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Gaza's Eid celebrations turn to sadness

The joyous occasion of Eid al-Fitr turned into a nightmare in the Gaza Strip, which faced the fiercest Israeli assault since the current war began on July 8.
A Palestinian girl reacts at the scene of an explosion that medics said killed eight children and two adults, and wounded 40 others at a public garden in Gaza City July 28, 2014. Locals blamed the blast on an Israeli air strike, but Israel denied responsibility, saying it was a misfire by a rocket launched by Hamas militants. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR40F6P

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The three days of Eid al-Fitr were the harshest on the people of the Gaza Strip since the start of the Israeli aggression on July 8. At the time of writing, the death toll had reached 1,395, including 315 children, 166 women and 58 senior citizens.

On July 28, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, children celebrated the holiday despite being displaced with their families, who sought refuge in public parks and buildings under construction in Gaza City. The children wore colorful clothes and bought games. But jet bombings in the afternoon destroyed all the Eid traditions, which were already few in light of the war. And those looking for some joy were forced to seek shelter.

Al-Monitor went to Shati refugee camp, where eight children were killed as a result of the bombing by Israeli fighter jets. The houses of mourning in the nearby Basit refugee camp were receiving the families of the victims, among tears and consoling hugs. Al-Monitor visited the location that was bombed, which was in front of a small shop where children were spending some of their money on sweets and games, when a warplane attack killed eight of them.

Ahmed Hassouna, 19, the brother of 12-year-old Youssef, who was among those killed said, “My brother was standing here with the other children buying chips and playing, when planes bombed the street and killed them all.”

His cousin Wassim Hassouna, 19, was wearing a shirt with bloodstains. He said, “First, there was a rocket from a reconnaissance aircraft, then a rocket from a warplane came a few seconds later, killing the shop owner and the children and causing dozens of wounded.”

The facades of the houses near the narrow Ahrar Street in Shati camp are riddled with holes from rocket shrapnel. The green tree leaves on the ground mix with the children’s blood.

This bombing coincided with a raid on the external gate of Shifa Hospital, specifically at the outpatient building, which spread panic among hundreds of children who have taken refuge at the hospital after their homes were destroyed in the Shajaiya neighborhood in eastern of Gaza City.

The first night of Eid al-Fitr, up until dawn on July 29, was one of the most terrifying nights in every sense of the word. Gaza’s population barely slept amid the shelling. Tanks, warships, Apache helicopters, reconnaissance planes and F-16 jets turned Gaza into a punching bag, causing many deaths.

The house I recently moved into overlooks the port. I witnessed the scorched earth policy practiced by the occupation forces that night. Fighter jets attacked the port and the fishermen's cabins. Black smoke billowed from them all day. Warplanes bombed the house of the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, which is located right behind ours. On Abbas Street, which leads to the port, the five-story Ministry of Finance building was bombed and our house shook with every explosion.

Gaza City's night was turned into day with flares that filled the sky so that warplanes could bomb the power plant and three of its fuel tanks. Also bombed were all the buildings of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa media network in the areas of al-Nasr, Sheikh Radwan and al-Rammal in the center of Gaza City.

Ibrahim Daher, the director-general of Al-Aqsa Radio, told Al-Monitor, “Israeli aircraft have destroyed the five sites of Al-Aqsa network: the terrestrial TV, the radio station, the satellite TV in Nasr Street and in Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, and two stories in the Al-Shuruq building in al-Rammal on July 29. It is not the first time that Al-Aqsa buildings have been bombed; this happened in 2004 and in the wars of 2008 and 2012. Those experiences have made ​​us take precautions by evacuating the staff from the sites. Our radio and satellite TV work is ongoing in the field, while Al-Aqsa direct radio and the terrestrial TV have stopped broadcasting.”

At dawn on July 29, the Duhair and Abu Zeid families were killed in the southern Gaza Strip. The al-Far and Abu Shamala families were killed in the center of the Gaza Strip, leaving more than 40 dead, most of them children and women.

Ahmed Duhair, 27, who is related to the Duhair family that perished, told Al-Monitor, “Twenty individuals were in the house when jets fired a missile at the building. So everyone went down the ladder to escape. Twenty seconds later, F-16 jets bombed them and they all died, except for their brother and father, who are still alive. Both were at the mosque. None of them belonged to the resistance. We have pulled the bodies of 12 family members from under the rubble. And then they found five more bodies. The remaining bodies were not found.”

Among the victims was journalist Ezzat Duhair, 27. With his death, the number of journalists who have been killed since the beginning of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip has reached nine: Duhair, Rami Rayyan, Sameh al-Arian, Najla al-Hajj, Mohammed Daher, Hamed Shehab, Khalid Hamad, Bahauddin Gharib and Abdul Rahman Abuhin.

Rayyan and Arian had been killed during another bloodbath at the Shajaiya market on the afternoon of July 30.

Eyewitness journalist Basel Abu Hassan, who works at Al-Manar Media Agency, told Al-Monitor, “We were filming a place from which smoke was billowing at the entrance of Shajaiya, when we heard injured people calling for help. We entered the neighborhood by accompanying the civil defense cars and an ambulance to film the injured patients. A number of citizens stood around us. Then about seven tank shells hit us.”

The Ministry of Health announced that the “artillery targeted a group of citizens in the Shajaiya market area, killing 24 civilians and wounding more than 50.”

The Shajaiya incident happened during the humanitarian truce — from 3-7 p.m. — announced by Israel. The truce was interspersed with the shelling of a number of residential buildings in central Gaza City, namely Burj Dawud, Burj al-Dhafer and Burj al-Jundi, in addition to a number of houses. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the truce a “truce for media consumption.”

At dawn on July 30, Israeli occupation cannons shelled the Abu Hussein School belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Jabaliya. According to the Ministry of Health, at least 15 were killed.

In an official statement, UNRWA Commissioner Gen. Pierre Krenpol said, “UNRWA strongly condemns the Israeli bombing of an UNRWA school in Gaza as a serious breach of international law. Children were killed as they were sleeping next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in one of the UN shelters dedicated to displaced people from the Jabaliya refugee camp. Killing children in their sleep is a slap and an insult to all of us, and a mark of shame on the world.”

He said that their assessment of the incident revealed that “Israeli artillery hit the school, which had taken in 3,300 displaced people who had asked for a secure and safe [place to stay].”

Given the recent attacks, it is no surprise that Gazans believe that the Israeli occupation has no regard for the lives of Palestinian children

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