Israeli Strikes on Gaza Kill Hundreds of Family Members, Sparking International Outcry
Israeli Strikes on Gaza Kill Hundreds of Family Members, Sparking International Outcry

FASANO, Italy: Israel's extensive air and ground campaign in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of family members belonging to the same bloodline, marking an unprecedented toll on this small community, largely comprised of refugees and their descendants.

An investigation conducted by the Associated Press analyzed 10 strikes across the Gaza Strip between October and December, resulting in over 500 fatalities. Nearly every Palestinian family has endured severe, multiple losses, with many families completely devastated, particularly in the early stages of the conflict.

The AP utilized geolocation and analysis of the strikes, consulted with weapons investigators, open data analysts, and legal experts, and drew on data from Airwars, a London-based conflict monitor. The strikes targeted residential buildings and shelters where families were present. In no instance was there an apparent military target or a direct warning to those inside. In one case, the family claimed they had raised a white flag on their building in a combat zone.

Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American historian at Columbia University, described the current conflict as deadlier than the displacement of 1948, known as the Nakbah or Catastrophe, when 20,000 people were killed.

"I don’t think anything like this has happened in modern Palestinian history," Khalidi remarked.

On October 11, an airstrike destroyed the home of Amin al-Agha in western Khan Younis. The 61-year-old and his family were asleep on the ground floor of the two-story building. The strike killed 11 members of the family, including two cousins in an adjacent building.

"It was no longer a house. It was a pile of sand," said Jaser al-Agha, a cousin who arrived shortly after the strike.

Early on October 14, an Israeli bomb struck the house of Khamis al-Agha, an employee of a Hamas-linked charity. The three-story building in central Khan Younis was reduced to rubble, killing Khamis al-Agha, his wife, their four children aged between 6 and 13, his younger brother and his 9-year-old son, a cousin and her son. Only the brother’s wife survived.

On November 14, the house of Awni al-Agha, a second cousin to Khamis, was hit, destroying the three-story building in western Khan Younis. Brian Castner, a weapons investigator with Amnesty International, concluded that it was an airstrike as well. The strike killed Awni al-Agha's wife, his four sons, his daughter, her husband, and two sons, aged 18 and 16. Awni al-Agha, a government education official, survived because he had woken up for dawn prayers. Three months later, in February, Awni al-Agha passed away at the age of 69, most likely due to heartbreak, said Jaser al-Agha.

Emily Tripp, director of Airwars, noted that her investigators struggled to deal with the deaths of entire families, spanning multiple generations.

"At times, we had to create family trees to understand the civilian harm," she said.

Israeli aircraft struck the homes of the Abu Naja and Madi families in southern Rafah on October 17. Twenty members of the Abu Naja family were immediately killed, including two pregnant women and eight children. The airstrikes also killed the 78-year-old grandmother, her granddaughter, and her children. Airwars reported that one of the men killed was identified on Facebook as a "Mujahid" or "warrior." His wife, pregnant sister, and her 2-year-old daughter also died.

Killing a fighter who is not participating in hostilities and is in a place crowded with civilians is considered a violation of the laws of war.

An Israeli airstrike destroyed a church building in Gaza City where hundreds of displaced people were taking shelter. The October 19 strike killed 20 members of the intermarried Tarzai and Souri families, including at least seven children. Ramez al-Souri lost all three of his children and his wife.

Israel’s military said it targeted a Hamas command-and-control center, claiming that the group was embedding among civilians. The military acknowledged that a church wall was damaged.

Amnesty International visited the site and analyzed videos, including one posted and since deleted by the Israeli army. It concluded that it was an airstrike. Even if a military target was identified, Amnesty said, it "was reckless and therefore amounts to a war crime."

The October 31 Israeli bombing was one of the deadliest of the war. Jabalia refugee camp, one of Gaza’s most densely populated areas, had been struck multiple times since October 7. The true toll remains unknown because many people remain under the rubble.

Airwars identified 112 civilians killed from 11 families, including 69 children and 22 women. They included at least 47 members of the Okasha and Abou al-Qoumsan families. AP identified an additional 17 from the al-Qoumsan family, where uncles, fathers, and children perished.

The bombs left several craters in an area stretching over 100 meters. Several buildings collapsed.

"This is consistent with the biggest craters we've seen in the last 20 years," said Cobb-Smith.

Israel said it targeted a Hamas command-and-control center and a Hamas battalion commander inside, who would be the most senior member of the group killed so far.

A strike on a mosque in Gaza City’s Sabra neighborhood hit in the early evening of November 15, killing at least 44 people from the Doghmush family, including the head of the family, a 9-year-old, community leaders, and two women relatives in an adjacent building.

The damage appeared limited to the mosque’s top floors. In a video taken afterward, there was no crater, and the mosque appeared to have been cleaned up. There was no sign of significant damage nearby, indicating the mosque may have been targeted directly with small aerial ammunition, said Chris Cobb-Smith, a former U.N. weapons inspector and British army officer who has investigated in Gaza after past wars.

The mosque was built and owned by the Doghmush family. Ragab Doghmush, whose 21-year-old brother was killed, said the mosque has no militant affiliation and that the family does not permit any militant activity in its neighborhood. A feud between the Doghmush family and Hamas, which dates to Hamas’ power grab in 2007, has largely kept the area off-limits to Hamas militants.

Israeli airstrikes destroyed two separate shelters for the Salem family on December 11 and December 19. At least 173 family members were killed, including children, at least one pregnant woman, and many elderly, including the 87-year-old head of the family.

The December 11 airstrike ripped through a block of family buildings. One was destroyed, while others lost their facades. Experts said the limited damage indicated it was a large bomb programmed to delay an explosion until after impact.

At least eighty people were killed, including multiple generations from the same bloodline. Relatives said there were no obvious combat activities nearby.

On December 19, an Israeli airstrike hit another group of displaced members from the Salem family, sheltering in a villa in Rimal. The attack left a deep crater, but surrounding buildings were undamaged. Survivors said tanks rolled over the rubble. At least 90 Salems were killed.

"I saw the bodies of my uncles and cousins strewn over the floor," said Mohamed Salem, who survived the December 19 strike. "We only could identify the bodies from their IDs. They were just a pile of flesh."

Witnesses said at least four homes, hosting many displaced Palestinians, were hit directly on December 24. Body parts were strewn across the surrounding areas.

Videos showed damage consistent with airstrikes. Images showed several destroyed homes in narrow alleys lined with small, mostly one-story buildings, and a large crater at the camp’s entrance.

The AP had access to post-strike hospital records that registered 106 people killed. From public death notices and partial health ministry data, AP was able to identify 36 from the Nawasreh, Abu Hamdah, and Qandil families.

Israel said it was targeting Hamas militants and mistakenly struck two adjacent structures.

In the first and rare statement to admit an errant strike, Israel said it regretted the "injury to those not involved." It said it had taken necessary measures to avoid harm to civilians. A military official told Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster, that the wrong weapon was used in the strike, without elaborating.

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