BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip, AP Pounding on the sand, Houda Ghalia shrieked for her father after he was killed with five of her siblings at a seaside picnic by what Palestinians said was an Israeli shell.
Footage of the 10-year-old screaming “Father! Father!” has played over and over again on television, driving home the devastating impact of what Palestinian leaders are calling “genocidal” and “a war crime.”
One of the only members of her family to emerge unscathed, Houda was left questioning her fate.
“What have I done wrong that I should have to live without my parents?” the girl asked AP Television News, surrounded by teary-eyed female relatives dressed in black.
Israel expressed regret Saturday for the killing of eight civilians, but stopped short of taking responsibility, saying an investigation was under way.
Israel’s military chief said the killings may have resulted from a misfired Palestinian rocket. Palestinians insisted they were caused by an Israeli artillery shell.
Houda and her 11 brothers and sisters were enjoying a day in the sun with their father, who had promised them a picnic if they passed their end-of-year exams. Hearing Israeli warning fire, the family quickly packed up. They were waiting for a taxi when the explosive landed, she said.
Houda’s father, Ali, was killed with five of her brothers and sisters her father’s second wife and one other person who was not related to them. Her mother and five other children from the family were wounded. Three of the children are being treated in Israeli hospitals.
Six members of Houda’s family died instantly in the attack, and a seventh died from injuries soon after.
Israel often fires artillery at Gaza, responding to Palestinian militants who launch homemade rockets at Israeli towns and villages.
Moderate President Mahmoud Abbas opened a speech on Saturday by paying tribute to Houda’s ordeal.
“What is the crime that she committed while she was watching her family being killed on the beach and screaming?” Abbas said. “Who is responsible for such acts and why are such acts being committed against innocent people?”
Later, Abbas met Houda in his office in Gaza, shedding a tear as he stroked her hair.
“We called for peace and we will call for peace. This incident is not going to prevent us from calling for peace,” Abbas said.
Hadeel, Ali Ghalia’s daughter from his second wife, is hospitalized in Gaza with shrapnel wounds. She still has not been told that she lost both her parents and her brother, the youngest family member. There were conflicting reports from the family and hospital about boy’s age, ranging from six months to about a year old.
“Hadeel is now an orphan,” said Nasreen Ghalia, the girl’s aunt. “We want nothing from (the Israelis.) We just want them to leave us alone.”