Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

ISPT052

Incident date

May 14, 2021

Location

بين حيي السلاطين والعطاطره, Street between Al Atatra and Al Salatin, The Gaza Strip

Geolocation

31.557877, 34.487532 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Street level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Street

Airwars assessment

Up to six civilians were killed, including a mother and her three young children, in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahia on May 14th, 2021. Dozens of injuries were also reported by Wafa news.

The family of four killed were identified as 28-year-old Lamya Hassan Mohammed Al-Atar, and her three children; Islam, aged seven, Amira, aged six, and Mohammed, an eight-month-old baby. According to Palestine News and Info, an additional two bodies were pulled from the rubble sometime later. They were not named in the reports.

B’Tselem collected testimony from Muhammad al-‘Attar, 37, whose family was killed in the incident: “On Thursday night, after midnight, there was heavy bombing in the northern Gaza Strip – in Beit Hanoun and northern Beit Lahiya. Everyone was very tense and stressed because the noise was very loud, especially as it was the middle of the night and everything else was quiet. Half an hour after it all began, we heard an explosion nearby. The noise was horrifying. We thought it might be a good idea to get out of the apartment, but we hesitated because the bombings were right by the house. Suddenly, in one moment, there was an explosion inside and the house crashed down on us. I found myself under debris, in complete darkness. I tried to get out from under it, but couldn’t. I turned on the phone flashlight and tried to find my wife and children, but I couldn’t see them or hear any of their voices. I called my uncle, who works for the rescue team. I said: “Come quickly. We’re under rubble because our house was bombed, help!” I told him I couldn’t find my wife and children and that the rest of my family was trapped under the rubble. The rescue teams arrived after more than half an hour. They started picking up the debris – stones, sand, furniture, everything. After an hour and a half, they found my wife with her arms around our three children, but none of them were alive. They were covered in concrete and sand and had suffocated immediately. I saw them, but they looked like they were asleep. It was a terrible shock when I realized they weren’t moving or breathing, that they were lifeless bodies. We were all taken to Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital, where we had tests and X-rays and were treated. The next day, with a broken heart and deep sorrow, we laid the martyrs to rest: my wife and my children, Islam, Amirah and Muhammad.”

Manar al-‘Attar, 40, mother of five, Lamyaa’s sister-in-law, also provided testimony: “On Thursday, after midnight, we were all home. That day, there were heavy Israeli airstrikes. My husband Ihab went to the bedroom, and I stayed with my sons in the living room. At around midnight, I told my husband to come be with us in the living room. As soon as he left the bedroom, it was bombed. The windows shattered and all the doors in the house crashed. We all screamed and cried. We ran from the living room to the kitchen. A few seconds later, Ihab said he thought it was over and everything was quiet. But then the house started shaking and I fell over. We looked at each other and didn’t understand what was happening. The fridge fell on my husband and then the ceiling collapsed on us and on top of the fridge. There was a gas leak and we felt that we were suffocating. We screamed and called out for help, but no one heard us. My son-in-law turned on his phone’s flashlight and turned off the gas valve. My sons and daughters were screaming because they thought their father was dead. I grabbed Ihab’s hand and asked him if he was okay, and he said that he was. He asked me to get out of the house with the kids and leave him there, but I refused. My daughter Nur called an ambulance and the Civil Defense, but they didn’t pick up. She called relatives and asked for help. About 15 minutes later, I heard my brother-in-law Bahaa, 39. He called out and my daughters shouted back. He came right away and got them out. Then my brother-in-law Tamim, 30, came and helped Bahaa get us out from under the debris. They got all my kids out. I refused to leave and insisted on staying with my husband. He was trapped under the fridge. It was hard to move it, and we were also afraid the ceiling would fall on him. My brothers-in-law tried to get him out for about 45 minutes and miraculously, managed in the end. Thank God, my husband emerged safe and sound and we weren’t hurt. When we were outside, we shone our flashlights on the house and saw it was in ruins. We were sure Lamyaa and her small children were dead. Everyone was looking for them under the rubble and calling out to her. At around 1:00 A.M., my brother-in-law Bahaa said he’d seen Lamyaa and her kids under the rubble and couldn’t save them. He said they’d been killed. At around 2:00 A.M., Civil Defense vehicles and ambulances arrived and got Lamyaa and her young children out from under the rubble. They were taken to Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza. We all moved to the UNRWA schools in the a-Rimal neighborhood. We were barefoot and had only the clothes on our backs, most of which were torn. We were in shock by what had happened to us and were very sad. We got to the school, which was unlivable. There were no water, food, mattresses or clothes, but it was safer than being at home. We didn’t get to say goodbye to Lamyaa and the kids. Their bodies were taken out of the freezers and immediately buried. Only my husband, my brothers-in-law and a few other relatives attended the funeral. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I can’t describe it. I wanted to say goodbye to her and hug her and the kids. I couldn’t believe I’d lost them. I still haven’t processed what happened. Lamyaa was a very good woman. I loved her, and we were almost inseparable. Lamyaa’s kids were always at my house, playing with my son Ahmad. He keeps asking about them and can’t believe they’re dead. He keeps asking us to get them out from under the rubble, like we removed some of the furniture. He’s in a bad emotional state. At night, when the power is cut off, he screams and says our house is about to be destroyed and asks us not to leave him.”

The civilian casualties resulted from an airstrike hitting a three-story building where the al-Atar family lived shortly before midnight, according to multiple sources. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said it hit agricultural land near the house.

Amnesty International interviewed Hassan Al-Atar, the father of Lamya Mohammed Al-Atar and also the grandfather of Islam, Amira and Mohammed. Described as a civil defence officer by Amnesty (others sources refer to him specifically as a firefighter), he told them how headed to the scene with an ambulance and rescue team after a relative had phoned him with news of the attack. He was at work when the bombing happened.

He gave the following account: “I arrived at the house, which is made up of three stories – 20 people live there – I tried to find people, but I could not. Then the rescue team arrived to help and we eventually found my daughter, a mother of three, with her children, one of whom was a baby, under one of the cement pillars of the house; all of them were dead. The other residents seem to have managed to escape from an opening after the bombing and got to the hospital. I was shocked.”

Muhammad al-Atar, the father of the children and the husband of Lamya, told the New York Times how the first strike hit the entrance of their ground floor apartment, trapping the family. A second, moments later, brought the whole house down. While Muhammad was able to dig himself out, he told reporters that a concrete pillar crushed his wife and children, their bodies found still together.

While the Israeli military did not confirm carrying out this particular strike, it did confirm a large number of strikes around the city of Beit Lahia. The Times of Israel reported the Israeli Defence Forces saying they dropped 450 missiles on 150 targets over a 40 minute period in northern Gaza, mostly around Beit Lahia city. Some 160 aircraft flying simultaneously carried out the attack, which it said was conducted on a network of Hamas tunnels. B’Tselem also reported that “According to the military, Hamas’ tunnel network ran close to the house.”

The incident occured around midnight.

The victims were named as:

Family members (6)

  • Lamya Hassan Mohammed Al-Atar 28 years old female Lamya was killed alongside her three children whose deaths are recorded below killed
  • Amira al-Atar 7 years old female killed
  • Islam al-Atar 8 years old male killed
  • Mohammed 8 months years old male
  • Muhammad al-'Attar 37 years old male injured
  • Ihab, Manar al-‘Attar's husband Adult male injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4 – 6
  • (3 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    12–24
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces

Sources (47) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (14) [ collapse]

  • Translated image caption: Pictures from the effects of the bombing last night on the city of Beit Lahia, which is located in the border area with the occupied entity in northern Palestine (via @Yaminism)
  • Damage reportedly from the airstrikes carried out in Beit Lahia on May 14th, 2021. Up to six civilians were killed in the strike (image via @Yaminism)
  • People walking through rubble from alleged Israeli airstrikes carried out in Beit Lahia on May 14th, 2021. The Israeli military dropped 450 missiles over a 40 minute period on northern Gaza (image via @Yaminism)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Image of the bodies of two children killed on May 14th, 2021 (image via @RezqAboShkian)
  • Image shared on social media showing two children, Islam and his sister Amira, who were killed in reported Israeli airstrikes alongside their mother and other brother (image via Sara Mohammed Ramdan)
  • Caption reads: The Israeli Air Force bombs Gaza tunnels, May 14th, 2021 (IAF screenshot) (image via Times of Israel)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Caption: A video being shared online reportedly shows Gazan civil defence worker Hassan Al-Attar identifying his daughter Lamya in a morgue after she and three children in the family were kiled by an Israeli air strike on Beit Lahia. The quiet dignity of the men is the toughest part (via @CampbellMacD)
  • Image caption: Muhammad al-Attar, 37, sits on his destroyed home in Beit Lahia, North Gaza, on Monday, May 31, 2021. Al-Attar's three sons and his wife were killed during the Israeli bombing of their house during the recent confrontations between Gaza and Israel (via UPI)
  • Caption: Footage shows heavy damage done by Israeli airstrikes to the residential areas in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza (via @presstv)
  • Video of airstrikes hitting Beit Lahia on May 14th, 2021 (via @ShehabAgency)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Children from the Al Attar family killed in strikes on Beit Lahia on May 14, 2021. (Image posted by Zahret Al Mada’en via Facebook)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Children from the Al Attar family killed in strikes on Beit Lahia on May 14, 2021. (Image posted by Zahret Al Mada’en via Facebook)
  • Muhammad al-'Attar, whose wife and three kids were killed in strikes on Beit Lahia on May 14, 2021. (Image posted by B'Tselem)
  • Muhammad al-'Attar's home, destroyed in strikes that killed his wife and three kids on May 14, 2021. (Image posted by B'Tselem)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a street between the Al Atatra (العطاطره) and Al Salatin (السلاطين) neighbourhoods of Beit Lahia (بيت لاهيا‎). Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we could not verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Al Atatra are: 31.559611, 34.486911. The generic coordinates for Al Salatin are: 31.552571, 34.486117. The street between them can be found at the generic coordinates: 31.557877, 34.487532.

  • Reports of the incident mention a street between the Al Atatra (العطاطره) and Al Salatin (السلاطين) neighbourhoods of Beit Lahia (بيت لاهيا‎).

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Israeli Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Israeli Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4 – 6
  • (3 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    12–24
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces

Sources (47) [ collapse]