Military fires shells at house, killing six, including three sisters and 9-month-old baby

The persons killed:

The three sisters

Sabrin Naser Muhammad Abu Fares-Abu Diyah, 27
Her son, Muhammad Salamah Muhammad Abu Diyah, 9 months
Nisrin Naser Muhammad Abu Fares, 26
Fawzeyeh Naser Muhammad Abu Fares, 17

Their neighbors

Ni'mah Saleh Salamah 'Ayash, 47
Hashem Muhammad ‘Ayed ‘Ali a-Zgheibi, 20

Testimony of Naser Abu Fares, 50, father of 12, who lost three daughters and a grandson in the incident:

I have two wives. Most of the time, I live with my first wife, Madallah, and our children: Nisrin, 27, Israa, 18, Fawzeyeh, 17, Ghazal, 12, Ramzi, 30, Majdi, 22, ‘Imran, 20, and Muhammad, 11. My wife Zinat, 34, and our three children, Hamzah, 6, Malak, 5, and Seif, 3, live in the other house, about 300 meters away.

When the war began, we started hearing shelling and bombing in the northern Gaza Strip. We live by the border and the strikes weren’t close to us, so we carried on as usual.

On Thursday, 13 May 2021, at around 6:30 P.M., I was sitting at my neighbors’ when suddenly, I heard two shells fall. I didn’t know where they’d landed, but I saw smoke billowing out of my first house. I ran over there quickly with my friends, but before we even got there, a third shell landed right next to us. I went inside the house, but it was full of smoke and dust so I couldn’t see who was hurt. I heard my neighbors say a shell had also landed on the home of our neighbors, the ‘Ayash family. They said Ni’mah ‘Ayash had been killed and that another shell had landed on the street and hit a resident named Hashem a-Zgheibi.

I continued searching the house. I found my daughters. Some of them were dismembered. My sons were wounded and there was blood everywhere. When I saw that, I blacked out for a few minutes. The neighbors woke me up, and then I found out that my daughters Sabrin, 27, Nisrin and Fawzeyeh, as well as Sabrin’s nine-month-old son Muhammad Abu Diyah, had been killed. Sabrin doesn’t live with us. She’s married and lives with her husband, but she was visiting us that day.

An ambulance came and took everyone to the Indonesian Hospital. I followed them in my car, which had also been damaged in the shelling. On the way, I saw people evacuating their homes because of the shelling and fleeing the area.

Naser Abu Fares on the ruins of his family's home

I barely made it to the hospital. I had to identify my daughters. I asked a doctor where they were, and he led me to a refrigerator to identify them. I searched among the dismembered body parts and clothes in the fridge. A forensic doctor who came there arranged the body parts so I could identify them. It was unbearable. I couldn’t take it, especially when he laid their parts out next to each other so I could identify my daughters and the baby.

We buried them the next day, with some relatives and friends in attendance. It wasn’t a regular funeral because everyone was anxious about the airstrikes. It was scary. The bombings didn’t stop. My daughter Israa didn’t come because she was in hospital. She’s still in the ICU. She’s injured in the chest, head, back and leg. 

From the hospital, I went with the rest of my family to al-Khalifah School in Beit Lahiya. Our house was in ruins. We had nowhere to go back to, and we were also afraid to go back there. We can’t bear to look at the walls, either. They still have traces of blood and bits of flesh on them. We had a rough time at the school. There was no food or drink, and there were no mattresses. The situation was bad and we couldn’t buy food or drink. We didn’t have any extra clothes, either. The war ended on Friday, and then I rented another house and my family moved there. I never thought something like this would happen to me, that I’d lose my daughters like that.

  • Testimony given to Muhammad Sabah on 25 May 2021
Naser Abu Fares, 50
Naser Abu Fares

I continued searching the house. I found my daughters. Some of them were dismembered. My sons were wounded and there was blood everywhere. When I saw that, I blacked out for a few minutes.

Testimony of Isma’il ‘Ayash al-Khatib, 50, Ni’amah’s brother:

My wife and I lived on the ground floor, and my mother lived next door in a tin house. I had started building another floor above me. There’s an internal staircase leading up to it, but the floor’s not ready for living in yet.

When the war started, we stayed home and everything was normal, except for the sound of shelling and the airplanes, tanks and ships that were bombarding the northern Gaza Strip. Everyone in al-Qarayah carried on as usual and we didn’t evacuate our homes, because we’re close to the border and there are no Hamas outposts in the area.

On Thursday, 13 May 2021, at around 6:30 P.M., I was in my apartment with my mother Hamdiya, 75, my sister Ni’mah, 47, and my married sister Sarah, who was visiting my mother for the holiday. Our neighbors Jamileh a-Zgheibi and her daughter-in-law were at our place, too. They were all sitting in the garden and I was inside. It was the first day of ‘Eid al-Fitr.

Suddenly, I heard a series of explosions and saw smoke, dust and flames. I heard screaming and windows shattering. I ran to the garden to see if my mother and sisters were okay, and saw debris on the staircase. I thought it might have been a warning missile, so I got everyone inside quickly. My sister Ni’mah went into my apartment and up the stairs to the first floor. My sister Sarah, the neighbor Jamileh and her daughter-in-law went into my apartment, and I helped my mother come in there, too.

Just then, I heard three more explosions in a row. I grabbed some personal documents and we ran out of the house, which collapsed. I went out to the street and saw it was full of rubble and lumps of concrete. I heard screaming and crying and saw injured people lying on the ground. The street was in ruins. It was full of blood and dust and smoke. It was an unbearable sight. There were also ambulances and rescue teams. I ran away, supporting my mother. We walked about a hundred meters until we got to the ambulances. They couldn’t reach the entrance to our house.

Isma'il Ayash on the stairs of his family's home

My mother, my wife and I were taken to the Indonesian Hospital. I didn’t see my sister Ni’mah, and didn’t know what had happened to her. I assumed she’d made it out. I saw my sister Sarah and our neighbor Jamileh and her daughter-in-law running away. I saw that Naser Abu Fares’ house next door was completely destroyed. I saw people trying to extract bodies from the ruins.

At the hospital, I looked for my sister Ni’mah. I searched the wards and after an hour and a half, I found her in the refrigerator. She had been killed by shrapnel in the stairwell. I heard Hashem a-Zgheibi, who had been hit by shrapnel from a shell that landed by our front door, was also dead. Later, I heard Naser Abu Fares had lost three of his daughters and his grandson.

From the Indonesian Hospital, we went to al-Khalifah School at the Beit Lahiya project. We arrived at the school with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We stayed there in really harsh conditions. We sat on the floor and slept on the floor. Three or four days later, people donated some mattresses and blankets. We had nothing to eat or drink, and it was total chaos. There was nothing but sadness, pain and depression on people’s faces. They were mourning their dead or wounded sons, and the homes destroyed in the shelling. It all happened when we were in our homes, on the first day of the holiday.

  • Testimony given to Muhammad Sabah on 28 May 2021

Isma’il ‘Ayash, 50, whose sister Ni’mah who was killed in the incident
Isma'il ‘Ayash

I went out to the street and saw it was full of rubble and lumps of concrete. I heard screaming and crying and saw injured people lying on the ground. The street was in ruins. It was full of blood and dust and smoke. It was an unbearable sight.