The Israeliairstrikehit Mohammed Hamdan’sGazahome soon after Islam’s evening prayer on Tuesday, he said, killing 35 members of his extendedfamilyacrossthreegenerationsfrom Kamal, aged 70,toRasmi, aged seven.
Hamdan, 50, was buried by his collapsing house and it took an hour and a halftopull him out, he said. He emergedtodiscover he had lost his daughter Malak, brother Ahmed, his nephew, nieces and many cousins.
“My brother, my nephew and I were sitting down along with another brother just after the prayer. We found ourselves under the rubble,” he said, recounting the moment of thestrike.
The Hamdanfamilyis one of many inGazaeviscerated by an unprecedentedairand artillery bombardment that has killed more than 10,000 people accordingtohealth authorities in the tiny, crowded, Hamas-run enclave.
Israel’s military has entirely encircled northernGazaunder cover of a weeks-long barrage that has also pounded southern areas such as Khan Younis, where the Hamdanfamilylived.
Hamdan stands on the rubble of his family home that was destroyed in the strike in Gaza.
Credit: Reuters Photo
Israel’s stated objective istodestroy the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, whose militants rampaged through Israeli towns on Oct. 7, going housetohouse as they killed 1,400 people and kidnapped another 240.
For Hamdan, the war has brought an endtoall he held dear. “We were raised here, we lived with these children. I didn’t imagine that there would be all this destruction,” he said.
Khan Younis was established as a refugee camp in 1948 as Palestinians, including the Hamdanfamily, fled or were forced from their homes during the fighting that accompanied the creation of Israel.
They were never allowed back and the tented encampment became a city of narrow alleyways and concrete apartment blocks under Egypt, then direct Israeli occupation and finally internal control by Hamas accompanied by a tight Israeli blockade.
Over the past two decades, fighting between Israel and Hamas has periodically washed across the enclave, raining missiles and shellfire ontosuccessivegenerationsof the Palestinian refugees, who make up more than half the 2.3 million population.
Through those hard decades the Hamdanfamilyexpanded and its Khan Younis home was the centre of its life. “We usedtoplay with both young and old. We usedtosit outside during the summer. Sometimes we lit a bonfire. But look now. There is nothing but destruction,” said Hamdan.
The brother and nephew Hamdan was sitting with when his building collapsed did not make it, he said.
Hamdan rests on a couch near the rubble of his family home.
Credit: Reuters Photo
He emergedtoa scene of utter devastation. “I thought it was only us (who were hit). But then I found out it was the whole neighbourhood,” said Hamdan. The neighbouring Abu Sita and Abu Sultanfamilieswere both mostly killed or wounded, he said.
Israel has denied targeting civilians in its military campaign, but says Hamas fighters often operate within residential areas.
Many of Hamdan’s relatives who were not killed were wounded, and he does not know when or if they will emerge from hospital.
“We usedtovisit each other, sit together, make a fire, eat breakfast together. I usedtovisit my brother and my sister. Now none remain, no sister, no brother and we won’t make a fire, we won’t gather,” he said.
He particularly recalled his daughter Malak, 12, and her cousins Tala and Sila. “I usedtolove them and they loved me. They usedtocome and play and laugh. I lost them now,” he said.
(Published 09 November 2023, 09:26 IST)