Horror as Gaza handicapped care facility bombed

by Mai Yaghi

AFP-JIJI

Twenty-year-old Palestinian Sally Saqr lies in a hospital bed in Gaza’s Shifa hospital with burns that have turned her cheeks an angry pink beneath her ventilation tube.

She survived an Israeli strike in the early hours of Saturday morning that hit a care home for Palestinians with special needs.

Two of her fellow residents were not so lucky.

Thirty-year-old Ola Washahi and 47-year-old Suha Abu Saada were killed when the rocket slammed into the home, destroying it.

The two women’s body parts were still being pulled from the rubble hours later, causing initial confusion over whether another person had been killed.

The facility’s director, Jamila Alaywa, is unable to contain her fury as she describes the tragedy that has befallen the center she set up in 1994.

“Both Ola and Suha had severe mental and physical handicaps, and had been living at the center since it was founded,” she said.

The building in northern Gaza’s Beit Lahiya housed 13 residents, including some who were on weekend visits at their family homes when the strike hit.

Five residents and a helper were inside, screaming in terror as the building collapsed around them.

“They didn’t understand what was happening and they were so frightened,” Alaywa said.

“They fired the rocket and it hit us without any warning. There was no warning strike with an empty rocket,” she said.

Israel has said it tries to minimize civilian casualties by firing a small missile at a target first, to give noncombatants a chance to leave.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the strike on the care home.

“Ola and Suha’s bodies were torn into pieces,” Alaywa said.

“We never imagined that something like this could happen. There is no one in the residence or anyone around us that belongs to the resistance.”

The two women are among more than 125 people killed since Tuesday, when Israel launched Operation Protective Edge aimed at halting rocket fire from militants in the Gaza Strip.

The aerial campaign has also wounded more than 940 people, and Hamas and other militant groups have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, where there have been no fatalities.

For now, the wounded residents of Alaywa’s facility remain in hospital.

Sally and 28-year-old Ahmed al-Awar are in intensive care, being treated for serious burns.

Alaywa has made arrangements for the residents who were away to remain with their families for now, and is hoping to find places at another charity for her wounded charges when they recover.

But she pleaded on Saturday for help to ensure the home would be rebuilt.

“I hope that the world will help me. I want to rebuild my association and to be able once again to take care of these people — they are my children.”