Gazans bury family as Israeli bombs rain

July 10, 2014 - 2:33:37 am
Palestinian rescuers check a car hit by an Israeli air strike killing the driver in Gaza City yesterday. RIGHT: An Israeli police man inspects a building in a Kibbutz near the border with the Gaza Strip, after it was hit and damaged by a rocket fired from Gaza.

BEIT HANUN: In stifling midday heat, grieving relatives of a Gaza family killed in an Israeli strike sit outside a mosque, weary from their Ramadan fast and nervously anticipating the next blast.

The mourners, most of them men, have come to bury six members of the Hammad family, including a teenager and two women, killed when a missile slammed into their home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun.

The air strike took place around midnight, as Hafez Hammad, a senior Islamic Jihad commander, was returning home, approaching family members who were sitting outside the house, relatives said.

He was killed along with two male relatives, two women — including his wife — and his 16-year-old niece.

“They were a whole family, they were respected people here,” says 21-year-old Mohammed Hammad, a family member.

“Now there’s only the grandfather and one of his sons left.”

A mourner fires several shots into the air as the bodies are brought out of the mosque on stretchers, smelling of perfume after the embalming ritual.

Local youths jostle for space around a small truck as the bodies, one wrapped in a Palestinian flag, are loaded into the back.

Mourners wave flags of various Palestinian factions, including the green of Hamas, the black of Islamic Jihad and the yellow of Fatah.

The procession shuffles along slowly to a cemetery several kilometres (miles) down the road, a loudspeaker belting out eulogies to the dead.

Hours after the funeral, a second strike on a house in Beit Hanun killed another member of the extended family, 57-year-old Hani Saleh Hammad and his son Ibrahim, 20.

Others in the neighbourhood were luckier, getting a warning from the Israeli army shortly before an attack.

“They fired a light warning strike which hit the roof causing limited damage, then four minutes later they fired the second,” said Khaldun Hammad of a nearby house which was flattened in an Israel air strike on Tuesday, where the family managed to escape largely unharmed.

“There were three families living in the house, some 30 people, and only one wanted man. But the Israelis bombed the whole thing anyway,” he said.

All that remains of the building is a huge crater in the ground, half filled with rubble, twisted metal plates and shredded furniture.

Uprooted palm and olive trees litter the ground, strewn among the debris.

“Four minutes isn’t even enough time to gather your basic belongings,” said Mohammed Hammad.

So far more than 50 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of air strikes since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge early on Tuesday. Over the same period, 130 rockets have struck Israel, but so far, nobody has been hurt.

A short distance away, ambulances pull up every few minutes at a small, crowded hospital.