Hasan al-Attar stood quietly inside the morgue, looking at the bodies of his daughter, Lamya, and three other children from the same family. Dressed in his fireman’s jacket, he leaned in to kiss his daughter, before the door to the refrigeration unit was closed.
“Pray for her,” a colleague said, putting his hand on Hasan’s shoulder.
Lamya and the children – siblings Amir and Islam al-Attar – and Mohammed al-Attar were killed Friday night in Beit Lahia, after an Israeli air raid shelled the house they were staying in.
The city in the northern Gaza Strip, along with Beit Hanoun and Jabalya, has been one of the areas that has witnessed almost incessant aerial bombardment coupled with heavy artillery bombardment. Shuja’iah, located east of Gaza City, was also beaten.
An IDF spokesperson said on Friday that the pre-dawn offensive included 160 fighter jets that took off from six air bases and used around 450 missiles and shells to attack 150 targets in 40 minutes.
Jonathan Conricus said the attack was aimed at destroying an “underground tunnel system” in Gaza.
But Abedrabbo al-Attar, a resident of Beit Lahia, told Al Jazeera that the raids were targeting civilians.
“We left our house screaming at the house [that Lamya and the children were in] next to us was destroyed, ”said the 40-year-old father of six.
“We thought we were all going to die. There were no resistance fighters in the area and Israel bombed everything, more than 50 non-stop raids. “
Al-Attar said his family and his brother’s family walked about 8 km (4 miles) before reaching an UNRWA school in front of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
“Our children were sleeping on the bare ground,” he said. “We didn’t bring anything with us and we don’t know if our house is still standing.”
Dozens of families from towns in northern Gaza have also been displaced. In the residential building of Abraj al-Nada, families were unable to leave due to the intense fire and appealed to the Red Cross for help.
“This is the worst war I have ever seen in my life, and I have seen a few,” al-Attar said. “It was absolutely ruthless.”
Ground raid ready
According to Gaza’s health ministry, 119 Palestinians have been killed so far, including 31 children and 19 women. At least 830 others were injured.
Israeli health officials say 1,050 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip so far. Eight Israelis and an Indian national were killed and more than 130 injured.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the offensive would continue “if necessary to restore calm to the State of Israel.”
Elias Karram of Al Jazeera said many Israeli tanks advanced towards the Gaza Strip on Thursday and are now located a kilometer from the Israeli fence.
Karram also noted that the IDF had called in 16,000 reserve troops and banned military leave.
The pre-dawn escalation in the Gaza Strip prompted many residents to post their farewells on social media. Large power cuts swept through Gaza City during the Israeli attack.
Diaa Wadi, a resident of Shujaiyah, tweeted live about his ordeal.
“Hello everyone” he wrote at one point. “My family and I are the target of bombardment by Israeli occupation artillery and fighter jets.
“We got into a different corner of the same room,” he continued. “Each of us is holding a bag, with our papers and some things, to look at each other. Now the fear is sitting with us. This is the hardest and heaviest moment of my entire life! “
Two hours later, after the attacks subsided, Wadi said he wished he could see in the morning.
“Even though we never see the sun again, we are all for Jerusalem,” he said.
In Beit Hanoun, an entire residential area was devastated by air raids. One of the Palestinians living in the area, Mohammed al-Zoni, told Al Jazeera that 30 houses had been destroyed.
“Everything that has to do with life has been destroyed,” he said. “Cars, carts, fields… everything.”
– Tamer Hamam (@ itamer83) May 14, 2021
Translation: Mass destruction caused by last night’s heavy Zionist bombing in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
Al-Zoni said it was only by God’s grace that no one was killed, as families fled immediately after the attacks began.
“We were sitting at the house when, without warning, the shelling started,” he said. “The glass from the windows rained on us. My family lives with relatives in a different area at the moment, but one thing Israel needs to know, and that is that we will stay here.
As Gazans recover from what they have described as one of the worst nights, others will continue to bury their loved ones.
On Wednesday evening, Rafat Tanani and his entire family were killed in an Israeli attack in the Sheikh Zayed area of northern Gaza. He and his wife Rawya, 36, who was pregnant, and their children Ismail, Adham, Amir and Mohammed – all under the age of 8 – were buried alive under the rubble.
Translation: My niece Zena (one year old) and my nephew Mohammad (3 years old) as they were taken out from under the rubble after [Israeli] planes bombed our house suddenly. So far my top floor neighbors are missing, a husband and wife and four children – the oldest of which is 7 years old.
It took rescue teams a day to reach the bodies of the family.
“The way Israel targets the homes of civilians and kills children and displaces people is completely messed up,” Rafat’s cousin Jameel told Al Jazeera. “What we are currently experiencing is much worse than the offensive of 2014.
“The bombings and air attacks are insane this time.”