Israel and Gaza count the cost as rockets fly
Omar Masharawi, 11 months, killed in Israeli air strike
GAZA CITY: When he reached the blazing shell of his home, no one told Jihad Masharawi that his 11-month-old son was dead. He had been at work at the BBC in Gaza City when his cousin called to tell him that his house had been hit in an Israeli air strike.
Minutes later he arrived at the smoking ruins of his two-storey home in Zeitoun, close to the northern border with Israel, to find his wife, children and sister-in-law missing. ''People were telling me everything was OK. I said, 'Show them to me, show me my sons,''' Mr Masharawi said.
Air strike ... four rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Photo: AFP
He found Omar in the morgue at Shifa hospital. His sister-in-law had also been killed and his four-year-old son Ali injured.
Omar had been with his mother, aunt and brother as they ran into the relative safety of their family home when the missile hit its entrance. He and his 19-year-old aunt, Hiba, were killed instantly.
''What did my son do to deserve this?'' Mr Masharawi asked his BBC Arabic colleagues in despair as they filmed him leaving the hospital on Wednesday evening, cradling his dead son.
Jihad Masharawi weeps while he holds the body of his 11-month old son at Shifa hospital, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Photo: AP
Standing in the blackened ruins of his home the next day, a few hours after burying Omar, Mr Masharawi asked the same question. As Israeli jets screeched overhead, followed by the inevitable thud of a missile hitting its target, Ali jumped into his father's arms.
Five of the 13 Palestinians killed in the first 24 hours of Israel's Operation Pillar of Defence have been children. A two-year-old and a woman pregnant with twins are also reported to have died in the campaign.
Gently soothing his crying toddler, Mr Masharawi struggled to explain why his family was hit. ''We don't belong to any political faction. There is no Hamas presence in this neighbourhood, no training grounds, no rocket-launching sites.
''We are all just normal civilians here. I never expected this to happen,'' the 27-year-old said, absorbing the charred remains of his home.
As he pointed to the gaping hole in the roof under which Hiba and Omar died, his eyes filled with tears.
''They were all together. It was a matter of seconds between them but my wife survived and Omar is dead. It feels so random.''
Mirah Sharf, 26, killed in Hamas missile attack
KIRYAT MALACHI, Israel: An Israeli missionary who had returned to her country to give birth died in the arms of a neighbour on Thursday, surrounded by the debris to which a Hamas rocket had reduced her home.
Friends of Mirah Sharf, 26, said she and her unborn child had struggled for life in the moments after the explosion that devastated her apartment on the fourth storey of a modest residential building 32 kilometres north of the Gaza Strip.
"I came across on my scooter as soon as I heard the blast," a volunteer paramedic, Manny Israel, said. "I ran to the top of the building, pushing my way past the injured as they were coming out.
"I found her alive and alone. She had a pulse and I tried to keep her going but unfortunately, just as the medics arrived, she did not make it."
Mrs Sharf's husband, who had taken their children to the relative safety of the stairwell, was being sheltered by members of their religious society, Nachlas Har Chabad. The couple had returned to Israel from a religious mission to India for Mrs Sharf to give birth and timed their trip to attend a ceremony commemorating two colleagues who were killed in the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
Kiryat Malachi, a town of 20,000, had ranked among the fortunate few in southern Israel, having never suffered a rocket strike before. But yesterday, Mrs Sharf was among three who died. Next door, the bodies of Aharon Smagda, 49, a father of three, and Itzik Amselam, 24, were found. Six people were injured, including two infants.
Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel, visited the site and described it as "desperately upsetting".
"We talk about civilian casualties, but to go and see for oneself, to see a family destroyed - it puts a very different perspective on matters," he said.
With no school and all the factories shut, Kiryat Malachi's inhabitants loitered in the open. Boys preparing for the inevitable call-up to join the Israel Defence Forces were defiant. "We are not afraid. We want to have a go at Hamas until they are crushed," said Avi Jacob Tziko, 16.
"It is time the terrorists were put in the toilet."