Nine people were killed and 15 wounded as football fans were bombed when watching the World Cup semi-final in the Gaza Strip
Palestinian football fans gathered in a café in Gaza last night to watch the World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Holland, in a bid to seek respite from the barrage of airstrikes that have killed scores of people since Operation Protective Edge began early on Monday morning.
There was to be no let-up in Israel’s bombing campaign, however, as horror struck and missiles rained down on the Fun Time Beach café killing nine people and wounding 15.
All that remains of the popular beach front café, where people were breaking their Ramadan fast and watching the football, is a large crater and several mounds of sand.
Shortly before the attack took place the official Twitter account of the Israeli army tweeted a message on the World Cup hashtag informing social media users about the number of rockets fired into Israel since the beginning of the tournament.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) July 9, 2014
The Israeli airstrike scattered the dead and wounded fans across the beach, making a hole so large seawater filled it after impact.
“It was a normal social occasion,” Wael Soboh, a local policeman employed by the Palestinian Authority, told AFP.
“The boys ate their Ramadan iftar meal there, and then began watching the match. It is not a military area,” he said.
Eight people were immediately killed by the blast, medical sources said, all of them residents of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Bulldozers were seen earlier on Thursday looking for a ninth man believed buried in the rubble, while locals looked on in the searing midday heat.
Palestinians search for bodies in the cafe's rubble (AFP)
“It’s possible the missing guy was blown to pieces,” another local, Mohammed Astal, told AFP.
Later, Gaza’s emergency services spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said the body had been found, raising the death toll to nine.
Most of those killed in the attack were in their 20s and residents said three members of an extended family – Ahmed, Suleiman and Mussa Astal – were among the dead.
“There was a power cut in Khan Younis, so a lot of people came here where there’s a generator and a screen,” Mohammed al-Aqad, a resident who was at the café when the missile hit but was not injured, told AFP.
Aqad said all those killed were keen football fans, as were some of the locals who were helping in the search for the missing man.
Asked who they were supporting in the World Cup, one enthusiastically replied: “Argentina, of course!”
“No, Germany,” chipped in another, though he was wearing a red England shirt.
There were no goals in the dour match on Wednesday evening, which eventually Argentina won on penalties.
“And the result from this match here? The Jews won 9-0.” Ahmed al-Aqad darkly told AFP.
The death toll from Operation Protective Edge stands at 85, with hundreds injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, with strikes carrying on throughout the day on Thursday.