“The explosion happened, and I found myself on the ground,” she recounted Tuesday from a hospital bed, her voice faint. “I saw my uncle and my cousins on the ground, and I started screaming until they came and took me to the hospital in a private car.”
Zaanin, who was struck in the chest by shrapnel, was among dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who were wounded in the past two days during fierce cross-border fire between Israel and Islamic militants in Gaza.
Israel launched airstrikes Monday evening, almost immediately after militants in Gaza launched seven missiles toward Jerusalem, and the attacks continued unabated through Tuesday evening. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the strikes have killed 28 people in Gaza, including 10 children, and injured 152 others.
Using war planes and drones, the Israelis have hit sites across much of the 141-square-mile enclave, targeting in part what the Israeli military said were apartment buildings housing military commanders, military facilities such as weapons storage sites, two tunnels used by militants to carry out attacks on Israel and a portion of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza City. The Israeli military said it has killed at least 15 military officers and other combatants.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have fired more than 500 rockets into Israeli territory during that same time, Israeli officials said, killing two civilians in the nearby city of Ashkelon, amid one of the deadliest exchanges since the 2014 Gaza war.
Gazans had been preparing for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, when the violence suddenly escalated. Shop owners had been seeing a welcome spike in business, especially the sales of clothes, nuts and chocolate, despite strict health restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus epidemic. And Zaanin’s holiday was suddenly looking better after receiving a $100 payment, part of the financial aid that Qatar provides to Gazans to help support the economy.
“I did not intend to buy clothes for the Eid, but after I got financial help I decided to go to buy clothes for the 5-year-old twins,” she explained from her bed, surrounded by her mother, mother-in-law and other relatives.
But instead of celebrating this year, she will be recovering from minor operations to remove the shrapnel from her body. Every movement she makes is painful.
Moath Baroud, 26, had finished speaking with his fiancee on the telephone before drifting off to sleep Monday night in his fourth-floor apartment. Not long after, he recalled, an explosion rocked his seven-story building. It was so deafening, he said, that for a time he couldn’t hear his voice.
The Israeli airstrike may have targeted a Hamas activist on the top floor. A woman and her son living on the floor below were killed, he said.
“It was a difficult night. I stayed up all night until the time of the predawn meal” before the day-long fast, he said. “My whole family moved to my uncle’s house, and I got some sleep in the morning there.”
The bombing in Gaza continued through the night and has been intense, causing extensive damage around military sites and residential buildings struck by the Israelis.
For Gazans, who had been expecting that the coming holiday would offer some relief from the hardships of daily life, the renewed conflict has robbed them of that hope.
Omar Murtaja, 53, a nuts dealer, depends on the Eid season to cover many of his annual expenses. On Tuesday, he was sitting with his three sons in front of his shop on Jamal Abdel Nasser Street in Gaza City, waiting for customers.
“If conditions were normal, you might see long lines of people waiting to get the nuts that are placed on the first day of Eid for visitors, but unfortunately we are now with a small number of customers,” Murtaja said. “This year, I brought half the quantity that I’ve brought every other year, because of the lockdown due to the coronavirus, and only in the past week have the markets and shops reopened normally.”
He said some people are stocking up on holiday supplies now, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, because they fear the violence will get worse. But others are staying home.
“Most people are afraid,” he said.
Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem contributed to this report.