Residents of the Gaza City neighbourhood al-Tuffah suffered a rude awakening at 2am on February 16 when Israeli warplanes targeted what the army said was a Hamas training site.
The shelling left six people injured, including members of two civil defence rescue teams. Civil defence said a firetruck and an ambulance were hit by Israeli missiles as the crew responded to earlier strikes.
Israeli sources said the attacks came in response to rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns. The crude rockets landed in open fields; no casualties were reported.
The area around the site, surrounded by several residences, was hit with two Israeli missiles. Shrapnel struck nearby homes, including that of the 12-member family of Jamal al-Hamarna.
Al-Hamarna, 50, said at his house near the al-Tuffah sports club: “My children and my wife and I all awoke abruptly after midnight earlier this morning after my bedroom ceiling was hit. Out of fear, worry and haste, I went out of the room without putting on my trousers.”
Al-Hamarna showed me the debris of his cinder-block roof that was scattered in almost every room.
His 23-year-old son Ehab held in his arms his one-year-old daughter Nelly, who narrowly escaped grave harm.
Ehab said: “When the second missile hit, I looked back at the room to find some shrapnel from the missile right on my daughter’s bed.”
This is not the first Israeli air strike suffered by the al-Hamarna family in recent months; the home has been hit three times in the past six months.
Thirty-five-year-old Ayman Abu Jarada's home was also badly damaged. The father of four small sons and one daughter recounted what happened as he stood outside his 60-square-metre cinder block home on the morning of February 16: “When the missile exploded at approximately 2am, we woke up in shock.
“I carried my kids in my arms, moving from one corner to another exactly like a cat trying to protect its own.”
Adel Rouka, who has been living in the neighbourhood since 1987, said: “I can tell you that in the vicinity of the hit site belonging to the Qassam Brigades [the armed wing of Hamas], there are about 20 houses.
“This particular site has been exposed to Israeli shelling six times since 2007, including one time during the Israeli war on Gaza in 2009.
“Each time, we residents are the victims.”
[Rami Almeghari is a Gaza-based journalist and correspondent for Electronic Intifada, where a longer version of this article first appeared.]