Israeli military said they knew of ‘collateral’ in their operation to kill three Palestinian Islamic Jihad (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 realised 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.
Several killed in latest Israeli air attacks on Gaza
“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 el-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 el-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 El-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.”