#GazaUnderAttack: Bride-to-be Shaimaa killed with family as Israel 'targets civilians'

#GazaUnderAttack: Bride-to-be Shaimaa killed with family as Israel 'targets civilians'
As Israel bombs Gaza indiscriminately, stories are emerging of civilians suffering unspeakable loss and tragedy. This is the story of Shaimaa, killed in an Israeli strike days before her wedding. Alaa al-Helou reports from the besieged enclave.
4 min read
Gaza city
20 May, 2021
Israel's relentless bombardment of Gaza is causing huge trauma among its civilian population [AFP/Getty Images]

Shaimaa Abu al-Ouf stood no chance of survival as her family home in Wehda Street, Gaza City, was shelled intensively by Israeli warplanes on Sunday. The young Palestinian bride-to-be was among the dozens killed after a strike hit the residential building, leaving many others trapped underneath the rubble and fighting for their lives.

Shaimaa and Anas al-Yazji, the groom, had planned to celebrate their wedding after Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan. However, this was not to be. Shaimaa was killed after the airstrike hit her family home, as Israel continues its violent bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

The residential block she lived in is now a pile of rubble. The remnants of decorations, broken perfume bottles and gifts can be seen scattered among the debris. What should have been a picture of happiness is now one of agony and loss.

 What should have been a picture of happiness is now one of agony and loss

The groom’s pain and shock was clear as he recounted speaking to his fiancée, who was terrified of the sound of the bombs, until the last moment. “I asked her where she was, and when she told me, I told her to find a safe place, we heard a massive explosion. The line then cut out."

Anas did not know that this would be his last conversation with Shaimaa. The airstrike had targeted the residential building in which the Abu al-Ouf family lived, along with a number of other civilians, mainly women and children.

Shaimaa Bride to be killed in Gaza
Shaimaa (L) and her sister Rawan were among the victims of an Israeli strike on Sunday 16/05/2021 that destroyed the Abu al-Ouf family building in Gaza (family handout)

Anas told The New Arab’s sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that he and Shaimaa had been putting the finishing touches to their apartment, ready for their wedding. The family had decided this would be held after Eid, but Israel’s warplanes destroyed the plans they had made and the dreams they had.

Israel’s warplanes destroyed the plans they had made and the dreams they had

The violent shelling of the area was carried out without warning and destroyed three residential blocks, leading to the deaths of 43 civilians. The area, which was previously considered to be a ‘safe’, residential zone, is now deserted. All that is left is the smell of death, loss and burning ash.

Shaimaa’s uncle, Baha Abu al-Ouf, survived the massacre. He said that the family had been looking forward to celebrating the wedding after Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr were over. However now the fate of the family was buried under the earth and the dreams of the young couple of bringing up a family together in safety had been shattered. 

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Abu al-Ouf, who has been observing the rescue team’s efforts to dig out those missing under the rubble since dawn on Sunday, reiterated that the strike on the house had been carried out with no warning, and this had led to the deaths of most of those in the building, mainly women and children.

“15 members of my family were martyred, and 10 were martyred from two other families who were renting in the building”

Shaimaa’s aunt and her four sons were also among those killed in the bombing. They had already evacuated their own home in search of a safer place – which they thought the Al-Ouf family home would be. A number of her uncles and their wives and children are also among the dead. No one in the building survived except one cousin and the wife of one of Shaimaa’s uncles, although there are still some family members missing under the rubble.

“There is no justification for having targeted the building – there were only civilians living there, with no links to any organisation,” says Abu al-Ouf. He adds: “It seems that Israel is targeting residential blocks with the aim of wreaking utmost destruction and inflicting the largest number of civilian losses possible in order to put pressure on the resistance, so that it will surrender to Israel’s aims.”

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original click here