When Israel targets the homes of civilians

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Palestinian firefighters survey the scene of a house destroyed during an Israeli strike, on July 16, 2014, in Gaza City. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Hams)

By: Sanaa Kamal

Published Thursday, July 17, 2014

The "toil of 20 years" was gone in a flash. Omm Mohammed al-Beik taught in several schools at once so she could buy a piece of land and build her home, brick by brick, on the tunnel road northeast of Gaza City. Israeli warplanes destroyed the dreams of her family of 40. They are now displaced, without a shelter, or a source of income to rebuild their home.

Gaza – Every time, Israel claims to be targeting houses where leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or other Palestinian Resistance factions are hiding. However, this family in particular had nothing to do with any of the groups, although they respected them, Omm Mohammed maintained. All she wanted was to live in her house, after years of hard work with her husband to provide a roof for their children.

"I was praying tarawih (additional prayers during Ramadan) with my daughters and the men were in the mosque as usual," she explained to Al-Akhbar. "But that day, my son stayed to pray with us. While prostate, we heard the sound of a violent explosion and the house started to shake. We did not realize our house got hit until my son noticed and started screaming to leave the house because the rocket came from a drone."

Within a few minutes everything changed. Her daughter Ansam, 20, took it very hard. She could not move and hid in her mother's arms crying, preventing her from leaving for a few minutes. But the threat of impending death eventually brought them all out of the house, barefoot, carrying nothing but the clothes on their back.

The family ran quickly to their neighbors asking for shelter, but the neighbors would not open the door. "Fear gripped us all, including the neighbors. If I were in their place, I would have done the same thing," Ansam said.

"Someone opened the doors to one of their neighbors 300 meters away," her mother interjects. "Without permission, we walked into the house unconsciously, without even knowing who they were."

Ansam fainted and fell to the floor like the rest of the children. The place trembled with loud explosions. "Our life is gone. Our dreams are gone. God help us," they started crying, while the neighbors tried to calm them down.

Samah, 25, is married with three children. She thought her parents’ home would be safe after living through several days of shelling in the west of the city, close to military facilities. But the house she chose to hide in became a source of her biggest fear.

"My parent's house was so safe that everyone would go hide there. It is a huge shock and difficult to believe. My mother lost everything she worked for all these years to build the house. Like that, she is now homeless and waiting for the charity of people to survive," Samah explained.

Samah spends most her time by the window in her uncles' house, where they are staying until their problem is solved. "I flee to this window because it is suffocating inside. Forty children in the same place. Nothing to eat or drink, not even peace of mind. I come here to remember our home."

"But can we ever feel safe after what happened? Can we regain our life? Or will we be left here without shelter or safety?" she asked with tears running down her cheeks. "When the shelling started, I tried to calm down my children, but now I need someone to calm me and relieve my terror."

Hajj Youssef al-Beik, 65, did not want to speak. "He still does not believe what happened," his wife explains. "He says it is a nightmare that will pass. But every new day confirms that is not a nightmare but the reality, which we should accept."

Their home was three floors, but it was razed to the ground in an instant by an Israeli F-16 warplane.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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