As Israel’s air war against Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in Gaza entered its sixth day on Saturday, a pair of bombings threw the difficulties of the campaign into painful relief: Israel bombed a mosque, which its aerial photos indicated was harbouring a weapons cache, and a centre for the handicapped, killing two handicapped patients and wounding three, as well as a caretaker.
The bombing of the centre, the Mabaret Palestine Society here in northern Gaza, occurred just before dawn, when a missile crashed through the roof and exploded. Because it was the weekend, only five of the 19 severely handicapped residents were in residence, while the rest were with their families, said Jamila Elaiwa, who founded the centre 20 years ago.
She spoke at Al Shifa hospital’s burn unit, while she was visiting the wounded, including Mai Hamada, 30, and Salwa Abu al-Qomssan, 53, the caretaker, both of them with severe burns, while two more patients were in intensive care. The dead were named as Ula Wisha, 31, and Suha Abusada, 39, whose family said had been born severely handicapped and unable to speak.
In a rare Saturday briefing for reporters at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, a senior Israeli military official said, when asked, that the army was looking into what happened at the centre for the disabled. “A group is investigating now what was the target, what was the intelligence,” he said.
At the mosque that was bombed on Saturday, in the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, only the minaret was left standing. Young men joined the junior imam, Muhammad Hamad, 25, in digging through the rubble to save copies of the Quran and other religious works.
But this attack, one of two mosques hit Saturday, was no mistake. Here Israeli intelligence was convinced, and issued photos to support its case, that the mosque served as “a Hamas rocket cache and a gathering point for militants,” an army spokesman said.
Israel Saturday intensified its air assault on Gaza to counter rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, killing 30 people, as the death toll rose to 135 with over 1,100 Hamas positions targeted in five days of offensive, PTI reported.
Two nephews of Hamas ex-PM Ismail Haniyeh were among those killed, Palestinian officials said. In addition to those killed, at least 950 people — mainly civilians — have been injured, they said.
The UN Security Council urged Israel and Hamas Saturday to end their hostilities in Gaza, calling on both sides to respect “international humanitarian laws” and return to the “calm and restitution of the November 2012 ceasefire”.
Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Tony Blair, envoy for the so-called Quartet of UN, EU, Russia and US, in efforts to secure a truce. An Israeli official said Blair met with Netanyahu Friday. “There are no serious contacts toward sa truce,” Reuters reported.