On Thursday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, and the fourth day of the worst conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in years, Gaza City was silent with fear, except when it was loud with terror: the sudden smash of Israeli airstrikes, the whoosh of militants’ rockets arcing toward Israel, the shouts of people checking on one another, the last moans of the dying.
(Just after midnight on Friday, Israel announced that its ground forces had attacked Gaza.)
On what would ordinarily be a festive day of shopping and visiting friends, the streets of Gaza were nearly empty, save for a few heedless children playing in their new Eid outfits.
The shops that in better times do a brisk trade in nuts, chocolate and kaak cookies were shuttered, the crowds of thousands they normally serve huddled at home. Along streets usually loud with cafes offering juice, coffee and water pipes, only a few restaurants were open, and those only for delivery.
“There was life here, but now it’s horror,” said Maher Alyan, 55, who lives on the street where Mr. al-Hatu’s parents were killed, and who called an ambulance after the airstrikes. “It’s not a normal feeling, to see a guy dying in front of you.”
If there was an explanation for why missiles found their way to Al Mughrabi Street, it was not readily apparent to those who make their lives there.
It is a street of cinder block and concrete buildings, with tangles of power lines running over small storefronts. The laundry, the barbershop next door, a falafel shop and a pharmacy are down the street from where the al-Hatus’ taxi had parked. On Thursday, blood still smeared the pavement and the sidewalk.
One video taken after the first drone strike and posted on Facebook shows a white-hatted, bloodied man lying face down in an alleyway near the white Skoda, whose roof and right side were punched in as though with a giant fist, its back window shattered.