Palestinian woman and two of her children are latest civilian casualties |

Palestinian woman and two of her children are latest civilian casualties

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Homebound during an Israeli military offensive, the Hajaj family was passing the time drinking tea and roasting corn in the backyard when a missile hit, killing 46-year-old Amna Hajaj and two of her 15 children.The Palestinians on Sunday blamed Israel, saying it fired the missile at the house. Israeli military officials, citing intelligence, said a Palestinian anti-tank missile inadvertently hit the house, located on the outskirts of Gaza City near the front lines.At least 51 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched its campaign two weeks ago. Most of the casualties were gunmen, but civilians are always at risk during urban combat in densely populated Gaza.Israel often fires into crowded areas during airstrikes targeting Palestinian militants. Palestinian gunmen are routinely surrounded by children and teens during fighting, prompting Israeli complaints they are using youngsters as human shields.Just last month, 21 Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza, though Israel assumed responsibility for only 13 of the deaths.On the Israeli side, civilians in towns bordering Gaza live in fear of Palestinian rocket fire, and six Israelis have been killed in hundreds of rocket attacks since 2001. A rocket slammed through the roof of a house in the border town of Sderot on Sunday, panicking residents and moderately wounding one person.Since Israel launched its current offensive June 28 to free an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and to halt rocket attacks, the Hajaj family had largely stayed close to its two-story home to keep safe.Saturday evening – after clashes between Israeli tanks and Palestinian gunmen subsided – Amna Hajaj and several of her children went into the backyard to enjoy tea and corn on the cob, said her 23-year-old daughter Iman. Iman and other family members were in the house, watching TV.There was a large boom, and Iman rushed into the yard. Her mother had been struck in the head, and her 22-year-old brother Mohammed was sprawled on the ground. Her little sister Rawan lay lifeless, bloodied in the back and head, Iman said.A medic, Iman tried to tend to her four wounded brothers, ages eight to 26, but could do little without supplies. Iman said the ambulances were slow to arrive, with drivers reluctant to enter a combat zone.On Sunday, 8-year-old Ibrahim Hajaj lay wincing in a bed in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital with two bandaged legs, a broken knee and a face covered by shrapnel marks.He had not been told that his mom and little sister were dead.”Where is Rawan?” he demanded to know, and asked repeatedly to be taken home. His brothers Khaled, 14, Shaaban, 26, lay unconscious in nearby beds.A fourth brother, 12-year-old Rani, said he heard an Israeli aircraft just before the missile hit. Just afterward, he saw one brother thrown onto a metal fence and people running. “My father picked me up and gave me to my sister” to be evacuated, he said.In Sunday’s funeral procession, hundreds of Palestinians, many brandishing guns, marched through the streets of Gaza, carrying the bodies of the three family members on stretchers and waving green, black and yellow flags.Firing gunshots in the air, the mourners chanted: “God loves martyrs.”Mushir al-Masri, a lawmaker from the ruling Hamas party, accused Israel of attacking Palestinians indiscriminately. “It is clear that the Zionist enemy is targeting everything that is Palestinian, and nothing and no one is off limits,” he said.Israeli officials said the only military activity in the area was a successful airstrike on a cell firing anti-tank missiles nearby. “There was no tank or artillery fire in the area at the time,” said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an army spokesman. “Based on the initial investigation, we have eliminated our involvement.”

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