An Israeli missile turned a day of joy for the family of 60-year-old Naama Abu Qaida and her 11-year-old granddaughter Hanin into horror this week.
During the attack that Israel launched against Gaza on 5 August, the Israeli army shelled the car the Abu Qaida family had decorated for the wedding of her son Akram and which held Naama and Hanin.
They were among the 49 Palestinians killed in the course of 170 Israeli bombing raids on Gaza in the course of just three days.
Naama’s husband, Mohamed Abu Qaida, said there was no rational justification for Israeli targeting where the family lived in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza.
The latest Israeli operation, reportedly “pinpointing” key leaders and infrastructure of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), concluded with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
As part of the deal, Egypt has pledged to work for the release of two Palestinian prisoners, Khalil Awawdeh, who has been on a hunger strike for over 150 days, and Sheikh Bassam Al-Saadi, a PIJ leader based in the West Bank.
Although it has managed to resolve some matters related to the status of the prisoners, Israel has so far refused to release either. The longer it does so, the greater the chances the ceasefire will break down.
When the Israeli operation began, Naama Abu Qaida decided to reduce the wedding festivities she had planned for her son, her husband told Al-Ahram Weekly.
But “an Israeli missile killed her in the car that was meant to escort the bride to our son’s home,” Mohamed said. “Hanin was also in the hospital for several days. The doctors said amputating her leg might help to save her life. But she died before we were able to transfer her to a hospital outside Gaza.”
Rahaf Salman, 11, was playing with her brother Mohamed and several other children in front of their house in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp in northern Gaza when several Israeli missiles struck.
Five children were killed, but amazingly Rahaf was not, even as doctors had to amputate both her feet and her right hand in order to save her life.
The Israeli authorities tried to escape the blame for the missile attacks, claiming that the playground was struck by PIJ missiles that fell short of their target and posting a video clip in an attempt to prove it.
It has since been established that the missiles in the video had been fired in a previous engagement and had nothing to do with the most-recent Israeli attack.
“When I heard the bombing,” her father said, I rushed out to the children who were playing near the house. I didn’t see Rahaf, so I rushed my son Mohamed to the hospital thinking that Rahaf was okay.”
However, he then learned that Rahaf was among wounded children taken to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in northern Gaza. His 11-year-old daughter had been so badly wounded that doctors had had to take her into surgery immediately and amputate her feet and right hand.
Even as the current round of Israeli strikes on Gaza has ended, the Palestinian suffering continues.
The Israeli strikes could also begin again at any moment without warning. Israel has been boasting of its last military “operation” as a low-cost military success that prevented the Palestinian group Hamas from becoming involved.
It believes that there is nothing to prevent it from launching another so-called “preemptive strike.”
The PIJ, which lost several of its high-ranking military leaders in the strikes, might feel compelled to start another confrontation, especially if Israel continues to refuse to release Awawdeh and Al-Saadi.
PIJ Politburo member Khaled Al-Batsh suggested as much when he told the Al-Quds radio station, one of the movement’s media outlets, that “we have to start preparing as of now for the next round of combat.”
Egyptian mediators have made some progress with regard to Awawdeh, as Israel has agreed to move him to a civilian hospital in view of his deteriorating health.
However, according to the Palestinian Commission on Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, an Israeli court still refuses to approve his release or to issue a ruling that he has now served enough time in an Israeli prison owing to the last four-month administrative extension of his detention.
The commission has warned that Awawdeh could die suddenly because of his deteriorating health condition.
Last Thursday, an Israeli court also extended Al-Saadi’s detention, with the Israeli authorities broadcasting a video of him being taken to court to show that he was in stable health. Al-Saadi was wounded in the course of his arrest in Jenin earlier this month, and a UN team was sent to ascertain his welfare in the Israeli Ofer Prison.
According to Israeli assessments broadcast on Israeli state radio, the PIJ will not launch another attack against Israel in the near future because of the damage the organisation has sustained in the most recent confrontation.
The report said that the PIJ would not attempt to face Israel alone without Hamas. The latter has been cautious in its military calculations, not wanting to jeopardise the ease-up on the Israeli blockade that has allowed thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.