The thought of his six young nieces keeps Yusuf Dabus awake. The girls, ages 3-7, lived in the Gaza Strip and were seeking shelter near the Jabaliya mosque (Hamas is known to stores rockets in Mosques) over the weekend as Israeli planes dropped bombs on Hamas targets.
His nieces died, Dabus said, casualties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. "Basically that whole street was taken out," said Dabus, of Tampa. "My aunt's house and all. How can I sleep knowing my family will not be alright tomorrow?"
*Click here for photo of the rubble of destroyed houses and a mosque after they were hit by an Israeli missile strike that killed Jawaher Baalusha, 4, and her four sisters on December 29, 2008 in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. The mourners carried on their shoulders the five bodies wrapped in green Hamas flags, chanting slogans as they make their way to the burial ground. They ask for God's help against "Israel, America and all those who are conspiring against the people of Gaza."
In Jabaliya Gaza, the two-story Imad Aqil mosque, ( "mosque of martyrs") named after a deceased Hamas member, is regarded by Palestinians in the area as a "Hamas mosque" - that is, a place where the group's supporters gather for political meetings or to assemble for demonstrations, and where death notices of Hamas members are posted. There appears to have been rockets and ammunition stored in the two story HAMAS Imad Aqil Mosque, see video of seconday explosions, click here.
Israel killed a senior Hamas leader in an air attack on his home on Thursday, 1/01/09. Nizar Rayyan, a cleric widely regarded as one of Hamas's most hardline political leaders, had called for renewed suicide bombings inside Israel. Medical officials, confirming his death, said two of his four wives and seven of his children were killed in the bombing, in Jabaliya refugee camp. Hundreds of supporters scrambling over the concrete rubble vowed revenge as the mangled bodies, covered in blood and cement dust, were extracted from the wreckage.
"The blood of Sheikh Nizar Rayyan and the blood of other martyrs will never be wasted and the enemy will pay a heavy price for the crimes it has committed," Hamas official Ayman Taha said.
Black-bearded Rayyan, 49, was a preacher at Jabaliya's "mosque of martyrs" who mentored suicide bombers. With a cartridge belt around his stocky frame, he would sometimes patrol the streets of Gaza with Hamas fighters. Hamas Radio said he had ignored advice to leave his house as other Hamas leaders have done in anticipation of assassination attempts by Israeli forces, who confirmed the air strike. Israeli war planes had also bombed the Jabaliya mosque, Israeli security officials said it was a meeting place and command post for Hamas militants and the large number of secondary explosions after the strike indicated that rockets, missiles and other weapons had been stored there. Witnesses in Gaza said it was completely destroyed.
In Tampa, Dabus' story and news reports inspired University of South Florida sophomore Jehad Saleh, 19, to speak out. He started a group on the social networking site Facebook two days ago.
He encouraged local Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans to gather at West Spruce Street and North Dale Mabry Highway on Tuesday to protest the violence. "I've had cousins in the Gaza Strip who died. If their voice can't be heard, mine will," Saleh said. Demonstrators chanted "Free, free Palestine" and "Stop the killing." Signs encouraged passing motorists to "Honk 4 Peace."
Although generally a peaceful, if intense, protest, tensions flared when Benyamin Berke walked through the crowd draped in an Israeli flag. "I wouldn't call it provoking unless being Jewish in this area is a provocation," Berke said. "I wanted to let the people of Tampa know that there's people who support Israel."
The Israeli IDF and the Israeli Air Force are targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad military sites in Gaza, the 6 young girls in the story that were killed is regrettable but they were in an area the Israeli Intel had specified as a legitimate target, (Mosques are housing rockets, weapons and Hamas terrorists).
Perhaps the parents of the 6 girls should have got their children out of a targeted terrorist military zone and away from stored Hamas weapons and rockets.
The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad (PIJ) took responsibility for the continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. Abu Ahmad, a spokesman for the group, said Israeli citizens would "not sleep peacefully as long as Gaza children are not enjoying water, electricity, medicine and peace."
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, (see Sami al-Arian trial and his Federal conviction of support for the terrorist group PIJ) has a strong presence in the Tampa Fl area, such demonstrations as depicted above, are not surprising in support of Gaza terrorists.
December 31st, 2008. THE BOSTON GLOBE...Israel and Gaza...Back in June, 2008, Egypt helped broker a 6-month cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the ruling body in the Gaza Strip. Though the cease-fire was broken several times by both sides, it largely held.
Toward the end of the cease-fire in December, Israel, while closing Gaza's borders since November, indicated that it might extend the agreement, if Hamas ceased all Qassam rocket attacks. Qassam rockets are the crude but deadly homemade missiles often launched towards Israeli territory (over 3,000 times in 2008 alone).
Hamas leaders, angered by the blockade and seemingly little political headway made over the past 6 months, recently stepped up rocket attacks on Israel once again. Israel has now responded with five days (so far) of air attacks and Naval bombardment on Gaza, resulting in over 350 dead, nearly 1,500 wounded and countless buildings and smugglers' tunnels destroyed.
Hamas has threatened to increase the rocket attacks send suicide bombers into Israel in retaliation, and Israel is massing troops and tanks around Gaza for a possible ground assault. (click here for 37 photos total)