When an Israeli missile struck the residential block of the Nabhan family in Gaza four days ago, no one was killed, but a family with five disabled members were among 45 people made homeless, Reuters reports.
For the five siblings, three of whom are on wheelchairs and all five of whom suffer from physical disability, muscular dystrophy and convulsions, the misery was multiplied, as their wheelchairs, medicine, special beds and bathroom were buried under the rubble.
The family now lives with relatives close to their old shelter. Every morning relatives carry them out as people continue to flock to the site, some showing sympathy at their harrowing experience, and others carrying gifts for the girls.
“The house blew up while we were being moved out. Our wheelchairs, medicine and clothes were inside. Nothing was left,” said 16-year-old Hanin, who has a disability in both legs.
The others are aged 3, 18, 29 and 38. The emotional toll of losing the house seemed to have worsened the older brother’s mental state, as he has become very nervous, always shouting and sometimes crying, his relatives said.
According to officials from Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza Strip, the latest round of Israeli air strikes, which began on 9 May, destroyed 15 residential blocks, containing more than 50 flats. In addition, 940 buildings have been damaged, 49 beyond repair.
The Israeli military says it makes every effort to limit civilian casualties and damage and accuses the group of hiding command centres and other military sites in residential areas.
On 13 May, Hanin’s older brother, Jalal, received a call from a private number, but he went out to let his cousin respond as he stutters while talking. The caller was an Israeli officer who ordered them to evacuate the house five minutes before they bombed it.
The cousin, Hussam Nabhan, 45, tried to stall the officer, telling him the house included disabled people, but it was all in vain, he said.
“He told me you have five minutes. We rushed to the house and found the girls lying on the ground. Thanks to the neighbours, we have been able to take them out and we managed to leave the house by a miracle,” he told Reuters.
The mother, Najah, 57, said they failed to take anything from the house, even the identity cards.
“The house was the girls’ shelter; they had got a disabled toilet, wheelchairs, a bed to sleep. Things that had been difficult to get, now there is nothing,” Najah said.
“How am I going to carry her after the wheeler was gone, also the [healthy] mattresses were gone,” she added.
The Gaza Strip is home to 2.3 million Palestinians in cities, towns, and refugee camps squeezed within an area of 365 square kilometres (141 square miles). Its borders are sealed off by Israel. Several wars and a 16-year-old Israeli blockade have crippled the enclave’s already ailing economy.