Sadness, anger in Palestine: Gaza mourns 13 killed in Israel raid

Maram Humaid

Al-Jazeera  /  May 9, 2023

Israeli military said they knew of ‘collateral’ in their operation to kill three PIJ members.

Gaza City Adeeb al-Rabai had just fallen asleep in his home in Gaza City when he was awakened by the sounds of bombing in the very early hours of Tuesday.

“I thought I was dreaming until I realized that the bombing was on my building,” the 60-year-old lawyer said.

Israel had launched air raids on several areas across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 13 people, including six women and four children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Among the dead were three members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement.

“It’s a civilian residential building,” al-Rabai said, standing in front of the bombed six-storey building. “Israeli missiles hit the fourth, fifth and sixth floors which were partially destroyed. Civilians live in those apartments, women and children.”

With no warning, al-Rabai said, “[the] Israeli occupation meant to destroy and kill those in the building.”

An Israeli military spokesperson told reporters the attacks had been to target PIJ members, adding, “We’re aware of some collateral and we’ll learn more as the day goes ahead.”

Farewells to those gone too soon

After the dhuhr (noon) prayers, thousands of mourners in a funeral procession through the heart of Gaza City, starting at the Omari Mosque, where they chanted as they lifted the bodies of the victims, promising revenge for the “major crime” committed.

Shaaban Adass was mourning his cousins, sisters Dania, 21, and Iman Alaa Adass, 17, who were killed when an Israeli attack hit near their home in the Tofah neighbourhood east of Gaza City.

“What happened is a heinous crime by the Israeli occupation, which claimed the lives of innocent people who were supposed to be safe in their homes,” he told Al-Jazeera.

The attacks on Tofah were apparently targeting 44-year-old Khalil al-Bahtini, a PIJ member who was killed along with his wife and his five-year-old daughter. Dania and Iman were “collateral damage”.

“Dania was getting ready for her wedding in a few days, and Iman was sad because her sister was about to leave the family home,” Adass said, pointing out Dania’s fiancé who wept silently near her body. He could not speak.

“Now, the sisters are together forever, what an enormous heartbreak and shock.”

Omar Saleh Abu Omar was there to mourn his friend Tariq Ezz al-Din, 48, a former prisoner in Israeli prisons and one of the PIJ members killed in the Israeli attack – along with his two children, Ali and Mayar.

“Tariq was a good person, he loved his country and his family. He was such a loving father,” Abu Omar said.

Ezz al-Din lived in al-Rabai’s building, where a total of six people were killed.

“Mr Jamal Khaswan, his wife and his 22-year-old son and Mr Tariq Ezz al-Din and his two children who are under 10,” al-Rabai counted.

Khaswan was a dentist who was known for offering free treatments to people who could not afford to pay for his help.

‘My friends were killed, we played together’

In front of the bombed building, children aged seven to 10 gathered. They told reporters how frightened they and their families felt last night.

Eight-year-old Kinan Arada told Al-Jazeera, “I woke up when the building was bombed. Our apartment windows shattered; we were screaming and ran downstairs. I was terrified, the whole building was burning.”

“I was so scared when I heard that my two friends and neighbours, Mayar and Ali, were killed in the attack,” Arada said. “We were in the same school and played together every day.”

After the bombing, the Joint Operation Room of Palestinian Resistance Factions said in a statement: “[T]he Room mourns the martyrs and holds the enemy fully responsible for the repercussions of this cowardly crime.

“The occupation and its leaders who initiated this aggression must prepare to pay the price.”

Maram Humaid is a Palestinian journalist and storyteller from the Gaza Strip


 Gazans fear for their children after Israeli air strikes kill 10 civilians

Thomas Helm & Nagham Mohanna

The National /  May 9, 2023

One woman tells The National her daughter has not eaten since she learnt of the death of her friend.

A mother in Gaza has spoken of her heartbreak after one of her daughter’s friends was killed in an Israeli air strike on Tuesday morning.

The strike killed three commanders in militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as 10 civilians, among them four children.

Alaa Abu Aisha, 36, told The National that her daughter, Tokka, aged 10, “hasn’t eaten anything since she received the news about [the death] of her friend” Maiar Ezz al-Deen.

Ms Abu Aisha said that before the air strikes, Tokka and Maiar had been looking forward to going on a school trip on Tuesday.

“My children were sleeping, and I was terrified that if one of them woke up, they would be afraid of the bombing and explosions sounds,” Ms Abu Aisha said.

Another Gaza city resident, 17-year-old Mona Nezar, said she had been preparing for her final exams when “suddenly I heard the sound of bombing”.

“It was horrible,” she said.

“I don’t want the same scenario we saw in May 2021. I want to finish my high school year peacefully and prepare for the next stage of my life.”

Israel conducted an 11-day military offensive in May 2021 in Gaza, the fourth major offensive launched on the Palestinian territory in 14 years.

The assault killed 261 people, including 67 children, and wounded more than 2,200, according to the UN.

“Sometimes I wonder if we will live this life forever, a life that has uncertain future and unfinished dreams,” Mona said.

Mkhaimar Abusada, an associate professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said “something like this was to be expected, but we did not think the magnitude would be as bad as was seen last night”.

“Palestinians feel that killing leaders with their entire families is unacceptable and very painful, but it’s not public opinion that decides whether to go into a wider conflict with Israel or not,” he said.

Gaza’s streets were calm during the day, and Mr Abusada said it was unlikely that militant groups in the enclave would respond to the strikes immediately.

“I don’t think Islamic Jihad is ready to be fighting Israel on its own, such as was seen last August or February of 2020, when Israel inflicted heavy casualties on the group,” he said.

Mr Abusada added that an escalation in the short term depends on whether Hamas, the most powerful militant organization in Gaza, agrees on a joint response in with Islamic Jihad.

“Hamas is responsible for two million people in Gaza. Any war would lead to further casualties and disruption to civilian infrastructure,” he said.

“We often hear that Hamas is preparing for the so-called ‘Big Battle’ for the total liberation of Palestine. Preparations for that mean Hamas is wary of smaller operations against Israel.”

But for now, the possibility of a delayed response is not quelling anxiety or anger in Gaza.

Taxi driver Mohammed Adel, 27, told The National that his three children “woke up afraid and crying after hearing the sound of bombing”.

“We don’t want war because I am afraid for my children, but we want the resistance to respond.”

Thomas Helm is Jerusalem correspondent at The National

Nagham Mohanna in Gaza