A ‘Mistaken’ Israeli Airstrike Leaves Gaza Family Mourning Loss of Nine
A family mourns the loss of nine after a recent Israeli airstrike struck a civilian home in Gaza in a case of possible mistaken identity.
At her asbestos-roofed home in the central Gaza Strip city of Deir el-Balah, Om Rasmi al-Swarka, a mother in her late 70s, is still mourning her two sons, Rasmi, 46, and Mohammad, 39. Rasmi and Mohammad along with al-Swarka’s two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren were all killed during a deadly Israeli airstrike following rocket attacks aimed at Israel that struck the homes of both sons on November 13.
“Since their deaths, I have spent almost sleepless nights, whispering one main prayer to God, ‘May you, God, take revenge on those who killed my two sons.’ I can only help myself remain patient and tolerant about such an unbearable loss. Who would take care of the family, including a wounded son of Mohammad. Only God would help, and all material things in the world can never compensate me such a grief,” al-Swarka told Citizen Truth at the family’s home in the al-Berka neighborhood of Deir el-Balah and just few hundred meters away from the homes of her late sons.
The aggrieved mother spoke in remembrance of her dead sons as locals gathered around.
“Just one night before the Israeli strike onto their homes, Rasmi came over to me and chatted about some family issues for about 15 minutes and then left. I wished I knew he would have been killed, I would then have asked him to stay with us. Rasmi was my very caring eldest son, as he used to sit with me often, almost on daily basis. Despite his dire economic conditions, he was patient enough and was not used to speaking out or complaining,” al-Swarka told Citizen Truth.
Family and Friends Remember Rasmi and Mohammad
Mohammad used to work selling livestock in the local community. “Mohammad was generous enough with me to the extent that he used to offer me some cooked food of his own, asking me many times not to burden myself by cooking. Sometimes, he used to give me some money as an assistance to the family,” Mohammad al-Swarka, a 32-year-old cousin of Rasmi and Mohammad, told Citizen Truth.
“In fact, my cousins Rasmi and Mohammad were such very good persons in terms of their relations with the local community. Rasmi, for example, was a man of humor since he used to smile all the time. His cheerful smile, mixed with the sense of humor he had, was apparent wherever he went. I remember that once he came over to my grandfather, who is also the uncle of Rasmi, for some family issue. Rasmi surprised my grandfather with a cheerful smile and some little funny sound, letting him know that he was present.”
Taleb al-Swarka, a relative and friend of both Rasmi and Mohammad added, “This is such a heavy loss for us all. Rasmi was such a humorous community guy and talented as well. Almost in every local wedding in our Bedouin community, Rasmi used to contribute with his singing talent and his nice voice, singing some Bedouin rhymes that impressed everyone.”
Rasmi’s 46-year-old friend added that the death was a great shock to all. “Just a couple of days ago, before the homes of Rasmi and Mohammad were hit, Rasmi and I took a picture of themselves, showing Rasmi raising the victory sign and the prayer sign with the other hand. I could not imagine that after this picture, Rasmi would have been killed,” Taleb added.
Taleb was one of the few people who witnessed the Israeli airstrike at the modest homes of both Rasmi and Mohammad al-Swarka. He told Citizen Truth that the now-destroyed homes were made of sheet-metal and that some parts of the homes like the bathroom were made of plastic and some wood.
“As I rushed to the scene, along with a few other neighbors, I could not believe my eyes to see dismembered bodies, including the body of my intimate and long-time friend, Rasmi. Farrah, a two-month-old baby miraculously survived because she was lying under rubble of a piece of sheet metal and sand. Farrah sustained a slight injury to her hand. This was a massacre, a real massacre,” Taleb further noted to Citizen Truth.
Mohammad, who is a neighbor of both Rasmi and Mohammad, told Citizen Truth that both brothers were known well in the neighborhood. “They both, especially Rasmi, used to compliment all members of our neighborhood, during happy or sad occasions. Rasmi used to intervene to solve some of the family feuds in our neighborhoods. We have lost some great guys,” the 26-year-old man told Citizen Truth.
Did Israeli Airstrike Target the Wrong Man?
The Abu Mahlous, the family’s original name, or the al-Swarka family was reportedly shelled by Israeli aircraft November 13 during a new wave of violence between the Israeli army and Gaza-based Palestinian armed resistance groups. Israeli army raids on Gaza came after Israeli warplanes assassinated a senior resistance leader of the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza.
Since 2006 Israel has carried out three major military attacks on the region, leaving a few thousand Palestinians killed, including men, women and children, and many thousands of others wounded. The November Israeli airstrike that killed Rasmi and Mohammad in Gaza also claimed the lives of more than 25 others, including women and children.
An Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee reported that the airstrike targeted Rasmi al-Swarka, a “prominent Islamic Jihad figure”. Yet, the Israeli military added that the army “made a mistake” in targeting a building in Gaza which led to the killing of eight members of the same family. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported, “The army assessed the building in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood was empty.”
The 48-hour Israeli military strikes against Gaza left 34 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, and hundreds of others injured.
Now the Israel military isn’t sure it targeted the right man. As the New York Times explained, the morning after the strike “the Israeli military’s Arabic-language spokesman posted on Twitter the photo of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander it said had been killed in the strike, which occurred just hours before a cease-fire ended two intense days of fighting between Israel and the militant group.
“But Islamic Jihad says the man in the photo was actually a different commander from Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, who is still alive — and that the victims of the attack in Deir El-Balah, near the center of the coastal enclave, were all civilians.”
Genuine Solidarity Needed
Rights groups in the Gaza Strip described the Israeli airstrike of the al-Swarka home in Deir el-Balah as a war crime. Salah Abdelaati, a senior rights activist in the Gaza Strip, commented to Citizen Truth about the recent Israeli killing of a whole family by describing it as an atrocious war crime against civilians.
“We cannot understand or accept the Israeli allegation that the home of al-Swarka was targeted by mistake. Israel has the most sophisticated weaponry and technology, which it used in previous attacks on Gaza. Israel can carry out pinpoint attacks as it did in the past. We call on legal international bodies, including the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Human Rights Council, to bring Israeli army officials to justice.”
Abdelaati appealed to the international community to show genuine support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people.
“Solidarity with the Palestinian people should be embodied by genuine intervention that ensures protection for the civilian Palestinian population. Bloodshed must stop,” Abdelaati told Citizen Truth ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, which was November 29 and observed by the United Nations General Assembly every year for decades now.