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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Family shattered by Israeli rocket attack

By Paul Wood
BBC Middle East correspondent in Gaza

"There is no safe place in Gaza now." You hear that everywhere here as people listen out for helicopter gun-ships and look anxiously overhead while Israeli F-16s roar by.

The stifling fear in Gaza mirrors that which Israelis feel as they step onto a bus or go out to a cafe, wary that the next stranger they see might be a suicide bomber.

a three year old member of the family, the dead sisters' niece, who was in the car and who survived, standing in front of a picture of the dead girls outside the family home in Gaza.
Three-year-old Rawan stands in front of a picture of her dead aunts
Barely two weeks after the American roadmap for peace was signed with a flourish at Aqaba, some 18 Israelis and almost 50 Palestinians have been killed.

Many of the Palestinians died in Gaza in Israeli attempts to kill militant leaders here. They are so-called targeted killings.

Two of the victims were sisters, Samia and Majda Daloul, aged 20 and 21, both teachers in the same nursery school in Gaza.

They were not militants. They happened to be nearby when an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at two Hamas operatives, missing them but killing as many as nine civilians.

In the dusty street outside the Daloul family home in Gaza, the girls' mother clasped her head in her hands and wept as she told me how her two daughters were killed.

It should have been a happy day, she said. The two sisters were going with other relatives to meet the family of a girl their brother hoped to marry.


After a lunch of traditional green leaf soup, prayer, and a few minutes reading the Koran, they set off with the brother, Fayis, their sister-in-law Nawal, and her daughter, three-year-old Rawan.

The meeting about the prospective engagement went well. So on the way home they stopped off to buy some Arabic sweets to celebrate.

That short delay meant their car pulled back onto the road just in front of a vehicle carrying two middle-ranking Hamas men.

Majda had gone back to get her sister - she was killed by the second rocket.
Inside their red Volkswagen, the five members of the Daloul family did not hear or see the Israeli Apache helicopter.

"We were just laughing at that time," said Nawal, sister-in-law of the two dead girls. "Then I felt the car jumping. We didn't expect it might be a rocket."

She went on to describe the next few terrifying seconds: "I was kneeling down in the back but Fayis realised what was happening and shouted at us to get out of the car.

"Fayis took the little girl out with him. There was foggy, white smoke pouring from the car. We all got out except for Samia. She was already dead.

"Fayis said to leave her there because a second rocket was coming. We were looking for Majda but we couldn't see her.

"Majda had gone back to get her sister. She was killed by the second rocket. It was only then that we heard the Apache."

Nawal is still limping and in pain from her wounds. Her daughter, three-year-old Rawan has a healing entry wound on her back and a lump under the skin, which the family told me was shrapnel left behind by the Israeli rocket.


Israel uses the term "targeted killings" to denote the pinpoint accuracy it says it uses to liquidate Palestinians preparing terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

But, according to one estimate, more than half of those killed in such Israeli operations in recent days were Palestinian civilians.

Samia and Majda's mother and sister-in-law Nawal
Samia and Majda's mother and sister-in-law Nawal who was wounded in the attack
The critics, including some inside Israel, say that targeted killings are extra-judicial assassinations illegal under international law.

"This is immoral, totally ineffective and it doesn't fit a democracy," said the former justice minister Yossi Beilin.

He opposed the policy when it was adopted in November 2000, at the start of the Palestinian intifada. "These assassinations are capital punishment without trial," he told reporters in Israel.

Both the Israeli military and Ariel Sharon have expressed regret that civilians have died in operations to target Palestinian militants.

Asked about Mr Sharon's apology, Nawal said flatly: "Will it bring back the two dead girls?"

We were taken inside the family home. The parents and most of the remaining 10 children were living inside a single large room, in fact a converted garage.

A small gas stove was in one corner, the kitchen. Blankets were on the floor in another corner, sleeping quarters for the whole family.

Two years ago they say they were turned off their family farm when Israeli bulldozers created a security zone around the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Gaza.

The family had been relying on the income that the two sisters were earning as nursery school teachers before they were killed.

The manner of their deaths and the way the family was turned off their land is the reality of Israeli occupation, say the Palestinians.

Posters of the two dead sisters, on display around Gaza and at the Daloul's home, have been paid for by Islamic Jihad. But the family themselves seem more weary than angry.

Did they support the campaign of suicide attacks inside Israel, I asked?

"Such things should not happen on either side," said Nawal.

"Parents losing children and children losing parents, both Israelis and Palestinians, these things should stop."

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




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