The civilian who was killed on Monday night when a rocket hit an apartment building in Ashkelon has been identified as Mahmoud Abu Asba, a 48-year-old man from Halhul, a town near Hebron in the West Bank.
Abu Asba was located thanks to a neighbor, Shlomi Lankri, who passed by the ruined building after emergency services had left the scene. Lankri noticed the fingers of a woman who was buried under the rubble. She and another woman, both in their forties, were pulled out of the ruins, one in critical and the other in serious condition.
Lankri had come to the site to document the destruction at around 1 AM. He said he noticed some movement and started digging in the rubble with the help of another man who arrived on the scene. Together they pulled out Abu Asba and one of the women. Abu Asba was declared dead at the site.
One of Abu Asba’s neighbors said that there were no shelters in the building. “There is nothing here, it’s all closed” he added. “People converted what there was into storage spaces. Even if there was a shelter, older people wouldn’t have reached it. All the older people left after the rocket hit.”
None of the neighbors knew Abu Asba and there were rumors in the neighborhood that he was a collaborator or that he was in the city without a permit. However, it turns out that he worked in Israel with a permit. Like other workers, he had obtained permission from the defense establishment to remain in Israeli territory instead of leaving the country's borders after each workday. He worked at construction sites during the day, returning to the apartment at night. The rocket which hit the building buried him under the rubble.
A grocery owner nearby said that Abu Asba had lived there for at least two months and shared the apartment with other workers, who were not there on Tuesday morning. The grocery owner added that one of the injured women also lived in that apartment. Neighbors said she was Palestinian, but didn’t know her name or any other details.
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Abu Asba was the first casualty in Israel in this round of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, which began on Sunday.
Abu Asba's family said in a statement released on Tuesday that he left his house in Halhul on Sunday and that his wife was with him in the apartment in Ashkelon when the building was hit by the rocket.
His family is expected to come to Israel to identify his body. His funeral is slated to take place in Halhul. Abu Asba is survived by six children- four sons and two daughters.