Skip to main content

War on Gaza: Palestinian drama teacher killed amid ‘deadliest’ assault on refugee camp

Artist Ahed Abu Hamda was among the estimated 90 victims of devastating air raids on the camp over Christmas
Ahed Abu Hamda (centre) was killed at the Maghazi camp in central Gaza (Artists on the Frontline/X)

A Palestinian artist and theatre maker was killed by Israeli forces amid air strikes on the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza over Christmas.

Ahed Abu Hamda, a drama teacher who worked with Theatre Day, a Gaza-based community theatre, was killed amid a devastating wave of air strikes targeting the densely populated camp, the organisation Artists On The Frontline reported on Wednesday.

The onslaught started just before midnight on Christmas Eve and continued into Christmas Day, killing at least 90 people, many of them children.

Israeli forces reportedly carried out more than 50 strikes that night on three refugee camps Al Bureij, An Nuseirat and Maghazi.

The Palestinian authorities reported that the intensifying strikes across the besieged enclave between 23 and 26 December had killed more than 250 people in 24 hours, as Israel stepped up its bombardment of Gaza. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The refugee camp, which is Gaza’s smallest, has previously been targeted by air strikes, but the attack on Sunday was described as one of the "deadliest" since the start of the conflict in early October.

The Israeli Air Force later expressed its "regret" after an internal investigation revealed it had used the wrong type of weaponry in the attack, wreaking extensive collateral damage.

No prior warning

According to Al Jazeera's Tareq Abu Azzoum, the camp is one of the most densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip, and is an area that had been designated “safe” by the Israeli military.

In previous assaults, Israeli forces would warn residents of an attack, but in Maghazi,  residents reported that the onslaught happened without prior warning, with entire residential blocks flattened and body parts scattered across the camp.

While the official death toll stands at 90, residents say the number is likely much higher.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa), the camp is normally home to 30,000 people, but it is estimated that the population has swollen to 100,000, with the influx of refugees fleeing intense Israeli bombardment in the north.

With no fuel to operate bulldozers and vehicles due to the “total siege” imposed on the strip by Israel, residents are digging through the rubble to recover victims with their bare hands.

A war on culture

Abu Hamda’s death comes after the Palestinian Ministry of Culture released a report revealing how the months-long Israeli onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip has torn through Palestine’s cultural sector. 

According to the report, at least 28 Palestinian artists, intellectuals and writers in Gaza have been killed since 7 October.

“The war on culture has always been at the heart of the aggressors’ war on our people, as the real war is a war on the narrative to steal the land and its rich treasures of knowledge, history, and civilization, along with the stories it holds,” Dr Atef Abu Saif said in the report's introduction.

On 13 December, Israeli forces raided the Freedom Theatre, a community theatre based in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, detaining three of its artists. Although two were subsequently released, Mustafa Sheta, the theatre’s producer and manager, remains in detention.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.