Conflicts & War

Gazans lose homes, mourn dead in new escalation with Israel

Gaza, Aug 7 (EFE).- Many Gaza Strip residents are openly wondering what they have done to Israel, which has been shelling the enclave since Friday in an escalation of violence with the Palestine Islamic Jihad, a bombardment that has left at least 41 Palestinians dead and destroyed many houses.

On Saturday morning, Nadia Shamalakh and her disabled daughter fled their house after being warned by her neighbors that the Israeli army was going to bomb the place.

“It seemed like the day of the final judgment,” this 67-year-old woman and mother of eight children told EFE while sitting in a plastic chair in front of a pile of rubble that once was her home.

“What will be our fate? We have become new displaced people,” the woman said to herself, her voice breaking: “What have we done to Israel that our home is attacked?”

Israel on Friday began a “preemptive” offensive against alleged Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip against what it called the “imminent threat” of a PIJ attack after capturing one of its leaders.

Since then, the Israeli army says it has attacked more than 140 PIJ sites, but the shelling has not only destroyed military targets but also multiple civilian structures, including an apartment building.

Overall, the Israeli attacks have damaged or destroyed at least 650 homes, 45 of which were left uninhabitable, according to figures from the Islamist movement Hamas, the Strip’s de-facto governing group.

The PIJ, meanwhile, has launched more than 600 rockets at Israel, most of which were intercepted by anti-aircraft defense systems or landed in unpopulated areas, causing little damage.

Since the beginning of the current flare-up, the Palestinian health ministry has reported 41 fatalities and more than 300 people wounded in the bombardment, many of them children. Israel has recorded no fatalities although about 20 people have reportedly sustained minor injuries.

The Islamic Jihad said at least nine of its fighters were killed, including the two top commanders of its armed wing.

Five minors died on Saturday night when a missile exploded in the city of Jabalia, in northern Gaza. Israel claims the blast was a failed rocket launch by the PIJ, while the militant group blamed the Israeli army for the attack.

Another five-year-old girl, Alaa Qaddoum, was killed during Israeli shelling on the first day of the offensive.

“What was Alaa’s crime? Was she firing missiles at Israel?” her tearful grandfather, Mahmoud Qaddoum, asked.

Alaa was playing in front of her house in Gaza City when Israeli forces shelled the vicinity and shrapnel struck her in the head, he added.

This is not the first flare-up of significant violence in Gaza, which has been under a tight Israeli blockade since 2007. Escalations of violence erupted in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2021.

Now, in familiar scenes, the sidewalks in Gaza are empty of pedestrians and ambulances drive through the streets. All schools and businesses are closed, except for bakeries.

Three days before the offensive, Israeli authorities closed the border crossings between Gaza and the Jewish state, further aggravating the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished enclave.

Since then, Gazans with permits allowing them to leave the enclave for various reasons have been unable to enter Israel for work or medical care, and merchants have been unable to bring in food or goods.

The most serious situation, however, has been the interruption of the fuel supply, which is vital to keep the Strip’s only power plant in the running, and consequently it had to stop operating on Saturday.

As a result, more than two million Gazans have access to only four hours of electricity a day and basic services are operating in a very limited way.

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