Gaza – Only two hours separated the killing of Hamed Najim, 17, and three of his cousins at the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, and the announcement of a ceasefire with Israel.
Israel and the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad declared a truce late on Sunday after three days of heavy Israeli bombardment on the besieged Gaza Strip.
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Despite a flurry of Israeli air raids and Palestinian rocket launches until the last minute, the truce began at 11:30pm local time on Sunday (20:30 GMT) and has so far held.
According to the Palestinian health ministry, 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, were killed and at least 350 civilians wounded during Israel’s three-day “pre-emptive strike”.
Hamed and his cousins - Jamil Najm al-Deen Naijm, 4, Jamil Ihab Najim, 13, and Mohammad, 17 – were killed by a missile that hit them while they were in the Falluja cemetery across the street from their home.
Hamed’s mother, Diana, was visibly shaken. She told Al Jazeera her son was very careful not to leave the house, fearing Israeli attacks.
“Just two hours before the truce was announced, he told me he would go out for five minutes with his cousins,” she said. “Moments went by and then we heard a bombing. We ran out to find my son and his three cousins. They were all cut up into pieces.”
‘Our lives are worthless’
Diana’s story is similar to many others in the besieged Gaza Strip, after Israel launched repeated air attacks in a three-day operation involving “surgical strikes” against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, according to Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.
“I was a mother of four children. Today my children have become three in the blink of an eye. My son was very obedient, kind-hearted and excelled in his studies despite our difficult circumstances,” she said.
“Why are we in Gaza exposed to all this? We can lose our children at any moment and at any minute as if our lives are worthless.”
Despite losing her son, Diana expressed her satisfaction with the ceasefire. “Enough is enough. We can’t take it anymore and I don’t want other mothers in Gaza to see the bitterness of what I’m going through now,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
‘Bombing until last moment’
On Monday, at the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, large crowds gathered to mourn Yasser al-Nabaheen, 40, and his three children, who were killed the evening prior in an Israeli bombing of their family home.
The attack resulted in the death of the father and his two sons, Ahmed, 13, Mohamed, 9, and his daughter Dalia, 13. His oldest son was wounded and is recovering in hospital.
“I was sitting with my Uncle Yasser in the small plot of land across our house,” Ahmad, a family member, told Al Jazeera. “He moved a little forward when a missile fell in the space between us and directly above him and his children. They all turned to pieces in a moment.”
Ahmad said he could not believe what happened right before his eyes.
“I was screaming and calling for help and calling an ambulance. My uncle was a good person and loved by everyone. He had no political affiliations. We were sitting and his children were playing in front of him. Within minutes a massacre happened,” he said.
The father and his children died half an hour before the truce was agreed upon.
“It is overwhelming and very difficult to comprehend. Israel kept bombing and killing people and civilians until the last moment,” said Ahmad.