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'Only God can save our souls,' says resident of Gaza area pounded by Israel

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — All night, the people of Gaza heard rumors of what was happening in Shijaiyah, the town glowing orange on the horizon, the scene of the most intense Israeli bombardment of the 13-day-old conflict.

Then, during a brief cease-fire Sunday, they got a closer look.

After a few hundred yards, Shijaiyah’s main boulevard became impassable for vehicles because of shredded trees and downed power lines. House after house showed signs of heavy damage and raging fires from sustained shelling by tanks and artillery.

Shattered glass and household belongings — a stuffed animal, a pair of undershorts, a bag of mangos — were strewn on the sidewalks. Charred automobiles and at least two abandoned ambulances blocked the way.

The earliest responders found bodies in the streets.

The Gaza Health Ministry, run by Hamas, says that at least 70 Palestinians died in the Shijaiyah offensive, including at least 17 children and 14 women. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were also slain, seven of them when a mine blew up under their armored vehicle, military officials said.

Reporters who arrived in the midafternoon during the cease-fire, arranged by the Red Crescent humanitarian organization, witnessed chaotic scenes of ambulance drivers struggling to fill their bays with wounded. On one street, seven stretchers were carried out of the rubble in 10 minutes. Some of the injured looked near death. Armed militants dashed down the street, their faces covered by checkered scarves.

Journalists who arrived a little later were turned back by a man firing an automatic rifle into the air and screaming, “Only ambulances!”

Israeli military officials said that Shijaiyah was an important and legitimate target — a stronghold for militants and a launchpad for constant rocket fire at Israel, with a dense urban population living atop a warren of tunnels used by militant wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Palestinians evacuate a young boy who was injured following an Israeli strike in Gaza City, on July 20, 2014.

Mahmud Hams/AFP

Capt. Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said the assault on Shijaiyah was intended to destroy Hamas tunnels and was not part of an effort by Israeli troops to move into the urban core or reoccupy the Gaza Strip.

The district is less than a mile from the Israeli border, he said, and many of Hamas’s tunnels are that long. The militants, he added, were fighting back fiercely.

Sami Abu Zohri, a Hamas spokesman, called the Israeli offensive in Shijaiyah “a massacre against civilians and a war crime.” He promised that “it will not break the people’s will. The resistance will continue.”

In the early morning, thousands of panicked residents were fleeing the overcrowded community of shops and homes and heading into Gaza City.

“I saw dead and injured on the street. I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t carry them. I had my arms full with my own children,” said Jalal Ghoula, an unemployed police officer who sat slumped in the shade of a brick wall outside the Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical center.

Ghoula said that residents had been warned by the Israelis to evacuate but that many would leave the area briefly and then return. The United Nations is offering refuge in 60 vacant schools but provides the barest minimum — temporary safety, potable water and a floor to sleep on.

“One of our neighbors ran out of his house and left behind his son,” a 4-year-old, Ghoula said, explaining that the man was confused and terrified. “He forgot him!”

Ghoula left on foot with 32 relatives, including 19 children. “Only God saved our souls,” he said.

A relative mourns among comrades of Sergeant Banaya Rubel, an Israeli soldier killed during the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, during his funeral in the city of Holon, near Tel Aviv on July 20, 2014.

David Buimovitch/AFP

Inside the hospital, emergency rooms were overflowing with patients.

“We’re completely full,” said Sohbi Skaik, a surgeon and medical director. “We are operating in the corridors.”

Asked what kind of injuries he was seeing, Skaik said, “All kinds! Everything. Every way they are dying.”

“This is the worst I have ever seen,” the physician said. “They are targeting whole families. Killing whole families. The number of children, the number of women. This is against life. This is inhumane.”

In Gaza City, evacuees who arrived from Shijaiyah were being allowed to shelter in the lobbies of buildings, in corridors. They were exhausted, desperate, afraid and asking for food.

Washington Post staff writer Ruth Eglash in Kfar Aza, Israel, contributed to this report.

© 2014, The Washington Post

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If they were concerned for their souls, maybe they shouldn’t have been letting their people fire rockets into Israel from their neighborhoods. EVERY DAY for YEARS. If they spent as much money on their people as they do on rockets, imagine how nice their lives could be.

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Stop watching CNN and open your eyes.

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Soy Judio

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Ken Morris

Don’t let me make this into more than it is, but you may want to reconsider mentioning that you’re Jewish when defending Israel, for two reasons.

First, many Jews don’t support a lot of what Israel does either, so being Jewish is almost irrelevant to the political issues.

Second, the equating of Jews with Israel in the popular mind is probably harmful to Jews. I have some Tico friends who are disturbingly anti-Jewish (which offends me) but when pressed I realize that they are really only anti-Israel.

You are of couse entitled to your opinion, but mine over the years has been turning anti-Israel while remaining pro-Jew. I’m not Jewish, but members of my family are, as also are lots of friends and people I work with. I will go to bat for Jews in an instant, but I’m afraid that I can’t do the same for Israel. These are increasingly two different things, I’m afraid, and IMO its unwise to link the two.

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Well, hate to be stereotypical, but I’d side with a fellow Jew over any other type of human being in any other circumstance. My loyalties will always lay with my brethren, no matter what country they are living in or are from.

My support is not based at all on the state of Israel, it’s based on a group of people supporting shooting rockets at my brethren. As far as I’m concerned, you could carpet bomb gaza back to the stone age (with sufficient notice for civilians to evacuate,) and you’d be doing the world a service.

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Mario Catcat

To paraphrase Golda Meir….

Israel can and will forgive the “Palestinians” for killing their children, what they will have a hard time forgiving is the “Palestinians” forcing Israelis to kill “Palestines” children.

I hope one day the Palestinians learn to love their children more than they hate the Israelis so this can end.

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I guess you must hate everything even us Costa Ricans that struggle against the US empire.

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Marvelous Marv

You mean a few far left wingers like yourself who create artificial struggles? I think the hate burns in your heart far hotter than those you accuse. Why don’t you expound on all the successes of the radical left in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua? The answer is you can’t. The radical left only delivers poor levels of living and misery based on failed economic theories, bad administration and authoritarian leadership.

What have you to say today about your hero Putin? Who will you demonize to cover up for others personal and political failings?

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Frank Castle

Meanwhile, in Iraq, these same Muslim barbarians with different names like ISIS are driving out and/or killing Christians in Mosul where they have lived for centuries. Of course, the media doesn’t report on that. Christians aren’t important in the Western media just Muslims. Also, the coverage is almost nonexistent of the Israelis running for fallout shelters when the Hamas rockets are fired at them.

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Thank God the Japanese didn’t have your attitude. They would have never rebuilt their cities and became a world economic force.

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US goverment and Israel Goverment do not want peace for 1.8 million people in a prison called Gaza. I understand that Israel can defend against man made rockets threating there people. I had chance to visit Gaza and the West bank these areas are given just enough food just enough water just enough medical suppiles by Israel goverment and US goverment. Israel goverment wll not let Gaza or the West Bank grow there own food or start a small business because everything is controlled by Israel and US goverment. I agree that Israel can defend it self. Gaza and West bank are given just enough to live there lies the problem.

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