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Amid the rubble, desperate Gazans look for survivors

Seven multi-storey buildings in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip were razed in the strike
— Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

"Are there any survivors?" shouted Said al-Najma, as he tried to shift the blocks of concrete strewn across the road after another night of Israeli bombings that reduced houses to rubble.

Seven multi-storey buildings in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip were razed in the strikes on Saturday night, killing 45 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Among them are four of video-journalist Mohammed Alaloul's children, as well as four of his brothers, and several of his nieces and nephews.

Gaza has been relentlessly bombarded by Israel since Hamas gunmen stormed across the border from the territory on October 7 in an unprecedented attack that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

Over 9,700 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel's response to the attack, according to the Hamas-run ministry.

Israel says it aims to destroy Hamas and rescue the over 200 hostages believed to be held in the territory.

After the latest strike, Alaloul's neighbour Najma and dozens of other residents work to clear the debris to find survivors among the fallen slabs of concrete, covered in large patches of blood.

But often all they find are bodies or shredded remains.

- 'All we can do is watch' -

A ball of fire and smoke rises above a building in Gaza City on October 7, 2023 during an Israeli air strike

"We have nothing to search with or to clear the rubble, so people die and all we can do is watch," said Najma.

"They brought down an entire street on the heads of women and children without any notice," he said.

Sometimes in these searches, there is hope. When a person is pulled from under the rubble alive, residents carry them through the debris to a car and rush them to the nearest hospital.

But more often, those under the rubble are already dead, and the body is quickly covered.

Relatives involved in the search who recognise the dead break down in grief and are taken away to be consoled.

Alaloul did not make it to the scene of the strike until the morning. The videographer, who works for Turkish press agency Anadolu, spent the night covering the attacks elsewhere and could not make it back under the bombing.

About 3,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have died in the Israeli bombardnment, the Hamas health ministry says

"I did not sleep all night," 37-year-old Alaloul told AFP, still wearing his bulletproof press vest and his helmet.

"My cousin called me to tell me that my home had been destroyed in the strike on the neighbours' building."

"At mine, no one was a member of an armed group. But today, I've only got my wife and one of my sons left," he said.

Among the dead children are three of Alaloul's sons and his daughter, to whom he had promised a little sister "soon", he said.

- 'No water, no food' -

"I cried behind my camera seeing the children of others die," Alaloul said. "Today, it is me who has lost my children."

Around him, the neighbourhood is unrecognisable. Haggard residents, their hair and clothes covered in dust, zig-zag between fallen blocks of concrete and press themselves against walls to make it through the ruins.

A man stands on the rubble of a collapsed building after a strike on Khan Yunis on November 4

A building has fallen in on itself like a house of cards, while a blown-down wooden door has become a makeshift bridge to cross the rubble landscape.

"You would need bulldozers to destroy the walls still standing so that diggers can access and get the dead and wounded out," said resident Abu Chandi Samaan, 55, who has been picking through the rubble.

Above all what would help is an end to the war, he said, but "nobody tells Israel to stop".

In the meantime, "we have no water, no food, nor anything you need to survive", he said.

"The people still alive here are those that death does not want."