'They were playing': Gaza mourns children killed in Israeli air strikes
At least 20 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed in a series of Israeli air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, while a further 60 were injured in the bombardment.
Among those killed were two siblings from the al-Masri family, Ibrahim, 11, and seven-year-old Marwan, from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
'The dust and the smell of blood and death filled the place in a moment, and children were bleeding on the side of the street,'
- Marwa al-Masri, relative of five Palestinians killed in Israeli raids on Gaza
Seven other Palestinians were reported killed in the same attack.
"The children were playing with their cousins in front of the house when a man on a motorcycle passed by, and the occupation targeted him twice," Youssef al-Masri, the children's father, told Middle East Eye.
"My children were martyred. I cannot find any justification whatsoever for targeting someone passing through overcrowded civilian neighbourhoods where dozens of children usually play," he added.
Eyewitnesses reported that the air strikes hit crowded neighbourhoods after armed Palestinian groups at the eastern Gaza border targeted an Israeli military vehicle with a Kornet missile, and launched a barrage of rockets towards Israel.
Palestinian armed groups said their rocket-launching was in retaliation to the Israeli "crimes and abuses" in Jerusalem, including attacks on Palestinians at al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
The Israeli military has released footage of an air strike it carried out on a building in Gaza, claiming that it killed three Hamas fighters.
'It makes my heart bleed'
Ibrahim and Marwan, who were killed on Monday's raid, were Masri's only children. They liked to play in the street near their home before the Iftar [fast-breaking] meal during Ramadan.
"This criminal occupation whose reality we have known for decades still maintains [its] usual image of killing children, women and unarmed civilians," Masri said.
Marwa al-Masri, from another branch of the family, told MEE that two further Israeli air strikes hit as families were preparing for their Iftar meal.
"I was coming back home from work when two explosions rocked the neighbourhood. The dust and the smell of blood and death filled the place in a moment, and children were bleeding on the side of the street," she said.
"I saw my cousin hugging her children and screaming, all of this happened in just one moment. I still cannot imagine that this happened."
Five members of Marwa's family were killed, and others were injured.
"It makes my heart bleed. While people were preparing for their Iftar in Ramadan, we were holding the coffins of our children killed in cold blood by the occupation," she continued.
"This occupation is practising violence and terror against Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza, and against everything that is Palestinian since 1948."
After a week of a violent Israeli crackdown on Palestinian protests in Jerusalem, tensions escalated further on Monday as Israeli settler groups were preparing for a massive march in the Old City.
Israel's military said a man had been injured by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza, while the Israeli emergency medical service Magen David Adom said a 49-year-old man was in a stable condition after being injured by shards of glass.
'Children were killed and young men were bleeding. Mothers were crying and screaming'
- Ahmed Nasser, neighbour of the Masri family
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz declared the area within 80km of the Gaza Strip under military control for the next 48 hours.
Earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond "with great force" to the Palestinian rockets.
"We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens, or our soldiers," he said.
Ahmed Nasser, a neighbour of the Masri family, told MEE that the neighbourhood families were preparing food when the air strikes hit their street.
"We were preparing for Iftar, and children and youths were sitting in the neighbourhood, before a massive explosion, followed by another one, suddenly rocked the street," he said.
"I ran out to the street and the scene was horrific. Children were killed and young men were bleeding. Mothers were crying and screaming while the [targeted] motorcycle and its driver were on fire," Nasser continued.
"The scene was a nightmare that I am still seeing. We were preparing the food, and we left it on the table, only to eat in the hospital with our grieving neighbours."
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.