Gaza families recount terror of latest air strikes

Gaza police officers inspect a Gaza City site targeted in Israeli airstrikes on 16 February 2012.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Residents of the Gaza City neighborhood of al-Tuffah suffered a rude awakening at 2am on Thursday morning when Israeli warplanes targeted what the army said was a Hamas training site.

The shelling left six persons injured, including members of two civil defense rescue teams. According to the civil defense, a firetruck and an ambulance were hit by Israeli missiles as the crew responded to earlier strikes.

The Hamas-led government in Gaza condemned the attacks.

Israeli sources meanwhile said that the attacks came in response to rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns. The crude rockets landed in open fields; no casualties were reported.

A rude awakening

The area around the site, surrounded by several residences, was hit with two Israeli missiles. Shrapnel struck nearby homes, including that of the 12-member family of Jamal al-Hamarna.

“My children and my wife and I all awoke abruptly after midnight earlier this morning after my bedroom ceiling was hit. Out of fear, worry and haste, I went out of the room without putting on my trousers,” al-Hamarna, age 50, said at his simple house near the al-Tuffah sports club Thursday morning.

Surrounded by his large family, including his wife and his sons Baha and Ehab and their wives, al-Hamarna showed the Electronic Intifada the debris of his cinder-block roof that were scattered in almost in every single room.

“As you see, this is the debris from the Israeli shelling; my son Baha’s room was hit in the ceiling by the missile shrapnel while Baha and his wife were sleeping peacefully last night,” al-Hamarna said during a tour of his home. “Also, this small kitchen has been damaged, and the ceiling of my daughter-in-law’s room was significantly damaged as well.”

Baby narrowly escapes harm

Jamal’s 23-year-old son Ehab held in his arms his one-year-old daughter Nelly, who narrowly escaped grave harm.

“My daughter was sleeping on her crib as you see just near my own bed. When the first missile was heard, I woke up abruptly and grabbed my daughter. When the second missile hit I looked back at the room to find some shrapnel from the missile right on my daughter’s bed,” Ehab said, displaying an approximately 30-square-centimeter metal sheet.

This is not the first Israeli air strike suffered by the al-Hamarna family in recent months; the home has been hit three times in the last six months, according to Jamal’s wife, Umm Baha.

“What shall we do with this situation? We are ordinary people who just want to live and get by. We have nothing to do with any politics or political parties,” Umm Baha said.

“When the home was damaged suddenly this morning, my children, my husband and I didn’t know what to do or where to go. As you see right here, these are the mattresses and blankets getting wet from the rain water leaking because of the big holes from the shelling,” she added.

Area subjected to repeated shelling

Thirty-five-year-old Ayman Abu Jarada’s home was also badly damaged. Abu Jarada described what happened as he stood outside his 60-square-meter cinder block home on Thursday morning. “When the missile exploded at approximately 2:00am, we woke up in shock. I carried my kids in my arms, moving from one corner to another exactly like a cat trying to protect its own,” the father of four small sons and one daughter recounted.

Adel Rouka, who has been living in the neighborhood since 1987, spoke to The Electronic Intifada just near the bombing site.

“I can tell you that in the vicinity of the hit site belonging to the Qassam Brigades [the armed wing of Hamas], there are about twenty houses. This particular site has been exposed to Israeli shelling six times since 2007, including one time during the Israeli war on Gaza in 2009,” Rouka explained, adding that there is no activity at the bombed site at night.

“Each time, we residents are the victims,” Rouka said.

Rami Almeghari is a Gaza-based journalist and correspondent for The Electronic Intifada.