Gazans Mourn Family Killed by Israeli Bomb

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Correction Appended

GAZA CITY -- Sweat streamed through the beards of three men clutching the body of 7-year-old Jamal Dalu as they raced through the streets toward his final resting place here amid bursts from assault rifles fired into the air and shouts of "God is great." They occasionally bent to kiss the boy's bare and bloodied head or shrouded feet. But they had to jog to stay ahead of the body of his father on a grand wooden pallet, and thousands who thronged on all sides.

There were few if any visible tears at the intense, chaotic, lengthy funeral on Monday of Jamal and seven relatives, among 12 people killed the day before in the single deadliest attack since the latest hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip began Wednesday following months of Palestinian militant rocket fire into Israel. Instead, there were fingers jabbing the air to signal "Allah is the only one," defiant chants about resistance and calls for revenge, flags in the signature green of Hamas and the white of its Al Qassam Brigades.

At the destroyed Dalu family home, a man climbed atop the pile of rubble where a dozen photographers had positioned themselves and hoisted the body of one of the four slain children into the air several times, as though a totem. At the mosque, the eulogy was disrupted by the sound of missile launched toward Israel from nearby. And at the cemetery, a Qassam commander addressed himself not to the mourners but to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, warning, "We still have so much in our pockets, and we will show you if we have to."

Much of the militant pageantry most likely was meant as a message for the news media, and thus the world, given how the Dalus had instantly become the face of the Palestinian cause. But the tone, far more fundamentalist than funereal, was also a potent sign of the culture of martyrdom that pervades this place, and the numbness many here have developed to death and destruction after years of cross-border conflict.

"This blood which was provided by your family will not go in vain," a Hamas minister told the mourners at the mosque. "The rights of these children, the rights of these little flowers, is on our neck.

"We are all going to die, today or tomorrow," he added. "But those who died yesterday are martyrs and not any dead."

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces, said it was "still looking into" the Sunday afternoon strike on the Dalu home in the Al Nasser neighborhood, which she described as an accident. She said the target had been a man "in charge of rocket launching" from the neighborhood, and that 200 to 300 rockets had been fired at Israel under his command in recent days, but it was unclear whether that man even lived nearby.

The obliterated two-story structure had been home to 15 people in three generations. The patriarch, also named Jamal, ran a shop in Al Zawya market selling seeds, sugar, teas and other staples that his grandfather had started and he had worked in since childhood. He survived because he had been at the market when the bomb hit. Jamal's son Mohammed worked in the Hamas government as a police officer; neighbors and relatives insisted that he was not a Qassam fighter or a political leader, though the scope of the militant presence at the funeral raised questions.

Besides Mohammed, his wife and his four children, Jamal's sister, wife and two daughters were killed in the attack, according to the Hamas Health Ministry, along with two neighbors, an 18-year-old and his grandmother. Jamal and his wife, Tahani, had recently returned from their first pilgrimage to Mecca, relatives said, and were filled with joy and optimism from the experience. They have five surviving children, relatives said, including 18-year-old Abdullah, who was practically carried through the funeral, his arms around the shoulders of two friends.

"This is the occupation doing injustice to the Palestinians," the elder Mr. Dalu said in a brief interview at the house as he awaited the bodies to be brought from the morgue. "They didn't give us a warning. They just hit the house with the children in it. My daughters were in their youth. What did they do to them?"

But while political leaders and human rights advocates have called the deaths a massacre and a war crime, the mourners, except for a few close relatives inside the mosque, were neither overcome with emotion nor fed up, perhaps because the current casualty count pales in comparison to the 1,400 lost four years ago when the Israelis invaded Gaza.

Many of them aspire to what they see as martyrdom in the struggle for a Palestinian state. Such funerals are a punctuating rhythm of life here, the bodies taken from the morgue to the family home, then to the mosque and on to the cemetery in processions that attract large crowds.

"We got used to it, we got used to the killing," said Emad Al Dalu, 35, an accountant and cousin of the dead. "Every one of us has seen one of his relatives, one of his neighbors has died. We're defending our rights. We can take more."

The three-hour ritual was a nearly all-male affair. Several dozen women did view the bodies briefly in a home near the rubble pile, one of them collapsing in grief. But even close female relatives did not attend the service at the mosque, nor the burial.

So it was the men who carried the bodies: the grown-ups on stretchers over their shoulders in pallbearer style, and the children, cradled in their arms as they walked, then ran through the normally traffic-clogged city's now-empty streets. Some were wrapped in white sheets, others in Palestinian or Hamas flags. One's bare head lobbed backward and needed to be steadied at times.

The crowd ran down a long hill, around several corners, and finally into the Sheikh Radwan cemetery, a messy mosaic of stones on a steep mound of dirt. There it split into several circles surrounding separate graves.

Jamal and two of his siblings were lowered vertically into a one-square-yard hole that the men covered with a concrete slab, and then dirt. The baby, 1-year-old Ibrahim, was buried with his mother.

Hala Nasrallah and Fares Akram contributed reporting.

Correction: November 19, 2012, Monday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the rank of Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces. She is a lieutenant colonel, not a lieutenant general.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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