Funeral is held Monday for 5-year-old Yusif Al-Dalou
The cemetery outside Gaza City is too dangerous for funerals
"My life is now very difficult," says the mother of two dead children
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On Monday, the team of grave diggers at Shaikh Radwan Cemetery in Gaza City prepared 15 graves, their busiest morning yet. And they’re preparing for more.
One of the slots was for 5-year-old Yusif Al-Dalou. He and eight members of his family were killed Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on their home.
Their bodies were carried through the street to the sound of gunfire under Hamas banners to the cemetery.
After the crowd left and the chanting stopped, friends and relatives prayed quietly.
Israeli officials say the airstrike was targeting a Hamas military official, though no Hamas official is known to be among the dead.
Gaza City’s main cemetery is located outside the city, near the border with Israel and, therefore, too dangerous for funerals.
So, on Monday, relatives were taking their dead to the Shaikh Radwan Cemetery, which is technically full.
Back where Al-Dalou’s home once stood, mourners greeted an Egyptian delegation led by Mohamed Katatni, head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A member of the delegation vowed vengeance against Israel for the deaths of Gazan children – caught in a struggle they were too young to comprehend.
“There will be an escalation,” said Hamdi, whose brother was killed in another Israeli attack Sunday. Like many here, he said he is weary of war, but sees more coming.
“Israel won’t accept our conditions,” he said. “It wants blood for blood.”
Israel has demanded an end to rocket attacks from Gaza.
“Today, 116 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel,” IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich told CNN. “That was not a quiet day.”
The view in parts of this strip of land – about twice the size of Washington, D.C., and home to 1.7 million residents – reveals the kinds of images that news networks typically show after massive earthquakes: mounds of rubble, lifeless bodies, survivors – some wailing, others appearing bewildered.
But the forces shaping Gaza City’s pockmarked landscape Monday were no act of God, residents here said on the sixth consecutive day of Israel’s attack.
As darkness fell, the city’s streets were deserted, quiet but for the constant buzz of drones overhead and the occasional blast of a missile either being launched or landing.
On one street, a blast on Sunday hurled a boulder-sized chunk of road through the roof of a two-story building where two children and their family were living.
“The babies were under the rubble – here and here,” their aunt told CNN as she pointed to the chalky wreckage. “They were sleeping with their father over here. Suddenly, the house collapsed. The brother ran to them. He found them under this rock.”
Relatives say the 2-year and 4-year-old were fatally crushed; a nearby boulder was tinged red, the remains of the room covered in dirt. Their father survived.
In an apartment below, the children’s 22-year-old mother was wearing a black hijab that covered all but her eyes. “I am in shock,” she said. “I don’t believe it. My two children. They are priceless to me. My life now is very difficult.”
She put her hands over the slit in the fabric over her eyes, bowed and shook.
The air strike occurred at about 1:30 a.m. By the time CNN arrived a few hours later, a bulldozer was moving piles of dirt into what neighbors said had been a crater left by the blast.
A few streets away, people were picking through a similar landscape. The roof of a three-story building lay on the ground.
A few yards away, a man in a green T-shirt held his head in his hands as he surveyed the wreckage. He said he had been warned. “The Israel Defense Forces called us,” he said. “At first, we didn’t believe them. Then they hit us with a small rocket on the roof. Ten minutes after that, they hit the house.”
By then, the residents of the house had evacuated. Still,15 neighbors were wounded in the ensuing attack, he said.
Land area: 360 sq. km or 138 sq miles
Population: Nearly 1.7 million
That’s about the size of Detroit, Michigan (pop. 710,000)
Or Malta plus San Marino (combined pop. 427,000)
Religions: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 99.3%, Christian 0.7%
Economy: Agriculture and small businesses.
Unemployment: 40 percent in 2010
The Israeli military said it could not confirm it was responsible for either hit in a neighborhood known for having launched rockets toward Israel.
CNN personnel saw rockets blasting from the area, leaving a trail of smoke over the neighborhood mosque.
A building that housed a center used by some media outlets was also an apparent target of Israeli missiles. Witnesses said three explosions were followed by a ball of flame from the third floor at 3:20 p.m.
At least two people were killed, Palestinian sources said. Ramez Harb, information leader of the military media office of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was among them, the sources said. In addition, two children were wounded, the sources said.
Journalists inside the building had also been warned to leave. They did so, staying out for several hours, after which a few returned. That’s when it was hit.
The building had also been struck on Sunday.
CNN’s Ben Wedeman, Sara Sidner and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.