Hundreds of mourners in Gaza have attended the funeral of Inas Abu Khmash, a 23-year-old pregnant woman, and her 18-month daughter, Bayan, who were both killed during an overnight barrage of Israeli air attacks and artillery shelling.
The Israeli military said on Thursday it struck more 140 sites in different parts across the Gaza Strip after 150 rockets were fired from inside the besieged coastal enclave, injuring at least six people in Israel.
The violence came as the United Nations and neighbouring Egypt tried to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas, the group administering the Gaza Strip, for a lasting truce. Later on Thursday, a Hamas official reportedly said that an Egypt-brokered deal had been reached to end the flare-up in violence.
Attacks had resumed earlier on Thursday for a second consecutive day amid rising tensions.
At least 18 Palestinian were wounded on Thursday afternoon after a high-rise building in Gaza City was flattened in the latest Israeli air raids, health officials said.
|The remains of a five-storey cultural centre in central Gaza after it was hit by Israeli air strikes on Thursday [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]|
One of the areas hit overnight in Gaza city was Deir al-Balah, where Inas – almost nine months pregnant with a baby girl – her husband Mohammed and Bayan have been living since April 2017.
On Wednesday, the family opted to sleep in the living room by a balcony overlooking a small garden that allows for some cool air to enter the small apartment – especially during warm summer nights when electricity to run air-conditioning is barely available.
At around 2am, two powerful explosions were heard, neighbours told Al Jazeera.
“As soon as I heard, I knew the attack targeted Mohammed’s home,” said Khalid Abu Sanjar, one of several neighbours who rushed to the scene.
|The Abu Khmash home hours after the Israeli attack [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]|
Witnesses said what they saw in the immediate aftermath of the attack was “shocking”. The attack had ripped right through the living room, destroying the front end of the family’s apartment.
“There was blood everywhere,” said Abu Sanjar. “We were shaken to the core,” he added.
“We saw the remains of Inas and Bayan and immediately called the ambulance and began collecting the body parts.”
Abu Sanjar said Mohammed was “still screaming” when help arrived.
According to Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza, Mohammed suffered “serious” injuries to the head and other parts of his body.
“Mohammed said he hit his head on the ceiling and fell on the floor because of the intensity of the air strike,” according to his brother, Kamal, who also run to the house after being informed by the neighbours.
The 30-year-old is being treated at a local hospital. He is still unaware of his family’s fate.
|Iman [right] considered her sister her role model and mentor [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]|
Inside the wrecked apartment, ruins are all that remain, with damaged furniture and blood-splattered walls. Toys and stuffed animals are crushed and covered in rubble. Bayan’s crib is still standing. Inside, there is a pair of tiny shoes.
“My sister was only sleeping, why did she have to die like this,” Inas’ 19-year-old sister Iman, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
Iman said all her sister ever wanted was to “work hard” to be able to secure a bright future for her family and children.
The two had spent the last few weeks together picking out new baby clothes for the arrival of Inas’ second daughter, who was to be named Razan.
“I can’t understand it. I wish the [Israeli] soldier could who fired at my sister and niece could for a second feel what I’m feeling inside,” Iman said.
“I want him to feel the pain and agony that I now have to live with,” she said.
At least 12 Palestinians, including children, were injured in the overnight barrage, the health ministry said. Ali Youssef al-Ghandour, a 30-year-old member of Hamas’ armed wing, were also killed in Wednesday’s attacks.
|Bayan’s toys lay in the rubble hours after the attack [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]|
One of those wounded is Mohammed.
His siblings say they fear for his wellbeing and say they cannot fathom losing another brother so quickly.
Mohammed’s 23-year-old brother Kamel was among at least 70 other Palestinians who were shot dead by Israeli forces on May 14, during Gaza’s Great March of Return rallies.
At least 157 people have been killed by Israeli gunfire since March 30, when popular protests against Israel’s naval, aerial and land blockade of Gaza and for the right of Palestinians to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948 began.
“We’re still recovering from my other brother Kamel’s death,” said Mohammed’s sister, Faiza.
The 40-year-old said the whole family shared a meal together hours before Wednesday’s night attack.
“We were all at my brother’s house, everything was fine when we left,” Faiza told Al Jazeera.
“Perhaps we were meant to be there as a final goodbye”.