Members of the family which lost four generations in one Israeli attack tell Kim Sengupta of a loss which has left them in despair
The bodies of the two children were carried cradled to the graves, tiny bodies shrouded in green cloth bearing revolutionary as well as Koranic inscriptions; personal grief cannot be separated from political symbolism in this grim conflict. People stood and wept. Among them a man with a loudhailer shouted “Do children fire rockets?” The crowd roared back “No, they are the innocents.”
Four generations of the Daloo family had been wiped out by the missiles which tore through their home, collapsing the three-storey building on itself, leaving little chance for those inside to survive. Of the nine who died, Amina Matar Muzanar was the eldest at 83, and Ibrahim Mohammed, two years old, was the youngest.
These were collateral damage of the type the Israeli military says it is trying so hard to avoid as it pounds Gaza day after day; yesterday afternoon the toll of Palestinian fatalities was 100, including 53 civilians, with one of the latest deaths taking place during two air strikes, one of which hit the city’s media centre for the second time in the last 24 hours.
The target, according to officials in Tel Aviv, was a leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, Ramez Harb, the head of its publicity section, who was at a computer shop in the building.
The attack on the Daloo home was also targeting a militant leader, say the Israelis. The Vice-Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon announced at a press conference in Jerusalem on Sunday that the “chief of Hamas’s rocket unit” had been eliminated. The man was named as Yahya Abayah, who it is claimed had been directing the salvoes which had been hitting the Jewish state for weeks and was living at the house.
But there is no one of that name in the Daloo family and Yahya Abayah is not among the dead. The next explanation from Tel Aviv was that the rocket chief was hiding in the house. Yoav Mordechai, the chief spokesman for the Israeli Army, stated later that although he was unaware of the outcome of the operation, “there were civilians harmed by this”.
Two Israeli newspapers, Haaretz and Maariv, reported that the army had fired at the wrong house. The army said it was launching an investigation into what happened. Brigadier-General Asaf Agmon, a former air force officer, stated that mistakes can happen when intelligence is faulty or an aircraft misfires.
Jamal Daloo, the head of the family, sat on a plastic chair yesterday next to what had been their home, as mourners came to offer their condolences, embracing him, whispering words of comfort into his ears. Digging continued nearby into the rubble for his 16-year-old girl, Yara, who was still missing. Among the confirmed dead were his wife, son and daughter-in-law, a sister and four grandchildren.
“What they are saying, the Israelis, are lies, they can pretend all they like” said Mr Daloo, his eyes red with crying. “There were no senior Hamas people in our house; no one was hiding there. They killed Mohammed, he was my son. He was an ordinary policeman; he was not involved in firing rockets or anything like that.
“I have had to bury so many members of my family, my grandchildren. What words can I say about that? I can ask why they did this, but there will be no answer. They do not care about peoples’ lives.”
Hatem al-Daloo, another member of the family, added: “Not only was no one of that name living here, we haven’t even heard of such a person. This is rubbish, just an excuse because they have killed so many people who were all civilians.”
There were other families in mourning in Gaza yesterday. Ahed Kitai was killed as he tried to move his neighbours to safety following a missile strike early in the morning. His wife, who is pregnant, sat in a huddle with her six children, crying. A cousin, Haitham Abu Zour, lost his wife in the same attack. “I thought my children were also dead; we couldn’t find them. But Allah be praised, at least they are alive.”
Abdurrahman Fayez, a teacher, lost his 16-year-old brother, Abdelrashid, in the first day of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence. “I used to think we were so lucky not to have anyone die in my family the last time they attacked this place. But this time…
“Now we just wait. How many have we lost so far, a hundred? There will be more, we know that. And why is this taking place? Because the Israelis are having an election soon and their leaders want to look tough.”