Eight family members are buried in Gaza as death toll passes 330
By Carolyn Cole | Los Angeles Times | Published: July 20, 2014
The bodies were carried from the Jabalia hospital morgue on orange stretchers, hoisted above the shoulders of a large group of mourners.
Before dawn Saturday, eight members of the Abu Jarad family, including four children, were killed when their house was hit in an Israeli barrage on Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
About 200 men accompanied their bodies and that of another unidentified victim from the morgue to a nearby mosque shouting, "God is great."
The bodies, wrapped in bloody white sheets and covered with the yellow flags of the Palestinian faction Fatah, were laid out in front of the mosque while the men gathered for quick prayers.
There would be no mourning at the family home. There were no survivors, mourners said.
Instead, the bodies were brought directly to a cemetery. The mourners climbed a sandy hill at the far end, where fresh graves had been quickly dug.
Nearby, small mounds of sand covered the most recent victims of the conflict between Israel and the militant Hamas faction, making it hard to distinguish one new grave from the next.
Local medical officials say more than 330 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began an offensive July 8 in Gaza, the small but densely populated coastal enclave where Hamas has held sway since 2007. Three Israelis -- a soldier and two civilians -- have also been killed.
As the bodies of the Abu Jarad family were lowered one by one into the ground, heavy gun and rocket fire could be heard. The men gathered for the burial didn't flinch.
Israeli troops searching for rocket launch sites and tunnels used to attack Israeli cities and towns have concentrated their efforts in the border areas where the Abu Jarad family lived. Israeli officials say they go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and accuse Hamas and its allies of hiding rocket launching sites amid residential areas and use civilians as "human shields."
Despite repeated warnings from the Israel Defense Forces to leave the area before a ground operation began late Thursday, many civilians remained. They say there is no safe place to go in the less than 30-mile-long coastal enclave while Israeli warplanes are in the air.
Makeshift shelters set up at schools and other facilities run by the United Nations are overflowing with an estimated 47,000 people. Some families wander back to their homes during the day.
The Abu Jarad family were not the only ones being buried Saturday. Another body arrived on a woven bed frame covered in a brown bedspread.
The skies above were a brilliant blue, making it easy to see rockets streaking overhead in both directions. For several minutes, there was continuous gunfire.
Cole is a Times photographer. Staff writer Alexandra Zavis in Ashkelon, Israel, contributed to this report.