The blast from the Israeli strike was so powerful that it threw an iron door clear over several neighboring houses. It came to rest along with a twisted laundry rack still laden on Monday with singed clothes and a child’s slipper. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/world/middleeast/questions-about-tactics-and-targets-as-civilian-toll-climbs-in-israeli-strikes.html?ref=world&_r=0
When the strike leveled a four-story house in the southern Gaza Strip the night before, it also killed 25 members of four family households — including 19 children — gathered to break the daily Ramadan fast together. Relatives said it also killed a guest of the family, identified by an Israeli human rights group as a member of the Hamas military wing, ostensibly Israel’s target.
The attack was the latest in a series of Israeli strikes that have killed families in their homes, during an offensive that Israel says is meant to stop militant rocket fire that targets its civilians and destroy Hamas’s tunnel network.
The Palestinian deaths — 75 percent of them civilians, according to a United Nations count — have prompted a wave of international outrage, and are raising questions about Israel’s stated dedication to protecting civilians.
Israel blames Hamas, saying they have chosen to keep operating among civilians.
On Monday night, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that he had not yet been able to confirm the circumstances of the attack here or who the target might have been. Colonel Lerner would not address questions about whether the target would have been considered worth so many additional deaths.
But while Israel has in the past killed Hamas members with attacks so precise that others riding in their cars have survived, in this conflict, there have been numerous instances of family homes being struck with residents inside. More and more Palestinians are accusing Israel of trying to inflict maximum suffering to demoralize Palestinians and weaken support for Hamas.
On July 13, 18 family members were killed in an airstrike on their home, and Tayseer al-Batsh, the Hamas police chief in Gaza, was severely wounded. Many other civilians have been killed in strikes on known Hamas offices or apartments that happened to be in their apartment buildings, and in strikes on homes with no obvious connection, Palestinian officials and residents say.
On Monday night, a strike hit an eight-story apartment building in downtown Gaza City — an area where Israeli officials had urged Gazans to take shelter. The building collapsed as rescue crews were inside, killing more people. The death toll, at least 13, was still being tallied.
Speaking in general, a senior Israeli military official said in a recent interview that not all civilian casualties come from strikes going astray; some take place when civilians are in places the military aims to hit.
“Not all the casualties are due to mistakes,” he said. “If Hamas are holding people inside the apartments while shooting from there, that’s one of the tragedies they are making.”
That did not appear to be the situation at the Abu Jameh home, where, survivors said, the family was gathered to break its daily Ramadan fast, a ceremonial meal, a time when Israeli military officials would have known that people were likely to be home.
All the dead were from the Abu Jameh family, according to relatives, except for a guest, whom the Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, identified as Ahmad Suliman Sahmoud, a member of Hamas’s military wing, who was visiting a member of the family.
Family members said that no one residing in the house was a Hamas militant. But they said that one resident, Tawfik Abu Jameh, was a bodyguard for an official in charge of Gaza’s border crossings. He escaped the bombing, having gone to pray, but lost his wife and all but one of his children.
Some members of Gaza’s security forces are former members of Hamas’s militant Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades.
Bassem Naim, who served as health minister in a former Hamas government
in Gaza, noted in an interview on Monday that the international community had encouraged Palestinian militants to become part of the official security forces, with the idea that it would moderate some. Now, he said, if former Hamas fighters can be targeted when they are in their homes with families, then so can the majority of Israeli adults who are army reservists.
“They are trying to punish Palestinians for sharing Hamas’s position against Israeli occupation,” he said.
While not everyone in Gaza supports Hamas — the territory has been perennially rived by factional disputes with Fatah, a faction more disposed toward negotiation with Israel — the group is deeply embedded in Gazan society. Those considered its members range from militants in the Qassam Brigades to members of the political wing, government workers or police officers.
Of those who lived in the house, only four people survived, three men who had gone to pray, and Tawfik Abu Jameh’s toddler, shielded by the body of his mother. The children killed ranged in age from 4 months to 14 years, and included an adopted orphan whose father had been killed in an Israeli strike.
One of the survivors, Bassam Abu Jameh, lay on a mat with a broken leg, his eyes rimmed with red. His wife, Yasmeen; two brothers; and three children, Batool, 5, Sohaila, 3, and Bassam, 1, had all been killed. “There is nothing left,” he said, pressing his hand to his eyes. “It is the end for us.”
He closed his eyes, lying still and letting his neighbors continue the account. After a while, he opened them again and announced, in a shaky voice: “I will marry again four times, and I will have 10 sons with each wife, and they will all be in the resistance.”
On Monday, the neighborhood was ghostly quiet. Most residents had fled, and where the home had been was a deep bomb crater and piles of rubble.
At the house next door, a little girl, seeing journalists approach in flak jackets, sat on a stoop, put her face in her hands and wept.