For twelve hours, 17-year-old Omar Abu al-Ouf clung to his dead sister’s body as they lay trapped under a patchwork of concrete floors, ceilings and walls that had collapsed on top of them.
His neighbor lived in the mangled rubble above, but hung upside down between the growls of steel and brick walls.
His father, Dr. Ayman Abu al-Ouf, one of the top doctors in Gaza who came out of the coronavirus crisis, was beaten to death.
The famous medic was killed along with 12 other members of his extended family when the multi-story building they lived in on Wehda Street in Gaza City was completely damaged by air strikes.
“When the second missile hit, I tried to hold my sister in my arms to protect her, but the third missile brought that wall of fire and the ground beneath it disappeared under us,” Omar said The independent one from his hospital bed.
“A fourth missile hit the building and everything was wiped out.”
The high school student, whose arm was broken and his legs were swollen with bruises, spoke from the Al-Shifaa Hospital, where he is being treated and where his father used to work as head of internal medicine.
His entire family, including his parents, two siblings and grandparents, was wiped out by the bombing. Wounded and alone, Omar tries to understand that he is the only survivor.
“I just want to know why they targeted my family. We’re normal civilians, doctors, ”he added, his face frozen in shock.
“What mistake did we make to deserve this?”
Some of the most violent fighting ever recorded between militants in Gaza and the Israeli military erupted last Monday, culminating in weeks of unrest in the smoldering city of Jerusalem.
A shaky truce was finally brokered by Egypt early Friday morning.
After eleven days, more than 248 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Medics said an unprecedented rocket fire killed 12 in Israel. Among the dead were two children and a soldier.
But while the ceasefire silenced the rocket launchers and halted the warplanes, families in Gaza whose homes and lives were hit by the bombing have to come to terms with the scale of the devastation. Around 2,500 people were permanently homeless and tens of thousands were temporarily displaced. Authorities were still digging the dead, some of them militants, from the rubble.
And so on Friday, when families finally emerged from their homes to assess the damage to their lives, many angrily questioned the purpose of many of the goals.
The May 16 bombing of Wedha Street, a densely populated civilian district and the main thoroughfare in Gaza’s largest city, sparked particular outrage in the Gaza Strip and abroad. It was one of the most intense and controversial episodes of Israeli bombing in this fury of fighting.
The air strikes turned one of the busiest streets in Gaza and the main access point to the Strip’s main hospital, al-Shifaa, into a crater-marked moonscape. Instead of blocks of flats, there are mutilated piles of concrete lined with curls of iron reinforcement and the remains of objects.
In a 30-foot hole, a shattered pipe yawns dirty water onto the street. Azzas, or funeral prayers, where relatives gathered to remember the dozen of dead from that one night of bombing on an abandoned reef along the road.
According to Amnesty International, that night of the air strikes, two residential buildings belonging to the Abu al-Ouf and al-Kolaq families were completely leveled – 30 people were killed – 11 of them children.
Further down, it also killed Dr. Muin Ahmad al-Aloul, Gaza’s only neurologist, with his five children and his wife.
Médecins Sans Frontières said one street away on the same night of the bombings it also damaged one of its clinics that treated trauma and burns and made the sterilization room completely “unusable”.
Witnesses and survivors told the story The independent one None of the buildings or clinics received any prior warning about the strike.
When asked about the purpose of the attack, the Israeli army said Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, is responsible for “deliberately placing its military infrastructure under civilian houses, thereby putting civilians at risk”.
A “preliminary” investigation into the attack revealed that Israeli planes encountered “underground military infrastructure” located under the road.
“The underground military facilities collapsed, causing the foundations of civil houses to collapse above them and unintentional casualties,” a statement said.
“The goal of [Israeli army] The strike was the military infrastructure. The IDF aims to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. “
But it was devastating to the families involved in the bombing of the building the Abu al-Oufs called their home.
Riad Shkuntina, 42, whose family is one floor above Dr. Abu Al-Ouf was alive, said the last thing he remembered was watching his wife try to retrieve their children from under the rubble of the first air strike before a second missile aimed the entire building.
“She screamed and then the ground fell under my feet,” he said.
“They found my daughter Susie upside down with her head between two bricks that they saved. I was under the rubble for six hours, my daughter ten hours. “
The other four children and his wife were killed.
Fifteen minutes after the strike, Mohamed, Omar’s maternal uncle, was one of those who was desperately digging through the rubble to find the survivors captured.
“This family is one of the most educated and committed families in Gaza,” he said The independent one while standing next to the yawning crater in which the building stood.
“Dr. Ayman and his father, who was also killed, were offered medical jobs abroad, but they refused to take care of Palestinians here.”
“It’s just not a loss to us as a family, but to the entire Gaza Strip.”
Back in Al-Shifaa, Omar is looked after by his uncles, who are now the only family he has left.
“I would like to know why you decided to kill my whole family?
“Why did you orphan me when I was only 17 years old? ”
“What did we do to deserve this? “