Gaza City—Gaza is filled with the sounds of war. Normally a bustling and noisy place, the cacophony of its dense urban life has been replaced with the incessant buzzing of drones, the booms of naval artillery, the screech of F-16s and the blasts of missiles, shells and bombs crashing down.
There are no sirens in Gaza, no shelters, no air defense system. There is only destruction and death.
More than 240 Palestinians have been killed in ten days of bombardment by the Israeli military. Around 77 percent of the dead are civilians, including nearly fifty children, according to the United Nations.
The devastation is visible around every corner. Disfigured buildings, facades ripped open, buckle over in grotesque poses, spilling their insides onto the streets: a fridge covered in cement dust, a torn mattress, a closet ripped in half. Shards of glass festoon the roads. More than 1,600 homes have been reduced to rubble or severely damaged.
Dozens of graveyards have been hit. “The Israelis are even trying to kill the dead,” one resident says.
Four young boys from the same family were killed as they played on a jetty in the sea when an Israeli naval shell landed on them. One died instantly, the others ran up the beach. “We ran towards the cafe with the foreigners,” says Hamada al-Bakr, one of the survivors, referring to the Deira hotel where foreign correspondents witnessed the attack. Hamada speaks lying in a hospital bed, wincing in pain from a shell fragment that lodged his chest.
They never made it to the Deira. The second shell hit the other boys while they were running, forty yards away from the initial strike. Ali Abu Hassera, a fisherman who was standing nearby, says the gunner must have adjusted his aim to target them. Three more were killed. They were thrown tens of yards apart by the force of the blast. When Abu Haseera and his colleagues ran towards the boys to help, another shell hit, wounding two of them.
Mohamed, 11 years old; Zakaria, 10; Ismail, 11; and Ahed 10. All from the al-Bakr family, all cousins. All dead.
Mohamed’s family—his seven sisters, his mother and aunts—sit in their cramped living room the next day weeping. His mother sways back and forth in shock. “Mohamed loved the sea, his whole world was in the water” says his aunt, Mona al-Bakr. They are a family of fishermen. “All we have is the sea and now we die there,” she says.
Mohamed’s father, Ramez, is bed-ridden with a back injury from years of grueling work hauling nets. Mohamed, who would sell tea to other fisherman for extra money, was to be the family breadwinner. “His dream was to open a shop selling fish,” Mona says.
The terror for the al-Bakr family continued the morning after the killings when the Israeli military “knocked on the roof” of their neighbor’s house at 4 am—firing a warning shot to encourage residents to evacuate prior to a strike. They scrambled out of their house, the children screaming and falling over each other. Three minutes later, two missiles smashed into an open lot nearby.