Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Air strikes bring more devastation in Gaza

Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard describes how Israeli air strikes have laid waste to many parts of Gaza City, while militants continue to fire long-range rockets toward Israel.

PT3M48S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-29kvv 620 349

Gaza City: Covered in blood and dust and wrapped carefully in white cloth, the bodies of four young children lay next to each other, two to a drawer, in the morgue of Gaza's largest hospital.

If they position rockets in densely-populated areas, such as mosques and schoolyards, we should not be blamed for the outcome. 

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon

Two kilometres away in a tree-lined street in the city's centre, bulldozers dug through rubble trying to find their older sister, her body hidden beneath the family's two-storey house that collapsed when it was hit in an Israeli air strike.

A relative grieves at the hospital in Gaza City after the deaths of one family in an Israeli air strike.

A relative grieves at the hospital in Gaza City after the deaths of one family in an Israeli air strike. Photo: AFP

Dust filled the night air and the bulldozers' metal trays tore against the twisted wreckage as dozens of neighbours and family members looked on, all too aware that this was not a rescue operation.

Nine members of the one family died in this blast – all women and children, along with two neighbours who were walking past the house when the missile hit also died.

The Israeli Defence Force confirmed it had targeted the house of a Hamas man, believed to be Mohamed Dallu, who was not home at the time of the attack. His four children died – Sara, 7, Jamal, 6, Yusef, 4, and Ibrahim, 2.

Palestinian men gather around a crater caused by an Israeli air strike on the Dallu family's home.

Palestinian men gather around a crater caused by an Israeli air strike on the Dallu family's home. Photo: AFP

However, an unconfirmed list from the blog Palestine From My Eyes contained the names of 11 people who died in the attack including Mr Dallu and four children, although the names and ages of the children differed from earlier reports.
 
The BBC later reported that Mr Dallu died in the explosion. Yet more than 18 hours after the airstrike, the IDF refused to respond to rumours that it had accidentally hit the Dallu house, or to explain why so many civilians were killed in an operation the IDF said was not targeting civilians.

A spokesman would not comment on the air strike or the high number of civilian casualties, except to say the IDF was “looking into the reports”.

A spokesman would not comment on the air strike or the high number of civilian casualties, except to say the IDF was “looking into the reports”.

Israelis  inspect the damage to a house that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants.

Israelis inspect the damage to a house that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants. Photo: Getty Images

At the Jabalya Camp in Gaza’s north, another family was also in mourning. 

With the air strikes intensifying, Salam Ibrahim had gathered his wife and two young children close to him on Saturday night, all of them sleeping in the same bed in their house in a tiny residential street.

The children, three-year old Tamir and his two-year-old sister Junah, were killed as they lay next to their parents. The wall of their house collapsed onto the bed after an early morning F16 air strike.

Palestinians point a the spot where they believe the children of  the Dallu family are trapped.

Palestinians point a the spot where they believe the children of the Dallu family are trapped. Photo: AFP

Sunday was the deadliest day in this conflict, with Israeli air raids killing 29 people, including at least five woman and nine children, bringing the death toll for the last five days to 75 Palestinians and three Israelis.

Israel claims it is carrying out “surgical strikes” in Gaza and is making every effort to avoid civilian casualties.

“We operate slowly, identify the target and clean the area around it,” Moshe Yaalon, Minister for Strategic Affairs, told a press conference in Jerusalem, referring to warnings issued via dropped leaflets and text messages to civilians to stay away from individuals and locations likely to be targeted.

“But when they use civilians as human shields, what is our choice?” he said. “If they position rockets in densely-populated areas, such as mosques and schoolyards, we should not be blamed for the outcome.”

The Israel Defence Forces said militants in Gaza had fired 55 missiles into Israel, of which 36 were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system, including one rocket fired towards its commercial capital, Tel Aviv.

“Over the course of the day, the IDF has targeted over 50 terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip, including underground rocket launching sites and terror tunnels, inflicting severe damage to the rocket launching capabilities of terror organisations operating in the Gaza Strip,” it reported on its blog.

It said it had killed a senior Hamas operative who was responsible for the movement’s rocket operations in one of those strikes. An army spokesman identified the Palestinian as Yehia Bia, who was killed in one of the northern neighbourhoods of Gaza City that experienced the brunt of Israeli attacks on Sunday.

There were also grim scenes at the al-Shawa building in Gaza City after an Israeli rocket attack targeted the media centre, home to al-Quds television, which is associated with Islamic Jihad and other news groups.

The stairwell of the building – which was the journalists’ only escape after the early morning attack – was stained with blood and littered with broken glass, while the al-Quds offices were destroyed, a massive whole in the roof where the missile landed.

One cameraman, 20-year-old trainee Khader al-Zahhar, had his leg amputated as a result of injuries sustained in the attack, while another, Mohamed Musa al-Akras sustained serious shrapnel injuries.

Lying in a bed at Shifa Hospital, one side of his face bearing dozens of shrapnel injuries, Mr al-Akras described the moment after the missile hit the building.

“The rocket fell directly above me and I could not escape, I was in shock and there was dust everywhere,” the 23-year-old cameraman said.

“After a while I started to scream and call to colleagues in the other rooms and they found me buried under rocks and sand, but when they tried to pull me out another air strike hit,” he said.

After the second strike, he could hear Mr al-Zahhar screaming but he could not help him.

In a statement, the Israeli Defence Forces said: "A communications antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity against the state of Israel was … targeted."

But Mr al-Akras and his family are in no doubt the media centre and not just the antenna was targeted.

“If Israel had meant to hit the communications tower they could easily do so, so why did they strike our offices?” he asks.

In Israel, five victims of a rocket attack in Ofakim were taken to Be'er Sheva hospital – three were moderately wounded and two lightly wounded.

The ferocity of Israel's air strikes and the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, along with another long-range missile fired towards Tel Aviv, have put added pressure on already difficult talks in Cairo aimed at mediating a truce between Hamas and Israel.

One senior Hamas spokesman, Salama Maroof, said there was slim hope a truce could be reached when Israeli air strikes took so many lives.

"This is not just about [the Hamas military leader, Ahmed] al-Jabari, Israel has killed 11 people this evening, and many, many more. If Israel wants to stop its aggression, then we can talk. But before then, how could we consider any deal?" Mr Maroof said.

For any deal to be acceptable it would have to include more than just an end to the air strikes – Israel would need to agree to lift its five-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, he said.

"Israel started this war with its assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari. If the Israeli government agrees to stop this violence, then we can start to talk."

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not indicate a truce was imminent in his statement to the cabinet on Sunday.

"By now the IDF has attacked over 1000 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and it is continuing its operations as we speak,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“It is achieving significant hits on weapons aimed at Israeli citizens, as well as on those who use these weapons and those who dispatch them. We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the [other] terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation.”

with agencies