Miral found herself alone in an ambulance, unaware of the fate of her family. She had been woken up by the air strike that targeted her residential building in Gaza in the early hours of the morning. The little girl asked the medic who carried her, “Where is my father?” The video that has gone viral on social media shows her asking this repeatedly. The child was unaware that the ambulance also carried the remains of members of her family and neighbours. Miral’s innocent face has become symbolic of the devastation that Israel inflicts on the children of Gaza.
The ten-year-old girl fell asleep on the night of 8 May after she and her four siblings heard tender words from their parents. That welcome sleep was shattered by the so-called Israel Defence Forces, who later boasted of their “precise military achievements”, a vile euphemism for crushing fellow human beings to death in the middle of the night. The bombs dropped by Israeli warplanes claimed the lives of Dr Jamal Khuswan, his well-known pharmacist wife Mervet Banat, and their eldest son Yusef, a second-year medical student. Miral and her siblings Minna, 17, Yazan, 15, and Yamen, 14, were orphaned and left to bear the shock and disbelief for the rest of their lives.
As usual, Israeli officials claimed to have eliminated “terrorists planning to attack us”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government, and senior army officers, spoke proudly about a successful and effective operation “that achieved its goals”. Of course, they did not mention the identities of the victims or the fact that most of them were civilians, including a significant number of children and women.
What occurred in the early morning of 9 May was an example of the Israeli military’s usual approach to civilian populations. If it is not bombs waking Palestinian children up, and killing some of them, it is soldiers forcing their way into their homes in the early hours across the occupied West Bank, and killing some of them. Israeli fighter aircraft and drones target the residents of the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to more than two million people, the majority of whom are children, mothers, the elderly and the sick. This persistent aerial surveillance is sometimes interrupted by dropping tonnes of high explosives on houses and apartments.
Miral was not alone in asking about her father. Dr Khuswan, 52, was a well-known figure in the community. Since his graduation as a dentist in Russia, he had become a highly respected medical professional, known for his special skills, trade union activities and tireless humanitarianism. Locals praised him for volunteering his services for free over many years, with a ready smile and warmth for those around him. He was the chairman of the board of directors of Al-Wafa Hospital, which provides extensive health services to the public in the besieged Gaza Strip. His colleagues elected him as the head of the dentists’ union, and he made numerous contributions towards the nurturing of a new generation of Palestinian doctors. Tributes were written with great sadness on social media. The names of Dr Jamal and pharmacist Mervat have been added to the long list of medical professionals, scientists and academics killed by Israel.
The Netanyahu government knows what it means for it to bomb residential neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip, which has no early warning system in place and no air raid shelters. Residents know that a single Israeli bomb can bring the building down above their heads with deadly results. What is this if not terrorism by a so-called “democracy”?
Palestinian families spend night after night in terror as the raids continue. The ground shakes as every missile and bomb fired by the Israelis hit their targets in residential neighbourhoods. Some people, including children, spend hours under the rubble watching helplessly as their parents, siblings or grandparents die before their eyes. Such shocking experiences scar them for life.
This is what the Israelis call “precision” bombing. This is what they, with great callousness, celebrate. This is what it means to be a Palestinian in the besieged Gaza Strip.