Palestinian man recalls moments when Israeli airstrike kills his wife, children

By Omer Ensar and Zeynep Tufekci Gulay

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – A grieving Palestinian father said he understood that he lost five of his family members when he could no longer hear their voices under the rubble after an Israeli airstrike.

Warplanes of the Israeli army conducted a night attack on a residential area in al-Wahda Street of Gaza City on May 16. During the attack, which turned the Al-Wahda Street into a pile of rubbles and corpses, 43 people, including 10 children and 16 women, were killed.

After the attack, Riyad Eshkontana, his 28-year-old wife Abir, his sons Zayn, 2.5, Yahya, 5, and daughters Lana, 6, Suzi, 7, and Dana, 8, were trapped under the debris.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Eshkontana, who survived the wreckage only with his daughter Suzi, said no word can describe those painful moments.

Recalling that the attack, which took away his family and neighbors, came only the next day of Eid-al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday, the father said he never thought that he could come out of the debris alive.

“One hour was like a century [under the rubble],” he said.

Eshkontana said, in the night of the attack, they heard a terrible noise and saw a crimson flame inside the house.

“The walls of the house were shaking, I could not understand what was happening. In a few seconds, I threw myself into the room where my wife and children were,” he said, adding that he found his wife hugging the kids and crying.

“At that moment, the whole building collapsed on us,” Eshkontana recalled, and said he found himself trapped under the debris and was unable to move.

Noting that he lost his finger, he said his only concern was his family.

– 'What can replace a mother's bosom?'

The children were screaming, he said, adding that their voices became weak by time. “After a while, as the voices stopped, I understood that I lost them.”

He said civilian defense teams rescued him from the wreckage and bodies of his wife and four children were found.

“I got the painful news after I was taken to the hospital,” he said, and thanked Allah for saving her daughter Suzi.

Among his children, Suzi was fond of her mother the most, he said, and added that he is concerned about how she is going to hold onto life without her mother.

“My daughter lost both her mother and four siblings, she is left all alone. Who can replace a mother’s bosom?”

Recent tensions that started in East Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan spread to Gaza as a result of Israeli assaults on worshippers in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

At least 254 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 39 women, and more than 1,900 others injured in the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials. Health authorities in the West Bank also confirmed 31 killed in the occupied region.

An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took effect last Friday, putting an end to 11 days of the worst fighting in years.

*Writing by Sena Guler