GAZA CITY — Remas Kayed can talk through the attack, which both her mother and father still can't believe they escaped alive. "The Israeli F16 bombed Mommy’s bedroom — look, come and see," the 6-year-old told Al Jazeera, going to inspect the damage to the family’s apartment on the seventh floor of Daowd Tower.
At 3 a.m. on Thursday, Khaled Kayed's father came to invite him, his wife and his children to share a suhoor meal. As the family left their apartment, Khaled said, they "just managed to close the door, and the building started to rock and sway from an Israeli airstrike."
Frozen by fear, the family quickly went back inside, crammed into one room, and shut the door. "We were shaken by a bomb from an Israeli drone," Khaled recalled, while examining the debris from the missile, which landed in the children’s bedroom.
Both Khaled and his father live in an apartment tower that is home to doctors, university professors and civil servants.
"Just three minutes separated us from definite death," said Khaled, an employee of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, as his daughter Remas examined what remained of her bedroom.
The apartment's yellow curtains were ripped and burned. Clothes belonging to Kayed and his wife were full of jagged holes from the shrapnel, the bed was split into pieces, and the linen was covered in dust and smelled of hot metal.
"Israel is the tomcat of bullies, just aiming to terrorize trapped civilians in their homes," Khaled said.
After 10 days of Israeli aerial bombings of the Gaza Strip, Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza late on Thursday. Israel said the escalation was meant to destroy tunnels linking Gaza to Israel, and that its military was "prepared for an expansion of the ground action."
Israel has denied that it is targeting civilians in Gaza, instead arguing that it is going after fighters affiliated with the Palestinian faction Hamas. The Israeli army defended its military operation, accusing Hamas of hiding rockets and other weapons in "houses, mosques, hospitals [and] schools" and of operating "deep within residential areas." The military also said that houses can be considered lawful military targets.
But Israel has been criticized by international human rights groups for targeting civilian homes in Gaza in its latest offensive, as several apartment blocks have been hit by Israeli drones and missiles. About 1,780 Gaza families have had their homes completely destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, according to United Nations estimates, while about 96,400 people are now in need of shelter across Gaza.
The Gaza Health Ministry reported that at least 307 Palestinians have been killed in the violence in Gaza so far, including at least 73 children. Another 2,030 Palestinians have been injured.
The U.N. found that about 25,000 Palestinian children in Gaza are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and are in need of psychological help as a result of the ongoing Israeli military offensive. According to Khaled, his children are all traumatized. "Why is Israel bombing us?" his daughter Remas asked repeatedly.
Back at Daowd Tower, apartments seven and eight are the worst hit. The building's outer structure is heavily damaged, and broken furniture, personal belongings and toys are strewn about.
The building's owner, Suhil Abu Jebba, said all 15 apartments have suffered damage, and five cars parked outside were destroyed. One of the cars belonged to a well-known academic who estimated that the damage amounted to around $14,000.
On Thursday, Israeli F16s fired three missiles at the apartment building again; one hit the building just as ambulance and fire crews were arriving. Five people were injured, including one ambulance crew member.
"Everyone from the neighborhood managed to run outside. We were all just terrified, shaking, and children crying," said Khaled, who fled his apartment using only the light from his cellphone. The scene, he said, reminded him of "an earthquake, with flames in every corner, dust and smoke everywhere, and sharp, shattered glass all over the floor.”