Ninth Member of Family Killed in Israeli Strike on Gaza Home Dies of His Injuries

News of Mohammed al-Sawarkah's death come as leaders of weekly Gaza-border protests say the demonstrations will renew next week after a two-week hiatus

Palestinians pray next to the bodies of members of the same family who were killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike, on November 14, 2019 in Deir al-Balah.
AFP

Mohammed al-Sawarkah, of the al-Sawarkah family in the Gaza Strip that lost eight of its members in an Israeli attack last week, died of his injuries on Friday. The 40-year-old was the ninth family member killed after the family home was mistakenly targeted by the Israel Defense Forces.

His wife, 39-year-old Yousra, was also killed in the attack as well as two of their sons, 13-year-old Wasim and 7-year-old Muath. Mohammed’s brother-in-law Rasmi, 45, was also killed, as was his wife Maryam, 45, their son Muhannad, 12, and two other young children whose names have not yet been released. The family said that the brothers were shepherds who traded in sheep and lived off of odd jobs under “harsh and disgraceful” conditions.

Also Friday, the organizing committee behind Palestinians' weekly protests along the Gaza border, also known as the March of Return, announced that the demonstrations will renew next week after a two-week hiatus. 

A member of the organizing committee, Talal Abu Zarifah, told Haaretz that the demonstrations were not held on Friday and last week because of the escalation in confrontations with Israel. “The situation is very hard and sensitive, and we don’t want for our children to be sitting ducks in a shooting gallery,” he said.

Following the lethal strike that claimed the lives of the al-Sawarkah family, the IDF's Arabic-language spokesman announced that the target had been Rasmi Abu Malhous – a commander of the Islamic Jihad rocket unit in the central Gaza Strip. However, Haaretz learned that this claim was not confirmed and was backed by unreliable information based on rumors on social media, which hadn’t been verified. Defense officials confirmed that the commander mentioned as the target of the attack was not known to them.

The Israeli army said it assessed that the building in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood was empty, not realizing it was populated by a family.

The next day, while the Israeli army still claimed that Abu Malhous was a senior Islamic Jihad commander, acquaintances of the family said the IDF was mistaken. A Gaza resident who knew those killed told Haaretz that “this was a very simple, poor family, who lives from hand to mouth in a tin shack, with no water or electricity.” The neighbor added: “They lived off herding sheep and were known as simple, poor people. Is this the way the head of a rocket unit or a senior Islamic Jihadist lives?”

“Every child in Gaza knows the unit members and senior activists live in different conditions, they have houses, and even when they go underground their children and families don’t live in such squalor,” he explained, adding that “the story that they attacked a senior jihadist seems disconnected from reality.”