No civilian safe in Gaza despite ‘knock on the roof’

Women, children and neighbours are dying – even after Israeli warnings

Palestinian relatives mourn during the funeral of members of Hamad family in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

Palestinian relatives mourn during the funeral of members of Hamad family in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

 

The family of Hafez Hamad, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, were sitting on a pair of low orange divans in the space between two houses when the rocket hit them a little before midnight.

Fired from a drone it slammed into the ground a foot from one of the two sofas, leaving behind a round three-feet-deep hole and five people dead, including Hafez and his 20-year-old niece.

“They were just talking, sitting outside their house,” says Mariam Hamad, sister-in-law of Hafez. “Usually there is a warning, but in this case the missile struck out of the blue.”

She meant a practice known as the “knock on the roof” – when small projectiles are fired to warn civilians to leave buildings. In other cases, strikes have been preceded by a telephone call telling its inhabitants to flee. But such bombing sometimes injures or kills people in neighbouring houses. In any case, there was no knock on the roof for the Hamad family.

Even this early in Israel’s campaign against Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza, the bodies of the civilian victims are beginning to pile up – children and an 80-year- old woman are among the dead from the past two days.

Non-military deaths

In all, 43 Palestinians are reported to have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza. Many, hospital officials claim, have been civilians. Among the total are 15 women and children, with claims that in four airstrikes only women and children were killed.

According to an emergency services spokesman, Ashraf al-Qudra, in one incident a missile struck a house in al-Maghazi, a beachside refugee camp near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, killing a mother and her four children. Earlier, another two women and four children died in a series of raids to the north and east of Gaza City.

In addition some 370 people have been wounded in the past two days. There have been no Israeli fatalities since the operation began.

For its part, Israel has long alleged that the militants “hide” among the civilian population, but what is clear is that targets have included homes and public streets as well as missile sites and buildings associated with Hamas.

Second time hit

Hamad’s house had been destroyed before – in 2012 – by Israeli military forces and had been rebuilt. His family admit he was a member of Islamic Jihad, a group involved in firing rockets into Israel, but claim he had left the militant group. One of his brothers – who was killed with him – had cancer, they also claim. “It happened at 11.45,” said a cousin, Hamad Hamad (22), who lives nearby and was one of the first on the scene.

“I heard the bomb and found the blood and bodies. He was the target, but they also killed two of his brothers, Ibrahim and Mahdi, the wife of Hafez ,and Mahdi’s daughter who was only 20.”

Among the locations targeted in Gaza have been some 40 houses, many of them listed on Gaza’s radio news: an apartment block in New Gaza, a house in Zaytoun, the house of Hafez Hamad in Beit Hanoun.

There is little left of the house that once belonged to Mustafa Malaka in Zaytoun. A security officer with Hamas, who had been largely unemployed since his wages stopped being paid in the midst of the group’s financial crisis in the coastal enclave, he had turned to farming chickens behind his house to make money.

Perhaps, like Hafez Hamad, he had been involved in firing rockets. When the bomb hit his house, say relatives, it injured Malaka but killed his wife, Hana, and three-year-old son, Mohammad. – (Guardian service)