Israeli Strike Kills Family of 20 Moments Before Gaza Ceasefire
At least 20 members of one Palestinian family, including 11 children, were killed by an Israeli air strike just moments before a 12-hour ceasefire went into effect on Saturday.
Palestine’s Maan News Agency reports the al-Najjar family had fled their homes in Khuzaa, just east of Khan Younis, after intense Israeli shelling there killed dozens of people.
The family was hoping to find refuge from the fighting in the Khan Younis refugee camp, but missiles fired from an Israeli warplane just before the 8:00 a.m. ceasefire took effect blasted a four-story home where they were sleeping, killing 11 children, five women —one of them pregnant —and four men.
“I was on the second floor on the balcony when the strike hit, and it threw me out and away from the building,” injured and distraught survivor Hussein al-Najjar told Agence France-Presse. “My two sons were killed, and my wife, who was five months pregnant.”
The al-Najjars were one of dozens of families who died together during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge campaign against Hamas militants, rockets and tunnels in Gaza. On Thursday, 10 members of one family were killed in two separate Israeli strikes. On Tuesday, at least 12 members of another family, including seven children, were killed. Earlier in the war, 18 members of the al-Batsh family died when their home in the Tuffah district of Gaza City was bombed.
Israel blames Hamas for the high number of civilians killed and wounded, noting how militants operate in civilian areas and store or launch weapons from homes, schools, mosques and hospitals. Gaza, home to some 1.8 million people, most of them refugees, is one of the most densely populated places in the world.
As the humanitarian truce went into effect, Gazans set to the grim task of digging their dead out of the ruins of neighborhoods like Shejaiya, which was described by Agence France-Presse as “a moonscape strewn with bodies” in the wake of a ferocious Israeli assault that targeted Hamas militants but killed scores of innocent civilians. Rescue workers wore masks to cover the stench of death as they removed rotting, dust-covered bodies from the ruins of the neighborhood that once housed more than 130,000 people.
Ambulances, rescue teams and families fanned out across Gaza to search for dead and injured family and friends. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 135 bodies had been pulled from the rubble as of 7:00 p.m., bringing the Palestinian death toll in the 20-day war to over 1,000. More than 6,000 others have been wounded.
Many Gaza residents took advantage of the ceasefire and rushed to buy food, water and gas canisters, while others just savored the opportunity to walk outside without fear of being bombed for the first time in nearly three weeks.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials said three more Israel Defense Forces troops had been killed in combat prior to the truce, bringing the total number of IDF dead to 40. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai farmer have also been killed by rockets and artillery launched from Gaza.
Although Israel announced it was willing to extend the humanitarian ceasefire, Hamas, which wants a complete end to the fighting and a lifting of the crippling Gaza blockade, accused Israeli forces of using the truce to prepare for more strikes. Hamas militants launched more rockets and mortars into Israel. Thousands of rockets have rained down over the Jewish state since before the war began, with the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepting hundreds of them.
Tagged 1000 dead in Gaza, Gaza, gaza ceasefire, gaza civilian casualties, gaza death toll, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Khan Younis refugee camp, Najjar family, Operation Protective Edge, Palestine