‘There was no warning. I lost my family in an instant’

The missile flattened the building, killing two mothers and eight children. Somehow, Omar survived. Bel Trew reports from Jerusalem and Nedal Hamdouna from Gaza City

Omar al-Hadidi in Shifa hospital, Gaza City, yesterday

The baby was found clutching his dead mother’s chest when the first responders in Gaza dug him out from underneath the rubble of a three-storey building.

In a split second 11 members of the Palestinian family, who had gathered for Eid, were buried by the giant claw of an Israeli airstrike.

The remains of the building in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp were strewn with children’s toys, a Monopoly board game and plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

In total 10 were dead: eight children and their two mothers, who were sisters-in-law.

But by some miracle there was a cry: five-month-old Omar, the youngest, was alive.

“What had they done to the Israelis to be targeted while wearing their special Eid clothes as they sat in their uncle’s house?” the distraught father Mohamed al-Hadidi, asked The Independent, from Shifa hospital where his son was being treated.

“They are only children, they haven’t fired rockets, ” he added, breaking down.

“Except Omar, I lost my entire family, in an instant.”

The 10 victims of the bombing were buried in Gaza yesterday (AFP)

At least 148 Palestinians – including 41 children and 22 women – have been killed, mostly by Israeli airstrikes, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

In Israel, medics have reported 10 dead, including two children, and said six people were in a critical condition from Gaza’s volleys of rockets. The latest victim was a 50-year-old Israeli who was killed by rocket fire yesterday afternoon in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

For five nights across the blockaded strip families have cowered under what Israeli air force officials have told The Independent is one of the most “intense barrages of airstrikes” they have ever unleashed on the territory. It is in response to an almost unprecedented level of rocket fire from militants in Gaza.

The army has repeatedly said it does everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties, including deploying early warning systems for major targets like multi-storey buildings.

But Mr Hadidi, who had not been with his wife and children, said his family knew nothing of the air raid which blew up their lives.

Under heavy bombardment, his wife Maha, 36, had taken her four children to her brother’s home to celebrate the Muslim holiday which marks the end of Ramadan.

After dinner with her sister-in-law, Yasmine Hassan, she decided to sleep there overnight, a decision that would ultimately prove fatal.

“The Israelis didn’t give any warning, they didn’t call them. They didn’t even fire drone [knock on the roof] rockets so they knew to escape,” the father said.

“My house is just 400m away, I was running in the street shouting, the building was totally destroyed.”

The latest cycle of cross-border fire erupted on Monday when Hamas, which runs Gaza, fired a volley of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time in seven years.

The militant group said it was in response to weeks of violence in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem that saw Israeli forces repeatedly storming the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, with stun grenades and teargas.

Israeli police defended the inflammatory action saying Palestinian rioters on the al-Aqsa compound were throwing stones, bottles and fireworks.

Since then, the Israeli military says Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired over 2,300 rockets at Israel, in what a senior Israeli air force general told The Independent has been among the most “intense” barrages of all conflicts with Gaza.

Israeli warplanes have struck more than 650 targets, in an equally strong campaign.

Overnight on Friday Israel unleashed a 40-minute ferocious ground and air bombardment on Gaza, which the army said was targeting an underground network of attack tunnels they call the “metro”.

Military officials said that night they dropped 500 tonnes of munitions on the strip, which is home to nearly 2 million people.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life. It was worse than the 2014 war,” said, Hassan Mohammed Attar, 50, whose daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and half a dozen neighbours were wiped out during that night’s bombardment along the northern border area.

“Everything has been destroyed, I have never seen such fire before spread through the houses. We were all suffocating, vomiting, I don’t know what that was,” he added.

The air raids were so intense on Friday and yesterday that thousands of Palestinians living near the border with Israel packed up their belongings and fled south, fearing a protected war and possible ground invasion.

“The air raids have been unimaginable, Friday was a night of fear, terror and destruction,” said Fareed Abu Haloup, 62, who spoke to The Independent as he was fleeing Beit Lahia in the north to the centre.

“We only just made it out of our house alive. Even the ambulances can’t get to us. We can’t wait to see our children die in front of our eyes.”

Back at Shifa hospital, in Gaza City, Mr Hadidi sat playing with Omar, the only remaining member of his direct family.

“We ask where is the international law? Where is the international community to step in and stop this?” he asked.

“Where are our rights? We ask you to show the world what happened to us.”