Gaza: Dozens of families left homeless by Israeli air strikes
By: Maha Hussaini in Gaza City
Israel's five-day bombing campaign destroyed 93 housing units in Gaza, partially damaged 1,820, and rendered 128 others uninhabitable.
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Near the debris of their home in the northern Gaza Strip, the Nabhan extended family spent their first night of displacement sleeping on the ground, in the open, after an Israeli air strike flattened their four-story building.
The 50 members of the family - all civilians, including five people with physical and mental health problems - lived in eight separate apartments.
The air strike was carried out on the last day of Israel’s five-day-attack on the Gaza Strip - in a campaign it launched on 9 May - before an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire took effect at 10pm local time on Saturday.
The attack left at least 33 Palestinians killed, including six children and three women.
“My home is adjacent to my family’s home. I decided to stay with them when the attack started because I thought it was safer than mine,” Um Mohammed, the eldest sister in the family said.
“We suddenly saw my brother running towards us and shouting ‘get out of the house it will be targeted’, we told him ‘you are talking about our home, that’s our only shelter, where will be go?’".
"He said ‘we only have five minutes, get out now'.”
According to eyewitnesses, an Israeli intelligence officer called one of the family’s neighbors on Saturday evening, and asked him to inform the family that the house would be targeted.
“He [the neighbor] told him [the officer] that the building housed people with disabilities, and that it would be impossible to get them out of the house in only five minutes. The officer said that it was not his business and that they would target the house anyway,” Um Mohammed said.
Um Mohammed, whose home was also damaged in the strike, said that the family would stay displaced until a solution is found, because none of their relatives' houses could contain their large number.
“We are 50 individuals. People would welcome us for one or two days, but no one would have the capacity to keep us any longer.”
On the ground near Um Mohammed sat her younger sister, Ayat, who suffers from both physical disabilities and mental health problems.
When asked about her age, the 23-year-old woman said she was “three years old”. However, she was well aware of what happened last night.
“Suddenly the house was destroyed. We forgot the medicine inside. We forgot the wheelchairs inside. We were afraid, we stayed on the street and we slept here,” she said.
“We want [another] house that has medicine and wheelchairs inside.”
During the five days of the attack, Israel completely destroyed at least 93 housing units, and rendered 128 others uninhabitable. Another 1,820 housing units were damaged, according to the Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
In another neighborhood, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, Samir Taha has already built a tent beside his destroyed home.
On Friday, two Israeli F16s flattened the building's seven apartments and penetrated the ground.
Taha, whose previous home was also destroyed by an Israeli air strike in 2014, waited two years before the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) helped him and his married children build this home.
On the ruins of his new home, Taha now stood tearful.
“During the 2014 offensive on Gaza, they bombed another house belonging to us. We remained displaced for two years before the Reconstruction [Mechanism] could build us a home,” the 62-year-old man said.
“I built a tent near my home and stayed in it for two years, I refused to take shelter in schools or to rent a house following the attack,” he continued.
“This time, I will do the same.
“It wasn’t enough that they destroyed the building, but [the missiles] also penetrated the ground. This reflects the terror [they want to inflict].”
The home of Taha's nephews, next to his house, was also targeted by air strikes.According to his nephew Mohammed Taha, the two buildings housed at least 42 people.
“I grew up in this house, I lived here since I was seven years old, and I got married in the [same] house,” the 33-year-old man said.
"We left the house barefoot, we did not have any time to take our belongings with us, not even our money. We are three brothers [living here], each family consists of seven individuals.”
Mohammed Taha said he would build a tent near his home and stay there with his family until their home is rebuilt.
“This tent would neither protect us from the cold nor the heat [of summer], not even from stray dogs, but what else can we do?,” he added.
Less than 24 hours after the Taha family homes were targeted, another one belonging to the Hasanat family was hit.
Before the air strike was carried out, the homeowner Faraj Hasanat was in the adjacent graveyard.
“An Israeli intelligence officer called me and asked me to go back home. He told me ‘I can see that you are in the graveyard.’ I asked him why he wanted me to return home, he told me ‘I want to bomb your house,” Hasanat, 38, said.
“I told him, ‘Why would you bomb my house? I am a normal citizen working in farmlands, I have no connections with any factions.’ He said ‘go back to your house and get your family out of it’.”
The intelligence officer then asked Hasanat to warn his neighbors because he wanted “to bomb an entire square”.
“I told him, ‘You said you would bomb my home, what do you now mean you want to bomb an entire square?' He answered, ‘OK then I want to bomb your house, your brother’s house, and your [other] brother’s house,” he said.
“I raised my hands, saying ‘God is sufficient for us’, he told me ‘do not raise your hands’.
“I looked up [towards] the sky and I saw a drone, I told him, ‘You are recording me’, he said ‘yes, I can see you’.”
A few minutes later, the houses of Hasanat and his brothers turned into piles of rubble.
“The thing is not about my house only, many of the neighbors’ homes have now become uninhabitable. We've all became displaced.”
Prior to Israel’s most recent military attack on Gaza, more than 90,000 housing units were partially or completely destroyed in Israeli offensives since 2008.