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Israel-Palestine war: Nine family members of New Jersey town official killed in Gaza

According to Cair, Sami Shaban's uncle is in critical condition due to burns from white phosphorus
Palestinians mourn relatives killed during Israeli bombardment during their funeral in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on 31 October 2023 (AFP)

Nine family members of a New Jersey resident were killed this week during Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza while another family member is in critical condition due to severe burns, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-New Jersey (Cair-NJ).

Sami Shaban is a member of the education board for New Jersey’s Franklin Township. His family members killed in Gaza are his paternal cousins while his relative still in critical condition is his paternal uncle.

Cair-NJ said on Tuesday that his uncle's burns were caused by white phosphorous. No further details on the circumstances of the deaths have been made public as of yet.

Shaban will be speaking at a press conference on Wednesday with Cair-NJ.

“Cair-NJ continues to urge elected officials to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and across the West Bank as Israeli aggressions mount,” a statement by Cair-NJ said.

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“The group also mourns the loss of life in Palestine and stands firmly in unwavering solidarity with Palestinians and their right to freedom.”

The Israeli army has denied using white phosphorus during its military operations in Gaza, but rights group Amnesty International said it has collected evidence of white phosphorous artillery shells in civilian areas, which violates international humanitarian law.

Cair-NJ's announcement comes just weeks after 15 members of a New Jersey imam's family were killed during an air strike in Gaza. 

At least 8,525 Palestinians have died since 7 October when the war broke out after a Hamas-led attack in southern Israel killed at least 1,400 Israelis. According to Palestinian officials, 3,542 children and 2,187 women have been killed in Gaza due to Israel's response to the attack, with numbers growing as the assault on the besieged enclave continues. 

Around 2,000 people are still missing, including 1,100 children. The vast majority of these people are believed to be dead and buried under rubble.

On Tuesday, at least 400 Palestinians were killed or wounded by an Israeli air strike during intense bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp, according to Palestinian officials. 

Follow Middle East Eye's live coverage for the latest on the Israel-Palestine war

New Jersey is home to thousands of Palestinians and the city of Paterson is the most populous city in Passaic County. It stands third in terms of population in New Jersey. 

Although the precise number of Arab residents remains unknown, the executive director of the Palestinian American Community Centre, Rania Mustafa, suggests the figure in Paterson could be around 20,000, Middle East Eye has reported previously. A significant portion of this community traces its roots back to Palestine.

Just last year, the Paterson City Council voted unanimously to rename a five-block area of Main Street Palestine Way, in honour of the city's large Palestinian community and its contributions to business and civic life.

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