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Gaza home for disabled hit by Israeli missile strike

Suha Abu Sada probably knew or understood nothing about the suspected Palestinian militants who lived in the flats above her and whose names featured on Israel's assassination list.

But it was she, not they, who suffered when a devastating Israeli air strike apparently aimed at the two men flattened the two-storey building where she was a resident in a charity home for the disabled.

The pair - one a member of Hamas, the other of Islamic Jihad, according to a neighbour - were not at home 
at about 4.30am yesterday morning when the strike found its target.

Instead, the missile killed Suha (47) and Ola Wishah (30), two disabled women who were among eight residents of the home run by the Mubaret Philistine charity, which accommodated orphaned and severely-disabled men and women in the building's ground floor.

Four other residents and a supervisor were badly injured in the strike. Another two escaped because they were spending the weekend with relations.

A smell of cordite still hung in the air when neighbours - alerted by a telltale gathering of flies - found Suha's bloodied body under a broken heap of concrete six hours after the missile attack. Cries of "Allahu akbar" rang out as the lifeless form - as small as that of a child - was dug out from the rubble before being covered by a blanket and carried away on a stretcher.

Two bent and broken wheelchairs, a pack of incontinence nappies and story books appropriate for young children littered the scene. A play area with swings outside was strewn with debris.

While the deaths will inevitably lead to louder international pleas for Israel to call off its operation in Gaza, the Israeli government said yesterday that those ultimately responsible were Hamas, whose operatives routinely hide in civilian areas in Gaza.

Witnesses said a drone fired two warning shots at the building moments before the fatal strike, but said most residents would have been unable to respond in time.

"Most of them are physically disabled and confined to their beds all the time, so they wouldn't have been able to leave," said Hamed Bakhri (22), who described seeing a ball of flame come out of the building followed by a pall of black smoke.

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"Even those who could move suffer from severe mental handicaps."

It was one of several air strikes that killed 22 Palestinians yesterday. The latest Israeli assaults brought the number killed to 127, according to local health officials, since Israel began a military offensive last Tuesday.

No Israelis have been killed in the attacks, although many have sought refugee in bomb shelters. The Israeli army says 538 rockets have landed in Israel since Tuesday, while 138 have been shot down by the Iron Dome missile defence system. Six men, aged between 21 and 58, were killed in a missile strike on Sheikh Radwan in the west of Gaza City yesterday. Witnesses said they were sitting outside their home at the time.

With most of those killed said to be non-combatants - including many women and children - signs of international unease over civilian casualties began to emerge.

William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, called for "urgent, concerted international action to secure a ceasefire".


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