Ramallah: Members of the Palestinian Qanan and Al Astal families in Gaza decided to take respite from continued Israeli bombardment to watch Wednesday’s semi-final World Cup football match between Argentina and the Netherlands in a seaside coffee shop in Khan Younis. But for them, like dozens of other Palestinians in Gaza, there was no escape from Israel’s missiles.
Shortly after the beginning of the second half of the match, Israeli military airplanes targeted the Waqt Al Farah Time of Joy cafe in the Al Qarrar area of Khan Yonis with several rockets and turned it into rubble.
Seven members of a family died in the attack while dozens of civillians sustained moderate to serious injuries.
Sources in Gaza told Gulf News that Sulaiman Al Astal, 55, had invited 20 of his relatives to break the Ramadan fast, and after iftar and the subsequent Taraweeh prayers, the men decided to go to a café to watch the second World Cup semi final match.
The sources said the cafe was almost totally destroyed in the assault.
Dr Ashraf Al Qedrah, spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, announced that the host, Sulaiman Al Astal, Ebrahim Khalil Qanan, 24, Mohammad Khalil Qanan, 26, Hamdi Badei Sawali, 34, Ahmad Sawali, 28, and Mohammad Al Aqad, 24, died at the scene. According to Dr Al Qedrah, five other relatives sustained serious and life threatening injuries, while the rest of the group and other customers sustained moderate injuries.
The sources said that none of those in the café had been wanted by the Israelis.
The Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament Mohammad Barakah has demanded civilians be brought out of the armed struggle. “The issue of civilians is addressed only when a rocket is fired from Gaza... a rhetoric that is neither fair nor accepted,” said Barakah in the opening Palestinian national conference against the Israeli separation barrier. “Israeli offensives against Gaza can not be interpreted in any way as self defense. Israel is defending its occupation,” he said.
Barakah argued that Israel has tried to obscure its real actions, since the Israeli aggression is not limited to Gaza but stretches from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip and also reaches areas claimed by the Israeli state. “Nobody can prevent Palestinian [citizens of Israel] from supporting their fellow Palestinians in Gaza,” he said. “Our Israeli citizenship is not a barrier and will never be.”
During a session of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, fiery Palestinian member Ahmad Tibi accused the occupation military forces of killing innocent women and children before being interrupted by angry Jewish lawmakers. “Israeli military forces are committing war crimes in Gaza, including blowing up houses and killing entire families intentionally, [among them] children and women,” said Al Tibi, reading out the names of victims killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza.
When he was interrupted by some Jewish members of the Knesset, he shouted “Shut up while I am reading names of people you killed with missiles. Are you not ashamed? The Israeli military forces are committing war crimes.”
For his part, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians. Abbas told the Palestinian leadership at a meeting he convened on Wednesday evening to discuss the Israeli escalation in Gaza that the Israeli offensive actually started in Hebron then moved to the occupied East Jerusalem and later was extended to Gaza.
“This Israeli war is not against Hamas or any other Palestinian faction. It is, however, against the Palestinian public,” he said. “We must have a word in what is happening right now and in what will happen in the near days to come, which will surely be difficult,” he stressed.
Abbas said that the Palestinians will approach the UN Security Council to seek the suspension of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian public, adding that Arab consultations have been conducted in this regard.