GAZA, August 27 (JMCC) – Tears run in streams beneath the spectacles of Bassem Quraqi as he describes how two of his sons and his young grandson rode off to the hospital on August 19.
“None of them came back,” he says, still in shock.
His grandson, two-year-old Islam, had been injured while playing with neighborhood children in al-Shajaiya east of Gaza City.
The boy’s father, 28-year-old Mutaz Quraqi, took him on a motorcycle to the hospital. Mutaz’s brother, a medical doctor, climbed on, too. The boy was treated and Mutaz and 31-year old Munzer were on their way home when Israel’s military struck.
A missile hit them and turned their bodies to pieces of burned flesh, Bassem says.
The killing of the three Quraqi family members was just one of the bombing raids that Israel carried out in Gaza after armed men attacked motorists near Israel’s southern city Eilat on August 18, killing eight Israelis and injuring more than 20.
Fifteen Palestinians were killed in the air strikes in three days.
A third brother, 26-year-old Sultan, stares straight forward, wracked with guilt. He was supposed to accompany Mutaz to the hospital, but his elder brother insisted on going instead.
“He replaced me and died in my place, he says.
Sultan heard on the radio that Israeli planes had targeted a motorcycle and that three people, including a child, were dead. He phoned his brothers, but couldn’t get a connection. Then he rushed to the hospital on his bicycle.
As I arrived at the hospital, I saw an ambulance carrying their bodies. The bodies were torn and burnt, he says, The baby’s intestines were exposed and his face completely deformed. Most of his body was charred black.
Father Bassem says that Mutaz was a known member of Islamic Jihad, but did not believe he was wanted and moved around freely.
The Israeli army has high-tech weapons,” Bassem goes on. “If they wanted to kill Mutaz, why didn’t they kill him alone? He was an easy target. He didn’t hide.”
“I love all of them, but to lose one would be better than losing all three, he says.
Bassem wants to take Israel to court, he says, to “expose its crimes” through the law.
His sons were married on the same day in 2008. Munzer leaves behind two children, along with his wife, and Mutaz’s wife is pregnant.
Twenty-two-year-old Madeline, Islam’s mother, says she never expected to face such disaster.
I expected that perhaps my husband would die in an accident, not be targeted,” she says. “But I never ever imagined that my baby would be murdered by a deadly missile fired from a plane.
When Islam was injured while playing, Madeline had called her husband to help, despite the many relatives nearby.
Honestly, I called him to protect him, to avoid danger because the bombing was all across Gaza, she says, crying.
I am the reason for his death. It is the fate God had written, but I am the one who called him.
At the al-Moghrabi crossing where the three were killed, eyewitness Mohammed al-Khour said he was closing the doors of his produce shop when the two missiles struck.
Their flesh scattered on the bananas, apples and mangos--even on the walls of my shop, he says, pointing at flecks of blood.
Night had fallen, and the bodies blazed on the ground as someone fought the flames with a fire extinguisher until the ambulance arrived, he recalls.
The wave of bombing began on Thursday, just after the Eilat attack, which Israel said originated in Gaza. The first strikes killed six people, including a three-year-old child, and the commander of the Popular Resistance Committee, 42-year-old Kamal al-Nairab, in the south Gaza town of Rafah.
The Popular Resistance Committees denied any connection to the Eilat attacks, although it praised them. No other Palestinian faction claimed responsibility.
Egypt then worked to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions, which had stepped up rocket fire into Israel with the escalation. A truce was supposed to go into effect Sunday morning.
But Israel violated the ceasefire when it assassinated Ismail al-Asmar, an Islamic Jihad activist in Rafah, in an air strike on Tuesday night.
Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Resistance Committees, and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine subsequently refused to commit to a ceasefire save “one in the interest of Palestinians.”
On Friday afternoon, the PFLP claimed responsibility for launching two rockets towards Israeli towns.
Abu Ataya, spokesperson for the Palestinian Resistance Committees, told JMCC that the group will “never commit to any truce with the Zionist occcupation, especially after the assassination of [its] leaders.
He said that its members would halt its rocket fire at Israel temporarily, but this does not mean we accept the truce.
According to medical sources, the death toll from Israeli airstrikes since August 18 has climbed to 26 dead and 97 wounded, among them children, the elderly and other civilians, as well as armed men.