Kamal Nabhan, overwhelmed with disbelief, handed the phone to his cousin, Ataf, after receiving a call from an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer. The caller delivered a chilling message: they had just five minutes to evacuate their house before it would be targeted.
The Nabhan family, preparing for afternoon prayers, hurriedly made their way back home, trying to reason with the caller that the building was filled with disabled individuals.
However, the Israeli intelligence officer insisted on the immediate evacuation. This incident occurred during the fifth day of the most intense Israeli air strikes on Gaza in nine months, targeting leaders of Islamic Jihad, the region's second most powerful militant organization.
While the Israeli strikes aimed to eliminate specific targets, they resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians, including wives and children of the intended targets. Islamic Jihad retaliated with rocket attacks on Israeli cities, prompting tens of thousands of Israelis to seek refuge in bomb shelters.
The cycle of violence escalated further due to police raids against Palestinians at al-Aqsa mosque in occupied east Jerusalem and the recent death of hunger striker Khader Adnan in an Israeli jail.
Palestinians left homeless by Israeli air strikes spend nights on the streets
Throughout the conflict, 33 Palestinians in Gaza lost their lives, with an additional two casualties in Israel. The United Nations reported that over 1,200 Palestinians were displaced as a result of the fighting.
The Nabhan family's building was among those targeted by Israeli strikes, which demolished the block after issuing a warning for residents to evacuate. These strikes, demolishing entire apartment blocks, have become a recurrent tactic employed by Israel in its attacks on Gaza.
Moment Israeli airstrike hits house in northern Gaza as fighting continues
While Israel claims that the targeted buildings served as "command and control centers" for Islamic Jihad's rocket launches, local sources dispute this assertion. Human rights organizations condemn the destruction of residential blocks as a violation of international law. Some residents who received warning calls pleaded with Israeli forces to limit the attacks only to the apartments of those responsible for any wrongdoing.
The Nabhan family's building in Jabalia now lies in ruins, with a collapsed staircase and remnants of the roof. Nearly 50 people from eight families, including five individuals with disabilities, managed to evacuate the building. However, their wheelchairs, modified beds, and vital medicines were destroyed in the air strike.
Jamal al-Rozzi, executive director of the Gaza-based Society for Rehabilitation, has offered aid to the affected families, including food and medical devices. The anger and pain felt by the residents, particularly for the disabled members, are evident.
Rahma Nabhan, one of Kamal's relatives, voiced her frustration, stating that they had nothing to do with the conflict and questioning why their house had to be destroyed. She called upon international organizations and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to support them in rebuilding their home.
Although a ceasefire mediated by Egypt was reached on Saturday night, tensions remain high. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used the recent attacks to strengthen his political standing amidst domestic unrest and pressure from religious-ultranationalist extremists in his coalition.
While Islamic Jihad has capitalized on the conflict to enhance its appeal as the face of armed resistance against Israel, Hamas, the dominant militant group in Gaza, exercised restraint to prevent further escalation.
The international community's focus on a political future for the region, particularly the two-state solution, seems detached from the reality on the ground. Palestinians often feel abandoned as both Israel's nationalist government and Palestinian armed groups reject such solutions. The Nabhan family and other affected residents find themselves in dire circumstances, desperately seeking support and urging human rights organizations to provide them with shelter.
As Palestinians commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, when thousands were displaced during the conflicts surrounding Israel's creation, solidarity gatherings and pleas for help take place amidst the ruins.
The Nabhan family and their neighbors hold up signs appealing for protection and assistance. Ataf Nabhan, who answered the warning call, delivers a simple plea: to take care of his family and provide them with a shelter.