Middle East Eye / October 10, 2023
Eyewitnesses told MEE that in all incidents where entire families were erased, no prior notice was given before Israeli bombardment.
Entire families are still trapped under rubble, as civil defence crews are overwhelmed with a growing number of rescue calls on the fourth day of Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
As of Monday evening, at least 13 Palestinian families, totaling 150 individuals, have been wiped out by direct air strikes on their multi-storey residential buildings, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye that in all the incidents where entire families were erased, no prior notice was given before knocking down their residential buildings.
These families encompassed extended family groups who gathered in a single apartment, a common practice among Gazans to ease stress and seek shelter during bombings.
In the early hours of Saturday, scores of Palestinian fighters crossed from the besieged Gaza Strip into Israel by land, sea, and air, seizing control of towns and kibbutzim with shocking ease. The attacks killed at least 1,000 Israelis, and the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and some strikes in the occupied West Bank, have killed 830 Palestinians.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Israeli fighter jets struck a residential building in Beit Hanoun, located in the northern Gaza Strip, killing at least 20 people, including the entire Al-Zaanin family.
In a video circulated on social media, one member of the Al-Zaanin family was in tears, mourning the loss of her daughter and entire family, following the targeting of their home.
“We came and found out that they are all gone. All of them are martyred, all of them have died. They (Israelis) have not given them [prior] notice. My daughter […] over 20 people were at [the targeted] home.” the grieving woman said.
Amir al-Zaanin, who lives in a nearby building, told Middle East Eye that many members of his family were still trapped under rubble, hours after the attack.
“Everywhere was being bombed, wherever you looked, you would see [bombing]. Most of the Beit Hanoun area was bombed. There are still victims down there [under the debris] who no one can still reach,” Amir al-Zaanin said.
Although they experienced a similar scale of bombing in Israel’s 50-day attack on Gaza in July-August 2014, residents of Beit Hanoun say this was different.
“Last time, the majority [of the residents] had evacuated [before the attack]. This time no one had evacuated. There are places where massacres have been committed and where we still cannot reach,” Amir said.
A spokesman for the Gaza Civil Defence said Israeli forces have bombed roads leading to central hospitals in most neighbourhoods in Gaza, impeding the work of medical and civil defence crews.
A few hours after the Beit Hanoun attack, residents of the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood, north of Gaza City, witnessed a similar tragedy.
Six members of the Shaaban family, including parents and their four children, were killed in an air strike on their home.
“Without warning, my sister Enas Riyad Shaaban, her husband, who is my cousin, Nathir Shawqi Shaaban, and their children Omar, Ghada, Batoul, and Ahmed were martyred,” Fathi Shaaban, a resident of Gaza City, posted on Facebook.
On Monday, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant threatened more severe attacks and further restrictions on the impoverished population of over two million residents in Gaza, referring to Palestinians as “human animals”.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”
A few hours after Gallant’s announcement, the Al-Rimal neighbourhood, a vital residential and commercial hub in the heart of Gaza City, was ravaged by numerous air strikes.
Dozens of buildings, including businesses and shops, were razed to the ground, with entire densely populated areas wiped out.
Ahlam Bedi, a resident, managed to evacuate her apartment before the intense bombardment began.
“My children and I have left for a relative’s home, but this morning I went to inspect my apartment. I could hardly recognize the neighbourhood. It has completely changed, nothing is in its place,” Bedi told MEE.
“I also have almost completely lost my apartment, a large shell struck causing severe damage. I do not know if it is still inhabitable.”
Maha Hussaini is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist based in Gaza