One of the lies told by Israel’s military during the recent bombardment of Gaza was that it aimed to minimize harm inflicted on civilians.
The claim was made, for example, in a tweet issued on 17 May. Yet on that date and the two previous days, Israel carried out no-warning attacks in which numerous civilians were killed.
Muhammad al-Hadidi lost his wife and all bar one of his children on 15 May.
His wife had gone to see her brother and his family in Beach refugee camp one day earlier and was staying overnight, along with their children. Muhammad remained alone in his own home.
Early in the morning, he was awoken by a loud explosion. Shortly afterwards, he received a phone call from a neighbor.
His neighbor broke some terrible news to him. The home of his brother-in-law had been bombed without warning.
Muhammad’s wife Maha and four of their children were killed. His baby son Omar – then just 5 months old – was the only survivor from his family.
Muhammad’s sister-in-law and several of her children were also killed.
“Anyone who wants to believe that Israel does not kill innocent people in Gaza should shut up,” Muhammad said. “Israel always claims that it gives us warnings in order to protect us. The fact is that Israel kills children and civilians without warning and without a shred of humanity.”
The staff at al-Shanty bakery had become accustomed to working through emergencies.
On the three prior occasions that Israel has carried out a major offensive against Gaza since December 2008, the bakery had remained open.
Its staff were determined to keep producing bread last month, when the fourth such offensive occurred. Israel forced them to change their plans.
Ahmad al-Shanty was in the bakery – located on Gaza City’s al-Wihda street – during the early hours of 16 May.
He and his colleagues had a large number of orders to process. Those orders were scheduled for delivery to people who had sought refuge in UN schools.
The neighborhood, according to al-Shanty, was “completely empty; we couldn’t hear any movement, not even a whisper.”
“Then, all of a sudden, missiles smashed through the bakery’s window,” he said. “We had to take cover behind an oven.”
It was a horrific Israeli assault against a much valued local service. And it was only the start of a very violent day.
Soon afterwards, Israel bombed a nearby building where the al-Qawlaq family lived.
The building was completely razed. In total, 21 members of the extended family were killed; the oldest was aged 90, the youngest was an infant.
Muhammad Fawwaz al-Qawlaq, 24, was among the few survivors.
He confirmed that Israel gave no warning before it bombed his family.
Muhammad Fawwaz al-Qawlaq treats with contempt claims by the Israeli military that it minimized harm by allowing families to evacuate their homes before they were bombed.
“That is total bullshit,” he said. “The Israelis killed civilians with no mercy.”
“I’ve seen all the bragging by the Israeli army on the internet about how accurate its bombing was. The Israelis could have used their technology to check if the people killed on al-Wihda street were civilians or not. But they don’t give a shit about all the innocent people – including children – who were killed, about all the dreams that were destroyed. They have no humanity.”
Some 44 Palestinians were killed in the al-Wihda street massacre. Eighteen of them were children.
One day after the massacre, Israel struck the area once again.
The Ghazi al-Shawa building was bombed without warning on 17 May. It, too, is located on al-Wihda street.
Ziad Abu Dayer and his family had actually taken shelter there. The family’s own home had been razed during the previous day’s disaster, so they went to stay with relatives living in the Ghazi al-Shawa building.
“We thought it would be a safe place to hide,” said Ziad’s son Kamel, 16.
Nowhere was safe. Ziad and his niece Rafeef were among those killed on 17 May.
Kamel had just checked to see if his father wished to eat something before the bombing occurred. Ziad was reading the Quran and wanted to continue doing so.
“The bombing started a few minutes later,” said Kamel. “Black smoke quickly spread all around the place. We couldn’t see anything. I eventually found my father lying on the ground.”
Kamel, who was injured in the arm, accompanied his father as he was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
The ambulance took longer than it should have to arrive. Al-Wihda street is situated near al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital.
Because Israel had severely damaged the adjoining road, ambulance drivers encountered difficulties traveling to and from the hospital.
Kamel waited in the hospital, while staff tried to save his father.
They were unable to do so. Ziad was soon pronounced dead.
“Israel says that it reached all of its goals [during the attack],” said Kamel. “Since when can killing innocent people and leaving children without parents be considered an achievement?”
Amjad Ayman Yaghi is a journalist based in Gaza.