Father and two sons among 162 slain by Israel in Gaza

Mourners carry the bodies of brothers Muhammad (3) and Suhaib (2) Hijazi during their funeral in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, 20 November. 

Naaman Omar APA images

GAZA CITY (IPS) - Fouad Hijazi was watching the 7pm news with his wife and eight children when a missile fired by an Israeli F-16 hit their house in Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza’s most densely populated area.

Fouad, 46, was killed. So were his sons Muhammad (3) and Suhaib (2). Fouad’s wife Amna is in al-Shifa hospital, and her two daughters and four other sons are also in hospital.

Eighteen others from the neighbourhood were injured in the airstrike. Following the airstrike, two firefighters and a rescue team worker were wounded when a wall of the home fell on them. Neighbors said that Fouad Hijazi neither belonged to any militant group nor has any organization claimed him as a member.

Relatives took the dead for burial at the Jabaliya cemetery on Wednesday. Bodies are usually brought home from hospital for a last farewell. In the case of the Hijazi family, there was no house left to take them to.

Civilians worst affected

“Just an ordinary man, sitting peacefully with his wife and children in their home. What did they do to deserve this?” cried Um Mohammed, a cousin of the father.

Israel says it has hit 1,450 targets in the Gaza Strip since assassinating Hamas’ most senior military leader in a missile strike on 14 November.

The eight-day attack killed 162 Palestinians, including 42 children (a number of them still babies), 11 women and 18 elderly people, the oldest 82 years of age. In all 1,222 have so far been listed as injured, more than half of them women and children. Rockets fired from Gaza have killed five Israelis.

Israel’s air strikes have hit several locations in the Gaza Strip. The targets have included civilians’ houses, apartment blocks, most of the security units, the ministry of interior office, the prime minister’s office, police stations, roads and bridges connecting camps, naval forces, and journalists’ offices and media centers. Three journalists have been killed, and eight injured.

Israeli leaflets were dropped telling the population to leave their homes all over the northern Gaza Strip: Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Atatra and the surrounding locations.

Women and children have been heading to schools run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) for refuge after fleeing the northern Gaza Strip. Refugees are sleeping on the floor in these buildings.

“I don’t feel safe”

Sada Assaf (41) said she fled her house with her two children, her sick husband and his eight children from a previous marriage. ”We got these leaflets dropped on our heads, following very intensive days of artillery shelling,” Assaf said. She sat in a classroom at Gaza Prep School for Boys with her husband and children, listening to the news on a tiny radio and hoping the ceasefire would hold. The whole neighborhood of Atatra in the north of Gaza fled.

The UN says that thousands of people fled to 12 school buildings in the area.

Mais was at home when her telephone rang with a recording playing from the Israeli army telling her to evacuate and to find somewhere else away from the north. “I don’t feel safe anywhere,” she said. “I am here just to hide under the UN flag.”

“It happened before in 2008, and here we are once again,” said her husband Salah Assaf. Mais recalled that many of her neighbours were told by the army during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, to evacuate their homes, and later Israeli tank shells killed at least 40 Palestinians who had sought refuge at this very center. That massacre boosted international groups’ call for a halt to the war on Gaza.

The families at the centers are drawing hope from the ceasefire that appears to be holding. In the early hours of Thursday morning the skies fell silent over Gaza for the first time in eight days. Gunfire erupted on Gaza streets — it was Gazans celebrating the announcement of ceasefire and victory for Palestinian resistance.

Sada Assaf was looking for the donkey cart that had brought her and her family to the shelter, to now take her back home.

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