November 23, 2010

Israeli missile strike injures 4 family members -- 1 only 2 years old -- celebrating holiday

A Palestinian man surveys the damage from the previous day`s Israeli airstrike in
the Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah on 20 November 2010. (Jared Malsin)
By Jared Malsin

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (Ma'an) -- The most intense Israeli airstrikes in months disrupted what had been a quiet holiday for one Gaza family.

Sulaiman Abu Mustafa, an olive and eggplant grower with a small farm near the border with Israel outside of Deir Al-Balah, was celebrating the Eid Al-Adha holiday with his family in his yard when the strike took place. Abu Mustafa's uncle and aunt were visiting -- there were around 20 people outside the house.

At 3 p.m. an Israeli F-16 fired a missile at an empty house across the street, blasting chunks of concrete into the air, then hurtling down on Abu Mustafa's house. He said the family scrambled to take shelter behind their house, but had no time to react.

The concrete chunks injured four people, including Abu Mustafa's mother, who was wounded in the abdomen, and his brother who was struck in the head. His two year old son who was also hurt, he said.

Abu Mustafa's home and yard was strewn with debris from his neighbor's house that came crashing through his roof, leaving perforations in the ceiling. One of the walls was also cracked by the force of the explosion.

Abu Mustafa said he called an ambulance, but the family was forced to wait a half hour for help to arrive. Because their house is only 400 meters from the Green Line, emergency responders have to request permission from the Israeli army, via the Red Cross, to enter the area.

The Israeli military said launched four separate airstrikes on Gaza on Friday—three in the afternoon and one late at night—in response to a series of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. According to Israeli news reports, the shelling included homemade projectiles, mortars, and one Grad missile, and caused no injuries. This barrage in turn, was in response to an Israeli airstrike that killed a member of the Army of Islam militia, and his brother, in the middle of Gaza City at sundown on Wednesday.

In a statement announcing the airstrikes on Friday, the Israeli military said it was bombing "terror-linked sites" in Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis.

Abu Mustafa emphatically denied that there was any activity by Palestinian armed groups in the area. "This area is very calm, the people here are peace-loving. This land is farmland, and the people here subsist off of what they grow on their farms, like olives."

He told Ma'an: "I heard on the news that Israel said it was targeting terrorists who fired rockets, resistance or terrorists or I don't know what, and the Army of Islam. There is no truth in these words."

He added that, unlike many other areas directly along Gaza's border with Israel, there have been very few incident of soldiers firing on farmers. Abu Mustafa's farm lies adjacent to an Israeli military position, including a remotely-operated gun turret, and a gate in the border fence used by military forces to enter the Strip.

Abu Mustafa said that the house that was the target of the missile was owned by the Sharufa family, who live primarily in Gaza City, and only visit the farmhouse once or twice a month. When Ma'an visited, all that remained of the two-story house was a crater.

Identities of those injured in the Deir Al-Balah bombing:

1. Roqaya Abu Mustafa, 53
2. Wijdan Abu Mustafa, 29
3. Abdel Aziz Abu Mustafa, 20
4. Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, 2


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