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Bombing of apartment in home of al-Qasas family, Gaza City; nine family members killed, 21 July 2014

Israa, Yasmin and Arwa al-Qasas. All three girls were killed in the bombing. Photo courtesy of the family.
Israa, Yasmin and Arwa al-Qasas. All three girls were killed in the bombing. Photo courtesy of the family.

At around 4:30 P.M. on 21 July 2014, the military attacked the roof-story apartment of the al-Qasas family home in Gaza City. Nine members of the family were killed: three women and six children, all girls. Two of the women and two of the girls were in that house after the military ordered them to leave their own homes.

The strike, which according to testimonies collected by B’Tselem was not preceded by any sort of warning, was very precise: it destroyed some of the rooms in the roof-story apartment, leaving the rest of the three-story building unscathed.

At the time, the building was home to its 24 regular occupants, along with another 17 relatives who had come to shelter there. The parents lived on the first floor with their daughter Huda. The remaining floors were occupied by their married sons, Salameh, Salim and Yasser, and their families.

Over the course of the fighting, other relatives, who had left their homes in neighborhoods where the military had distributed flyers calling residents to evacuate, had come to stay with the family. The daughter Shadyah, who lives in the neighborhood of a-Zeitun, came with her seven children and was staying with her parents on the first floor. Her husband, Iyad, was staying at one of the UNRWA schools being used as shelters. Another daughter, Asmaa, who lives in the neighborhood of a-Shuja’ieyh, was staying with her husband and two children on the third floor, with her brother Salim’s family.

The roof-story was the home of the son Ahmad, his pregnant wife Sumayah, and their nine children. Over the course of the fighting, some of Sumayah’s relatives, residents of a-Zeitun, had come to stay with the family – her mother, her sister-in-law and her three children.

In the afternoon, some of the women and children of the family were in the roof-story apartment, preparing the iftar meal. At that time Salim al-Qasas, 28, was in his apartment on the third floor, with some other relatives. He described what happened:

Salim al-Qasas. Photo: Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, B'Tselem, 16 Oct. 2014Suddenly, we heard an explosion from the direction of al-Dawud Tower, which is about 200 meters to the north of us, and also from the a-Zafer Tower, also about 200 meters away. My father, my brother Yasser and I went outside to see what had happened. Five minutes later, we heard another loud explosion. We looked at the towers and buildings near us, but we didn’t see anything. Suddenly, some stones from our house fell on top of us, and it was only then that we realized our house had been hit. Yasser and I quickly went up to Yasser’s apartment, and my brother Salameh joined us on the way. We saw fire in the apartment, and bodies lying inside it.

Nine members of the family, women and girls, were killed in the attack. The rest of the children who were in the house suffered burns, some severe, as a result of a fire that broke out when a gas tank in the apartment exploded. Salim al-Qasas recounted what happened next:

We started taking the injured out to the street. We evacuated them in cars belonging to people from the neighborhood and in ambulances that arrived in the area. Then we started collecting the body parts of those killed. It was very hard. When my brother Yasser saw the bodies of his family he lost consciousness. My sister Shadyah’s husband also lost consciousness when he saw the bodies of his daughters Lamyaa and Nasmah.

We took Yasser and my sister’s husband Iyad to a-Shifaa hospital. We buried the bodies on the very same day, because things were tough at the hospital and there wasn’t enough space at the morgue.

The military attacked our house without warning. I don’t know the reason for this attack.

* He gave his  testimony to Khaled al-‘Azayzeh on 16 October 2014.

Yasser al-Qasas and three of his daughters who survived the bombing. Right to left: Warda, baby Malak, and Islam. Photo: Ann Paq, Activestills, 11 September 2014
Yasser al-Qasas and three of his daughters who survived the bombing. Right to left: Warda, baby Malak, and Islam. Photo: Ann Paq, Activestills, 11 September 2014

The al-Qasas family in its entirety, as captured on the cellphone of a member of the family. Photo of cellphone image: Ann Paq, Activestills, 11 September 2014
The al-Qasas family in its entirety, as captured on the cellphone of a member of the family. Photo of cellphone image: Ann Paq, Activestills, 11 September 2014

The people killed in the incident:

Sumayah Muhammad Nassar al-Qasas, 33
Her daughters:
Israa Yasser Khader al-Qasas, 10
Yasmin Yasser Khader al-Qasas, 7
Arwa Yasser Khader al-Qasas, 5
Samar Yasser Khader al-Qasas, 3

Sumayah al-Qasas's family members who camf from from a-Zeitun neighborhood 
Her mother: Fayzeh Saber Ahmad Siyam, 67 
Her sister-in-law: ‘Aliaa Khader Yusef Siyam, 33 
Daughters of her sister-in-law Shadyah:
Lamyaa Iyad Sa’ed al-Qasas, 12
Nasmah Iyad Sa’ed al-Qassa, 10