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Gazans mourn loved ones, lick their wounds, as truce is reached with Israel

The Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip have killed dozens of civilians, including a 19-year-old woman engaged to be married in a few weeks.
Rockets are fired from the southern Gaza City towards Israel on May 13, 2023. Israeli air strikes battered Gaza again on May 13 in response to rocket fire from militants as deadly fighting resumed after a night of relative calm, despite efforts to secure a truce. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP) (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — For more than two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, the latest round of fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad which ended in a truce on Saturday, has once again shattered their illusion of peace, stole some loved ones and reinforced the sense of hopelessness of being where they are. 

Mohammed Saeed and his fiancee, Dania Adas, both 19, hugged each other and promised each other, as always, to stay together forever. He left her house at 12:45 a.m. last Tuesday. It would be the last time he would hug her.

Just a few minutes after he left her house, Israeli airstrikes rained down on the Gaza Strip, targeting Islamic Jihad positions. Dania, along with several other civilians, was killed.

The couple got engaged in March of this year and decided to have the wedding on July 21. They planned to decorate their house together and have their own business, and chose Sameh as their future first son's name.

The Israeli airstrikes have so far killed six members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, in one of the most violent flare-ups between Israel and Gaza factions in months.

The four-day escalation has left 33 Palestinian killed, including six children and three women, and 93 others have been injured, according to data released by the Ministry of Health on Friday.

One of the Islamic Jihad commanders killed in the Israeli airstrikes was Khalil al-Bahtini, whose house was close to Dania’s in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. The strikes killed him, his wife and his 4-year-old daughter, as well as Dania and her sister, Iman, who were in their room adjoining the targeted house.

Mohammed’s family rushed to Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, to see what happened. “The hospital staff told me she was killed. I kept fainting over and over again. I hugged her body and didn’t want to leave it,” he told Al-Monitor while crying at her funeral.

Dania's sister Iman, 17, was severely injured and died later on Tuesday.

Mohammed kept close to Dania’s body during the funeral prayer. “I hugged her body and asked her: How can I live without you? What happened to our promise of not leaving each other?” he said. “I used to help her in her studies and make anything for her. All we wanted was to make each other happy.”

Mohammed and Dania were designing their apartment together, in her chosen colors of navy and red.
“She was supposed to choose her wedding dress next week. May Allah avenge them [Israel],” he added.

Dania wanted to hold her wedding party in a villa full of trees and colorful flowers, not in a traditional wedding hall. So Mohammed booked the Shorouq Chalet, a popular party location in Gaza.

“She was all my life. Why did they kill her? How can I live without her?” 

Dania and Iman were very close. “They were like twins. On the night of the bombing, Iman was sleeping next to Dania, as they used to do,” Alaa, their father said. 

The parents were sleeping in a separate room when the bombing happened.

“It was like an earthquake. I hurried to my lovely daughters’ room to see what had happened. They were under the rubble. Dania’s body was lying on the floor, while Iman’s body was by the mirror she used to comb her hair in front of,” the father said. “She went to paradise. What was her guilt for being killed weeks before her wedding? What?”

Elsewhere in al-Sahaba Street in central Gaza City, Yasser Madoukh was closing his store when he heard a massive bombing. Suddenly, he saw smoke rising from his neighbor’s house, which was hit by airstrikes without prior notifications. 

“When I reached my three-story house, I heard loud screams,” Yasser told Al-Monitor. He found his brother’s wife and her daughter, Layan, 8, on the ground. Layan was covered with blood. “She was moved to Al-Shifa Hospital, where she died. I didn’t know why she was killed. She was a very kind girl. We are civilians without any political and military interests.”

The strikes on al-Sahaba Street claimed two lives and left around 13 injuries.

Gaza-based human rights activist Salah Abdul Ati told Al-Monitor that targeting children, women and civilians in their homes amounts to a war crime. 

“Israel doesn’t respect international laws,” he added. “The international community should hold Israel accountable for its crimes against civilians and residential areas.” 

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