Ahmed al-Sammak & Ahmed Dremly
Middle East Eye / October 9, 2023
After finally repairing their homes damaged in an August 2022 Israeli strike, Palestinian families have now watched as their building was targeted again.
Nima Abu Nada lives on the top floor of Palestine Tower, a 14-storey residential building in the middle of Gaza City with panoramic views.
In August 2022, Israel fired several rockets at the tower without warning, killing senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders.
Miraculously, the 49-year-old and her two children survived the bombing, but their home was left severely damaged and uninhabitable.
Three weeks ago, she finally returned to her beloved home, after paying 72,000 shekels ($18,600) for repairs. Most of that money she had to borrow.
On Saturday, Hamas launched a stunning attack on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, firing thousands of rockets and sending hundreds of fighters across the boundary by land, air and sea. Around 800 Israelis were killed in the attack, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim to have taken some 130 captives back to Gaza.
Israel has countered with hundreds of strikes, flattening many residential towers, killing up to 493 Gazans and wounding at least 2,750.
On Saturday evening, residents of Palestine Tower began to receive phone calls. It was the Israeli military, telling them to flee before they began bombing the building.
Shortly after, the tower was reduced to rubble by a series of Israeli missiles.
Abu Nada is still grappling with the reality of her house being bombed again.
“I never thought the building would be bombed again. I told my neighbours it’s impossible. Why would they bomb it? It was a very terrific and unforgettable time,” she told Middle East Eye, her voice choking as she spoke.
Abu Nada’s son Haron sat by his mother. Fear had drained the 16-year-old’s face of colour and he was silent, struggling to process what was happening around him.
“My 20-year-old sister’s leg is broken. So I had to carry her quickly from the 14th floor, as the lift had been broken since the last attack,” he told MEE.
The family fled by car to Abu Nada’s sister’s house in the Gaza Strip’s north, where they are now staying.
“We only managed to take some clothes, leaving all our belongings behind. All our life savings went in vain,” Haron said.
Abu Nada, who was crying and in a state of shock, said angrily: “We need the world to treat us as human beings. We are just civilians. We are sick of this life under Israeli attacks. What happened is prohibited in all religions and laws.”
“We have been suffering psychologically since the 2022 attack. I want my children to live a safe life. How long do we have to live this life? How long?” she asked.
Khalil Kanon was having lunch with his family and 80-year-old mother when Israel attacked Palestine Tower in 2022. Many of them were lightly wounded, but their home was badly damaged.
Displaced to a flat opposite the tower, it took Kanon more than a year to repair his home after receiving some financial assistance from the UN.
On Saturday evening, Kanon and his wife were discussing what colour furniture they should buy for their children when he heard people screaming and warning neighbours to flee.
Just as they were all supposed to be moving back, it was destroyed again.
“My mother has been suffering from terror, delirium and hallucinations since the bombing yesterday,” Khalil told MEE in despair.
“My four children couldn’t sleep yesterday because of panic attacks. They have become very anxious and angry. They have kept asking me why our house was bombed twice and asking to travel and live abroad in peace. We are sick of all this terror and panic.”
Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee said two residential towers including Palestine Tower, had been used by Hamas for “terrorist operations”. But Kanon denies that.
“All of the residents were civilians and there isn’t any reason to target the tower. This is a war crime and collective punishment. There isn’t any safe place in Gaza to protect your family,” he said.
“Most of the tower’s families fled to their relatives’ houses or schools. Enough is enough. We need justice. We are unarmed civilians facing very explosive rockets without any shelter.”
Ghassan Abu Ramadan, 66, is still recovering from wounds he received in the 2022 bombing of Palestine Tower.
In that bombing, four of his family were severely wounded. Abu Ramadan was in intensive care for eight days; his wife was there for 30.
He’d only just received financial assistance to rebuild and was supposed to begin repairs soon.
Abu Ramadan and his family of six were watching TV in their temporary accommodation when they heard that Israel was going to bomb the tower again.
“When we saw the tower collapsing, we got extremely sad. I have lived in it since 1995. All my memories were made there. It was very painful,” he told MEE.
“The Israeli army wants to make us suffer. They want us to live in chaos. There were 82 families living in the tower. Now the homeless 82 families need houses. If the Israeli army wants to target the resistance, it can, but it targeted us.”
It’s been disheartening, Abu Ramadan said, to see the west only voice support for Israeli civilians affected by the recent days’ violence.
“The world has left Gaza without any solution. The west strongly supports and needs Israel, and the West leaves us homeless and hopeless. Thousands of international resolutions against Israel, but none of them have been implemented.” he said.
Ahmed al-Sammak is a freelance journalist who lives in the Gaza Strip
Ahmed Dremly is a Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip