Pregnant Palestinian woman, baby killed in Israeli raids on Gaza

A pregnant Palestinian woman and her one-year-old niece have been killed in a wave of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, shattering a month-long lull in violence in the besieged enclave. The bombardment on Saturday came as Hamas, which rules Gaza, and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine fired more than 200 rockets towards cities and villages in southern Israel. At least three Palestinians, including the woman, an infant and a 22-year-old man were killed in the air raids, the health ministry in Gaza said, while 13 others were wounded.

Explosions in Gaza City, where busy streets were packed with shoppers making preparations for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, shook buildings and sent people fleeing for cover. Seba’s mother, 27-year-old Rasha Abu Arar, wiped her tears, ruing the incident that took place following the escalation of violation that has killed at least 24 Palestinians and four Israelis.

“Me, my cousins and their children were sitting in the house when suddenly a rocket fell on us,” a pregnant Rasha told Al Jazeera.

“I wrapped my arms around my daughter to protect her but the shrapnel injured my hand and penetrated her body,” she said as she continued sobbing.

“My three-year-old daughter, Rafeef, was also wounded and is currently in the ICU,” added the mother of six.

Ibtessam Abu Arar, aunt of Siba, the 14-month old infant who died in the Israeli raid, said: “The Israeli plane fired a missile near the house and the shrapnel entered the house and hit the poor baby.”Siba was being held in the lap of her pregnant aunt Falestine Abu Arar, 37, who was also struck. She died from her wounds hours later, the health ministry said in a statement. 

Some two million Palestinians live in Gaza, whose economy has suffered years of blockades as well as recent foreign aid cuts. Unemployment stands at 52 percent, according to the World Bank, and poverty is rampant.

Israel says its blockade is necessary to stop weapons reaching Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since the group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

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