Incomprehensible photos streamed out of Gaza endlessly throughout last night.
The Hebrew-language media reported on the violence inside Israel in-depth, but the chief site of blood and death between the river and the sea yesterday was Gaza — and the media barely touched on it.
The Israeli army did indeed strike various government offices and Hamas infrastructure and operatives. But Palestinians in Gaza also reported massive shelling of residential neighborhoods — a “massacre against civilians,” as people wrote on Facebook and Twitter over and over. The attacks were concentrated on the northern strip: Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and the Bedouin community adjacent to the border.
Previously, the deliberate shelling of residential towers in Gaza, such as the Hanadi Tower, was preceded by warnings to residents, delivered via the tower’s security guard telling them to evacuate. This strategy was deployed toward the end of the 2014 war: making dozens of people, who weren’t involved in the fighting, homeless in order to attack the civilian population. This tactic, so the thinking went, would put Hamas under pressure.
But no such warnings were given prior to the shelling of dozens of houses that occurred overnight. As a result, families were buried alive under the rubble of their homes.
In the photos published last night alone, we counted at least eight children who had been buried alive and killed. The main reason for this scope of destruction was that the army had deployed an artillery battery to fire on Gaza’s north. In contrast to sniper fire or an airstrike, artillery shells cannot be aimed very accurately.
From 6 p.m. local time, the following was recorded:
The al-Taani family, in Beit Lahiya, buried under the ruins of their home. A father, mother, and four small children. A gruesome picture went round social media: one of the family members, six-year-old Adham al-Taani, being pulled out of the rubble, his head drooping, his body covered in — and his mouth filled with — sand. His face, which has turned yellow and is also covered in sand, is unrecognizable.
In the “Bedouin community,” as the place is termed in Gaza, an entire family was buried alive under the remains of their home and killed. The home was hit at 10 p.m. Sabreen, 28, Hasham, 20, Naama, 45, and Muhammad, 5 — all dead.
At 2 a.m., also in Beit Lahiya, two women, 19 and 50, were buried alive and killed after the army shelled their home. We could not find a picture of the incident, but it was reported by several media outlets in Gaza.
In the same area, a girl and a boy from the al-Atar family were also killed after shelling by the Israeli army caused their home to collapse on top of them.
One video shows their bodies limp, speckled with debris. Neighbors are still searching, so far unsuccessfully, for the parents amid the ruins.
At dawn, again in Beit Lahiya, the army shelled the home of an older man, who worked as a firefighter. He was not home, but his daughter and her two small children were buried alive and killed. A video shared online shows him opening the refrigerator in a morgue and struggling to identify his daughter and grandchildren — such was the damage to their faces.
The Issa family home in Bureij Refugee Camp was also shelled at dawn. The mother and her daughter were crushed by the rubble and killed. Footage shows residents of the refugee camp uncovering them in the morning with a bulldozer.
In Umm al-Nasr, also in the north, the Israeli army shelled a multi-story residential building; 15 family members were injured, and a small child killed.
Another clip uploaded online yesterday shows neighbors extracting a family from the wreckage of their home. Some of those rescued were still alive, passed out, and others appeared to have been killed. We were unable to verify the family’s identity.
Throughout the night, people across Gaza took to Twitter and Facebook to describe, in Arabic, what was taking place around them. Two sentences kept repeating themselves: “The shelling is random,” and “I hope I will see the light of morning.”
At midnight, someone named Nour tweeted: “All the shelling right now is in the north. Our homes are shaking. The smoke is everywhere. God help the residents of the north, God…”
A little after midnight, a mother tweeted from the north: “The shelling is crazy. Everywhere. Random. It’s never been like this. I’m cradling Bashir, he’s shaking in my arms, screaming, I’m telling him, don’t be afraid, beloved. God, what fear and horror.”
“It’s also happening in Shuja’iyya, like in the north, the shelling is brutal,” another Gaza resident tweeted a few hours later. “It’s insane. Everywhere, randomly, missiles are landing all around, and no one is leaving their home.”
“I’m writing to you from a corner of the house,” one journalist posted on Facebook at 1 a.m. “My family and I are here, under continuous artillery fire.
“We’re all in one room,” he continued. “There’s no electricity in the streets. The cannons are shelling, and the noise of the artillery makes your body shake in terror. The Red Crescent needs to take action, to sort something out. We can’t leave. The shelling is random and crazy!!”
An hour later, someone else wrote: “We’re under siege in our home, and shells are landing around us. God protect Shuja’iyya. There was no warning, nothing — every minute, every second, the shelling is somewhere else. This is a cry for help.”
Many families left their homes last night due to the attacks, which started around 10 p.m.
“Dozens of residents are now seeking shelter inside schools in Gaza,” tweeted Hassan Aslih, a journalist from Gaza, who also shared photos of frightened families packed into schools until there was no room left.
“The hardest thing a person can feel in this land,” one resident from Beit Lahiya wrote at dawn, “is being a mother, or a father, while the shelling we’ve had here is going on.
“You are completely helpless in the face of your child’s terror,” she continued. “And you cannot tell them: it’s going to be okay.”
A version of this story was first published in Hebrew on “Words Beyond.” Read it here.