Toddlers among ‘eight family members killed in Israeli airstrike’

Photo of Toddlers among ‘eight family members killed in Israeli airstrike’
The airstrike comes amid increasing violence in the region over the past two days (Picture: Getty/EPA)

Eight members of a Palestinian family have reportedly been killed following a double Israeli airstrike which failed to take out its intended target.

With tensions again rising in the region, Israel has been accused of targeting private homes where they suspect militants are hiding.

The latest strike – which destroyed the Abu Malhous home – comes as human rights investigators say 34 people have been killed in two days of fighting, including 16 civilians, four of whom were children.

Today’s attack in Deir el-Balah, in the Gaza Strip, was intended for an Islamic Jihad commander living in the home, neighbours suggested. But they told the Associated Press that the unnamed commander had gone into hiding.

Instead, his brother, Rasmi Abu Malhous, was killed, along with both of their wives and five children under the age of 13. That included his seven-year-old son and two nephews, aged two and three.

A relative holds a notebook of a girl found in the destroyed house (Picture: EPA)

The neighbours, who asked to remain anonymous, said Mr Abu Malhous, 45, was not involved in any militant activity. However, The Times of Israel reported that he headed up Islamic Jihad’s rocket unit.

The home was completely destroyed by the blast, with only a large crater left behind and kitchenware, pillows and mattresses scattered in the rubble nearby. Neighbours dug out eight bodies and tried to salvage some school backpacks and clothes.

One neighbour, Abdelhaj Musleh, said: ‘When we came, we did not recognise where the house was standing.

‘The airstrike intentionally targeted civilians.’

Israel has rejected the criticism, saying it takes numerous steps to prevent civilian casualties.

Palestinians carry the bodies of the family members during their funeral in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip (Picture: EPA)

It claims its targets are based on sophisticated intelligence and cleared by legal experts, and that it often warns inhabitants before their homes are struck.

Earlier today, military spokesman lieutenant colonel Jonathan Conricus said: ‘Our operations against the Islamic Jihad were very accurate, very deliberate, based on the highest level of intelligence that we have.

‘One of the key considerations was and remains to limit to the greatest extent possible collateral damage and the effect on non-combatants.’

There has been decades of tension in the region, with the Israel-Palestine conflict continuing to rumble on unresolved.

The latest round of fighting began on Tuesday morning, when an Israeli airstrike killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta, a senior Islamic Jihad commander who Israel suggested was responsible for numerous rocket attacks and was planning an infiltration operation into Israel.

The funeral ceremony of the Abu Malhous family (Picture: Anadolu)

Palestinian human rights monitors say 18 militants and 16 civilians – including three women and eight minors – have since died. The Israeli military say no more than 25 militants have been killed.

Islamic Jihad have fired around 450 rockets toward Israel, with most landing in open areas or being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.

The rocket fire has brought normal life across southern and central Israel to a halt, with Tel Aviv, some 50 miles away, impacted. Israelis have also been injured from the rocket fire, though the number of victims varies from three to more than 60.

The latest outbreak of violence is the deadliest since a devastating 50-day war in 2014.

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