As Israeli missiles fall, Gaza residents in border areas flee 17Nov12 November 17, 2012

Haaretz   -   17 November 2012

Palestinians in the northern and eastern Gaza Strip began leaving their homes Friday due to the heavy air attacks on the third day of Israel’s Gaza offensive. Area residents say bombardments from the land and sea as well are carrying on with little letup as shells fall a few meters away and shake the ground and walls.

Among the people who fled are members of the Samouni family, who live east of Gaza’s Zeitoun area. During Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-09, 21 members of the Samouni family were killed when the commander of the Givati Brigade, Ilan Malka, ordered the bombing of a building. Based on photos from a pilotless plane, Malka had concluded that the building was sheltering armed Palestinians.

A mother in the Samouni family says she and her children are now living the combined traumas of 2009 and 2012.

As of this afternoon, the number of Palestinian civilians killed in Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense stood at 10, six of them children, says the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

The total number of Palestinians killed since the start of the offensive is 19. Almost all the wounded are civilians – 253 out of 257, including 62 children and 42 women. More casualties have been reported since Friday afternoon, but independent Palestinian sources in the Strip have not yet confirmed their identities. 

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, two children were killed on Thursday night in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza. They died in their home near a cultivated area, where a missile fell.

The children are Udai Nasser, 15, and Fares el-Basiyuni, 8. Earlier Thursday evening, in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, Marwan al-Komsan, 52, a teacher employed by the United Nations refugee agency, was killed while visiting his brother. A mortar shell or explosive fell in a field near the brother’s home, seriously injuring the brother, who is 72.

In Zeitoun, a 10-month-old girl, Hanan Tafesh, died Thursday night of head injuries sustained in a bombing the day before. Her mother and two others were wounded.

Camel Makat, 23, died Friday morning of a heart attack after a fighter jet bombed a field near his home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northwestern Gaza City. On Friday evening 2-year-old Walid al-Abdullah died of his injuries sustained the day before in a strike on the village of al-Kara, east of Khan Yunis. 

In Israeli strikes on Wednesday on Zeitoun, a 3-year-old girl, Ranin Arafat, was killed along with an 11-month-old boy, Amar Masharawi, and a pregnant 19-year-old woman, Hiba Masharawi-Turk. Also on Wednesday, a 61-year-old man, Mahmoud Hmad, was killed in a field in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

The number of buildings directly or indirectly damaged in the bombings is growing. According to researchers from Gaza’s Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, as of Friday afternoon, 223 buildings had been damaged, among them nine completely destroyed, including the Interior Ministry offices in southern Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. But about 80 percent of the documents and data have electronic backups, ministry officials say.

Another government building was destroyed near the Gaza home of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Wednesday night, Rashid Abu-Shabak’s villa was bombed. Abu-Shabak, a Fatah member and former commander of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force, now lives in Egypt; his home was among those of Fatah members expropriated by Hamas. Based on the bombing, which damaged about 20 other houses in Tel al-Hawa, weapons must have been stored in the house, Gaza sources say.

Nearby structures were damaged in all neighborhoods where buildings or open areas were bombed. Damage included smashed widows and broken water tanks. Water supplies have been further compromised by frequent electricity outages throughout Gaza. According to the Al-Mezan Center, five mosques and 11 schools have been damaged, each of which holds classes in two shifts daily.

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