Several Palestinian civil society groups have called for an independent investigation into the Israeli bombing of the al-Mabarra Center for the Disabled in Jabalia which killed two residents and wounded four, who remain in the hospital with severe burns and shrapnel wounds.
The attack took place on the weekend, so only 5 of the 19 residents were there, while the rest were at home visiting their families. Among the wounded were Mai Hamada, 30, and Salwa Abu al-Qomssan, 53, the caretaker of the center, who had returned from morning prayers just minutes before the bombing.
The Guardian newspaper reported, after interviews with eyewitnesses, “It seemed a miracle that anyone could have survived a missile that exploded in the very centre of a room where a fin and part of its guidance system remained embedded in the concrete. A scorched bed stood to one side, damaged by the blast, which blew out the walls and left palm trees in the garden as truncated stumps standing among the rubble. ‘The bomb came straight through the roof’, said Mohammad Bahri, 22, who lives next door. ‘About 4.30am two drones fired warning shots and then the jet came in and bombed.’
“The residents were barely mobile, said neighbors, spending their time in bed or in wheelchairs, and could not escape. Imad Abu Shedek denied there had been Palestinian missile fire nearby. ‘There was no resistance here. The guy upstairs, I heard he was maybe affiliated with Islamic Jihad, but he wasn’t there. The first I knew was when I heard the air strike and got here and saw the bodies.’”
Stephanie Dekker, a reporter with Al Jazeera who has been reporting from Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, reported, “Most of the casualties we are seeing here are, overwhelmingly, civilians. It really is a horrendous scene. People are absolutely terrified. The hospitals are having issues with the lack of materials to deal with the people coming in.’
About the attack on the al-Mabarra Center for the Disabled, the Director told a New York Times reporter that Israeli forces had dropped a ‘warning shot’ before the bomb that destroyed the center, “But no one understood what it meant,” she said. “No one could imagine the center would be a target for anyone.” In any case, she said, the severity of the residents’ disabilities would have prevented them from fleeing on their own.”
The New York Times reported that they spoke with an anonymous Israeli military official, who said they are “investigating now what was the target, what was the intelligence” that led them to target the center for disabled. The army spokesperson claimed that “Hamas’ operational infrastructure is not in specific military camps or posts. A building with two floors may have a weapons storage site on the first floor, he said, “and above it, regular families.”
But no evidence was provided to show that any such weapon caches had been uncovered. The military’s claim was speculative in nature, providing a claim with no evidence to support it. The anonymous spokesperson showed aerial photographs of a mosque that the military had targeted in another attack on Saturday in Nusseirat, saying that it was “a Hamas rocket cache and a gathering point for militants”. But the aerial photograph showed no weapons, and the bombing of the mosque resulted in no secondary explosions, which would have been the case if there had been weapons present.
Muhammad al-Gharbi, The head of the al-Salam Center in Gaza, said that Israel, in this latest assault on Gaza, has engaged in unparalleled barbarism, manifest in the frequent violations of international laws and humanitarian decrees.
He further drew attention to the need to appeal to international courts to take legal action against Israel for the war crime of targeting Palestinian disabled civilians and therapeutic centers, which are supposed to be ‘neutral’ sites, and not targets during wars.