media Freedom