Rafah, Gaza – Another night of terror passed in the southern Gaza Strip as an attack by Israeli warplanes killed a senior commander in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement, Khaled Mansour, along with many nearby civilians.
Until the early hours of Sunday, civil defence and rescue crews continued to retrieve the bodies of the dead and wounded from under the rubble of the refugee camp, despite limited equipment.
According to medics, seven people were killed in the Rafah bombing on Saturday, among 43 others killed in Israel’s three-day attack, including 15 children and four women. More than 300 other Palestinians have been wounded.
The rescue process was made more difficult by the narrow alleyways of the camp because of how closely the asbestos-roofed homes lined up together.
Ashraf al-Qaisi, 46, said he did not think twice before allowing bulldozers to demolish his entire house in order to help rescue teams reach his neighbours buried under the debris.
“This is the hardest night ever in my life,” al-Qaisi told Al Jazeera. “I was sitting in my house with my wife and six children until we suddenly heard the sound of shelling, and part of the ceiling collapsed. One of my sons was injured.”
‘Enough is enough’
Al-Qaisi ran outside only to find a number of his neighbours’ homes had been completely destroyed by the Israeli bombing. “Those were tough moments. Blood, body parts, screams under the rubble, bodies being pulled out dead and wounded,” al-Qaisi said.
“It was very difficult for the bulldozers to reach the targeted house, so I let the bulldozers demolish my entire house in order to save my neighbours next door,” he told Al Jazeera as he stood on the rubble of his home.
Although al-Qaisi is unemployed and has no income to support his family, he said he did not hesitate to allow the rescue crew to demolish his house. “The situation was difficult to put into words,” he said. “I wanted to help in any way.”
“I tell the world that enough is enough. The wars, bombings and killings that are happening to us are enough. We are tired. We are really tired,” al-Qaisi said while holding his injured son, Ahmed.
Wissam Joudeh, 39, did just what al-Qaisi did. He, too, allowed bulldozers to partially demolish his house in order for rescue teams to evacuate the wounded.
“I was sitting with my family when we heard and felt shelling that shook the place,” he said.
“I went out and the missile had hit right behind our house. Moments until the civil defence vehicles rushed in, the situation was very difficult. Injured people were screaming under the rubble … [There were] burned bodies, and it was late at night.”
‘Gaza is alone’
The only thing the ambulances could do is to have al-Qaisi’s house and part of Joudeh’s house demolished to help access the bombing site.
“Even though I only bought this house three months ago, after a long struggle to find stability, I did not hesitate to allow it to be demolished to try to reach the injured and the bodies under the rubble,” Joudeh said. “They are my neighbours and I was very sad about what happened to them.”
Joudeh called on the international and humanitarian community to pressure Israel to stop its repeated attacks on Gaza.
“Gaza is alone. We didn’t start a fight with anyone. We are civilians who just want to live in peace.”
Just north of Gaza, Najwa Abu Hamada, 46, had not yet recovered from the shock of losing her only son, Khalil, 19, in a bombing near their home in Jabalia refugee camp.
Abu Hamada said she had just had lunch with her son before he went out with one of his friends.
“Less than a minute after he left, I heard a loud bombing,” Abu Hamada said. “Immediately I went out into the street yelling ‘my son, my son!’”
‘He is all my life’
The bombing took place in front of a supermarket next to their home, killing five civilians, including children.
“The first thing I saw was the body of my son’s best friend. That’s when I screamed and knew that my son might also have been killed,” Abu Hamada said. “Minutes later I found my son. He was soaked in his blood and lying on the ground. I was screaming so hard calling for an ambulance.”
Abu Hamada said that Khalil was her only son, whom she conceived after 15 years of trying to have children.
“I did five in vitro fertilisation rounds, all of which failed. Then the last IVF round was successful and Khalil came to light.
“He is all my life. I wanted him to graduate quickly so that I could find a bride for him. I have no one else but him. I can’t believe what happened and I don’t want to believe,” Abu Hamada said, breaking down in tears.
‘We can’t endure more’
Umm Mohammad al-Nairab, 60, sat weeping in the wake of the deaths of her grandchildren, Ahmad, 11, and Moamen, 5.
“Last night, the two children went out to buy things from the supermarket across the street from the house where people gathered after evening [Isha] prayers,” al-Nairab said, sobbing heavily. “It was only moments before we heard a loud bombing.”
“Their parents and I went out screaming: ‘Our children, our children!’. There were body parts soaked in their own blood,” al-Nairab said.
The children’s parents were too distraught to speak to members of the media.
“Ahmed was very accomplished in his studies. He is the eldest son and he has two sisters,” al-Nairab said.
“What did they do to get bombed this way? The street was full of pedestrians and children. How many families in Gaza have a wake today because of the ongoing Israeli aggression? We can’t endure more.”