Jihad Masharawi weeps over the body of his 11-month old son, Omar, who died in an Israeli air strike on their family house in Gaza City on Wednesday. Photo: AP/Majed Hamdan
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Gaza City: When he reached the blazing shell of his home, no one told Jihad Misharwi 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 Zaitoun, 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 Misharwi said.
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 Misharwi asked his BBC Arabic colleagues in despair as they filmed him leaving the hospital on Wednesday evening, cradling his dead son.
Standing in the blackened ruins of his home the next day, a few hours after burying Omar, Mr Misharwi 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. Yesterday, a two-year-old and a woman pregnant with twins were reported to have died in the campaign.
Gently soothing his crying toddler, Mr Misharwi 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."
Earlier, mourners at the funeral of Ahmad al-Jabari, the Hamas military chief, had no cause to question why he been killed or the significance of his death.
He was a martyr of the resistance they said, a hero of the Palestinian people and his death would be avenged.
"He is the son of this country, we all love him," Abu Kamel, an elderly neighbour of Jabari's said, raising his voice over the blaring popular resistance songs.
The barrage of rockets that has rained on to southern Israel in the hours since Jabari's assassination, is only the start of the vengeance to come. Mr Kamel said: "[The Israelis] can expect a much bigger reaction."
Jabari lived in Shejaia, a poor neighbourhood less than two kilometres from the Israeli border. These streets, festooned with the green Hamas flag, are a key rocket-firing location.
The narrow alleyways near Jabari's home are lined with portraits honouring militants killed in routine Israeli assaults on this stronghold.
At 10am on Thursday, Jabari's body was carried from his home swathed in a white sheet and draped with Palestinian and Hamas flags. A crowd of more than 1,000 men had gathered to mourn.
The sight of their dead strongman, his waxen, bloody face still visible, prompted a salute of live fire from the mourners, sending younger children scurrying for shelter.
As dozens of Kalashnikovs were discharged into the air, the slow-moving crowd carried the corpse towards a neighbourhood mosque, chanting: "There is only one God. God is great!"
Women and young girls watched tearfully from their windows. As Jabari's body passed, Mahbooba Alareer, a housewife, called out: "Maasalame Ahmad, goodbye. Say hello to my nephew for me, he is a martyr too."
Fawzi Barhoum, the immaculately groomed Hamas spokesman, represented the faction at the funeral. Encircled by burly minders and squinting into the hot winter sun, he told television crews: "Israel started this war but they will never know its end.
"Our Qassam rockets will hit Ashqelon and Tel Aviv. We have a plan in place. They will regret what they did."
As he attempted to assure the thousands of Palestinians sheltering in their homes, glued to rolling news coverage of the rapidly escalating conflict, that a Hamas victory was imminent, Israeli jets pounded militant targets across the Gaza Strip.
For Mahbooba Alareer, all that mattered was the battle to come. "This is the straw that will break the camel's back. There was bombing all last night here and we had no fear left," she said.
"Guns for everyone, old and young! Let them all fight!"