Testimonies of Mu’az Subuh and Baraa Subuh
Military fires missile at house, killing mother and three children
Testimony of Muhammad al-'Attar, 37, whose family was killed in the incident:
Before the war, I lived on the ground floor [of a building] in the al-’Atatrah neighborhood, in the town of Beit Lahiya, with my wife and our three children: Islam, Amirah and Muhammad. My brother Diaa’, his wife and their three children lived on the same floor. My brother Ihab, his wife and their five children lived on the first floor, and my brother Bahaa lived next to him. My mother Sabha lived on the second floor with my brother Tamim.
We have no connection to any organizations, and there are no government offices or military buildings and facilities in our neighborhood. Our area is very quiet, so we carried on with our lives at home as usual, even during the war. Of course, like all Gaza residents, we heard the Israeli airstrikes and the shelling from Israeli navy ships in northwestern Beit Lahiya. We also heard about the dead and wounded and about residential buildings and homes destroyed all over the Gaza Strip.
On Thursday night, after midnight, there was heavy bombing in the northern Gaza Strip – in Beit Hanoun and northern Beit Lahiya. Everyone was very tense and stressed because the noise was very loud, especially as it was the middle of the night and everything else was quiet. Half an hour after it all began, we heard an explosion nearby. The noise was horrifying. We thought it might be a good idea to get out of the apartment, but we hesitated because the bombings were right by the house. Suddenly, in one moment, there was an explosion inside and the house crashed down on us.
I found myself under debris, in complete darkness. I tried to get out from under it, but couldn’t. I turned on the phone flashlight and tried to find my wife and children, but I couldn’t see them or hear any of their voices.
I called my uncle, who works for the rescue team. I said: “Come quickly. We’re under rubble because our house was bombed, help!” I told him I couldn’t find my wife and children and that the rest of my family was trapped under the rubble.
The rescue teams arrived after more than half an hour. They started picking up the debris – stones, sand, furniture, everything. After an hour and a half, they found my wife with her arms around our three children, but none of them were alive. They were covered in concrete and sand and had suffocated immediately. I saw them, but they looked like they were asleep. It was a terrible shock when I realized they weren’t moving or breathing, that they were lifeless bodies.
We were all taken to Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital, where we had tests and X-rays and were treated. The next day, with a broken heart and deep sorrow, we laid the martyrs to rest: my wife and my children, Islam, Amirah and Muhammad.
After the burial, I went with the rest of my family to the UNRWA school. We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We stayed there a few days without food or drink. We barely managed to get hold of a few items, and had something to eat and drink that area residents brought. A few days later, we moved to my friend’s house in the a-Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City and stayed there until the end of the war. When it was over, we went back to our ruined home and sat on the wreckage. Then we rented apartments to live in until we rebuild our house. We still haven’t processed what happened to us.
The Israelis destroyed my world. They ruined everything around me and left me alone. They simply erased my family from the population registry. There is no one left to comfort me. There’s no one from my family by my side, the family I dreamt of for so long. I pictured my children’s futures. I hoped to give them everything they needed and provide them with a good education. I dreamed of playing with them, having fun with them, traveling with them, always being by their side and living with them and for them. But that beautiful dream is over. Everything is over. Everyone has gone and will never return. They killed them and with that, killed me, too. They left me without any hope, without a future, to live a meaningless life. I tried so hard to give them a normal life, a life of dignity, contentment, stability. But I failed to protect them even inside my own house, the space that was supposed to be the safest for them and for me.
- According to the military, Hamas’ tunnel network ran close to the house.
- Testimony given to Muhammad Sabah on 6 June 2021
Testimony of Manar al-‘Attar, 40, mother of five, Lamyaa’s sister-in-law:
The building we lived in had three floors, with two apartments on each. There were 29 of us living there, all from the same family. I lived with my family on the second floor and Lamyaa and her family lived on the first floor.
The day before the Israeli planes bombed our house was a high holiday. Despite the war and the airstrikes, we tried to make the kids happy. They dressed up for the occasion and were glad even though we adults were very worried. In the evening, my sister-in-law Manal called and said she was scared and wanted to stay with us until the airstrikes were over. In 2009, her house was bombed and her husband and his two brothers were killed. We told her to come over, that our home was her home. She came and stayed in my brother-in-law Muhammad’s apartment on the first floor.
On Thursday, after midnight, we were all home. That day, there were heavy Israeli airstrikes. My husband Ihab went to the bedroom, and I stayed with my sons in the living room. At around midnight, I told my husband to come be with us in the living room. As soon as he left the bedroom, it was bombed. The windows shattered and all the doors in the house crashed. We all screamed and cried. We ran from the living room to the kitchen.
A few seconds later, Ihab said he thought it was over and everything was quiet. But then the house started shaking and I fell over. We looked at each other and didn’t understand what was happening. The fridge fell on my husband and then the ceiling collapsed on us and on top of the fridge. There was a gas leak and we felt that we were suffocating. We screamed and called out for help, but no one heard us. My son-in-law turned on his phone’s flashlight and turned off the gas valve. My sons and daughters were screaming because they thought their father was dead. I grabbed Ihab’s hand and asked him if he was okay, and he said that he was. He asked me to get out of the house with the kids and leave him there, but I refused. My daughter Nur called an ambulance and the Civil Defense, but they didn’t pick up. She called relatives and asked for help.
About 15 minutes later, I heard my brother-in-law Bahaa, 39. He called out and my daughters shouted back. He came right away and got them out. Then my brother-in-law Tamim, 30, came and helped Bahaa get us out from under the debris. They got all my kids out. I refused to leave and insisted on staying with my husband. He was trapped under the fridge. It was hard to move it, and we were also afraid the ceiling would fall on him. My brothers-in-law tried to get him out for about 45 minutes and miraculously, managed in the end. Thank God, my husband emerged safe and sound and we weren’t hurt.
When we were outside, we shone our flashlights on the house and saw it was in ruins. We were sure Lamyaa and her small children were dead. Everyone was looking for them under the rubble and calling out to her. At around 1:00 A.M., my brother-in-law Bahaa said he’d seen Lamyaa and her kids under the rubble and couldn’t save them. He said they’d been killed.
At around 2:00 A.M., Civil Defense vehicles and ambulances arrived and got Lamyaa and her young children out from under the rubble. They were taken to Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza.
We all moved to the UNRWA schools in the a-Rimal neighborhood. We were barefoot and had only the clothes on our backs, most of which were torn. We were in shock by what had happened to us and were very sad. We got to the school, which was unlivable. There were no water, food, mattresses or clothes, but it was safer than being at home.
We didn’t get to say goodbye to Lamyaa and the kids. Their bodies were taken out of the freezers and immediately buried. Only my husband, my brothers-in-law and a few other relatives attended the funeral. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I can’t describe it. I wanted to say goodbye to her and hug her and the kids. I couldn’t believe I’d lost them. I still haven’t processed what happened. Lamyaa was a very good woman. I loved her, and we were almost inseparable. Lamyaa’s kids were always at my house, playing with my son Ahmad. He keeps asking about them and can’t believe they’re dead. He keeps asking us to get them out from under the rubble, like we removed some of the furniture. He’s in a bad emotional state. At night, when the power is cut off, he screams and says our house is about to be destroyed and asks us not to leave him.
Lamyaa has another daughter, Suzan, from a previous marriage. She comes over a lot now. She cries and you can see the sadness in her eyes. I comfort her and stay by her side, take her for walks with us and tell her that we’ll never give up on her, that she’s like a daughter to us.
I lived in that house for 21 years, and now I’m at my daughter’s house. I worked hard to have my own home. I deprived myself of things to save money, but everything was destroyed in an instant. I found some documents and jewelry, but you can’t bring back all the memories. Now our lives are very hard and everything feels pointless. I spend most of my time sleeping with the kids, to get away from thoughts about what happened to us. Losing Lamyaa and her kids is unbearable. You can be compensated for a house, but they can’t be brought back to life. They’re gone forever.
Life goes on and must go on. I pray for Lamyaa and her sons to enter into the grace of God, and that her husband will have patience. He’s in a terrible mental state. I haven’t seen him crying. He’s in shock over what happened and can’t cry, but you can see the sorrow in his eyes. I hope he receives salvation from heaven.
- Testimony given to Olfat al-Kurd on 28 June 2021