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GAZA: When Israeli rockets hit her neighborhood in a crowded refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, nine-year-old Leen Matar said she was so scared she began to recite the last prayers of the ‘Islam.
“We were at my grandfather’s house when suddenly the rubble started falling on us,” she told Reuters from a hospital bed, her father by her side as she was treated for a broken leg. .
“We started crying until the neighbors came and saved us.”
“I said the last prayers; I didn’t expect to live until they rescued me,” she said.
“We sat like that for 10 minutes until they kicked down the door.”
Matar was injured in an Israeli strike that killed a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad group commander late Saturday night, the second day of a major outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza.
On Sunday morning, residents sifted through the rubble of the camp, a maze of alleyways that is home to Palestinians whose families fled or were expelled from towns and villages in 1948 during Israel’s founding war.
Some took a small bicycle and a few books. Another took away furniture. Others searched for family documents and photo albums.
The casualties add to the toll of the most serious escalation between Israeli and Palestinian militants in more than a year.
The parties have agreed to observe a truce offered by Egypt from Sunday evening, sources said.
Israel launched airstrikes on Friday against what it described as Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.
Around 30 Palestinians were killed, at least a third of them civilians. Israel says it does not target civilians.
Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of missiles into Israel, where missile defenses avoided casualties but people were still driven into shelters.
Palestinian residents said six houses were destroyed in Rafah. The senior Israeli officer said Israel destroyed the house Mansour was in and not surrounding houses, and that the strike was timed to minimize “collateral damage”.
Ahmed Temraz, whose home was damaged, said six missiles hit the area and there was no advance warning of the attack.
“It was a horrible scene, words cannot explain it – the injustice, the terror and the fear of children and women,” Temraz, 46, told Reuters. “It was very scary. People were dismembered.
Residents joined rescuers and medics in the rescue operations that continued until dawn, witnesses said.
Ashraf Al-Qaissi, whose house was about 50 meters from the targeted area, described chaotic scenes as residents sought to flee while helping the victims.
“They hit the area without warning, I ran with my children and my daughter was injured in the hand,” said Qaissi, 46.
He spoke while sitting atop the ruins of his home, saying he had allowed rescuers to pull him down so they could access the targeted area with a bulldozer to help search for victims under the rubble.
“Trapped people are more valuable,” Qaissi said.