By Jared Malsin
Just before sundown today I went for a short run along the Gaza shoreline. Passing families relaxing on the beach, I was reflecting on what a remarkably calm holiday Gaza was enjoying this Eid Al-Adha.
I had thought too soon. When I returned to my apartment there was a missed call on my phone from minutes earlier. Emad, the director of Ma’an’s Gaza office, was calling to inform me that there was a deadly Israeli airstrike in Gaza City’s downtown.
Still sweating, I pulled on my jeans and grabbed a taxi to the scene of the strike, just off Al-Wehda street, not more than 500 meters from the Ma’an office. A missile fired from an Israeli drone had ripped a white Subaru in half. The front doors were butterflied out on either side of the car. The front seats, the upholstery burned off. In addition to bits of metal, rubber, and plastic lying everywhere in the street, there were flowers, as if someone’s bouquet had also been blown apart.
Standing there in the dark, the police shooing teenage boys from the scene, I was realized it was shocking that no passersby were injured in the strike. The street was packed with people, families with children, cars and motorcycles. The strike occurred at sundown on a holiday, one of the busiest evenings of the year in Gaza.
The Israeli military announced later that it assassinated the two men (brothers) because at least one of them was a member of the Army of Islam faction, which the military claimed, based on secret evidence, was planning to attack Israelis in the Sinai Peninsula.
I am going to report on the political-security side of this issue later. For now I want to flag a few things:
1. This strike was the second Israeli extrajudicial assassination in Gaza in as many weeks, marking the resumption of what Israel calls “targeted killings”
2. Whatever Israel claims these men were planning to do in the future, at the moment they were killed, they were not engaged in combat. They were in a calm situation, in their own country, driving in a car in a civilian area.
3. These attacks have a terrorizing effect. When bombs or missiles explode on busy streets, killing people, it terrorizes the population, no matter who is doing the bombing, and who are the victims. Of course Israel has been carrying out these attacks in the occupied territories for years, but when you get a look at the bombing up close, you get a sense of the sense of the fragility, the insecurity of daily life here.