Gaza, Gaza – Shortly after midnight on May 19, a reconnaissance missile tore through the roof of the Muharreb family home in Rafah, south of the besieged Gaza Strip.
Two minutes later, an Israeli warplane fired another rocket that struck the two floors of the house but did not explode.
“My brother և his family, who live on the second floor, were all injured by the reconnaissance missile,” said Alazah Azeri Vasim Muhareb. “My four-month-old baby was in a coma for two days, and my eight-year-old niece, Liana, was in the intensive care unit for 10 days with burns all over her body.”
The large Muhareb family home, home to 36 adults and children, was destroyed. The second rocket hit one of the children’s bedrooms before landing on the first floor.
“There was no warning,” said Wasem, whose family now lives in a rented apartment nearby. “The whole test took three minutes.”
Risks and dangers
The next day, the bomb disposal squad arrived and removed the unexploded ordnance, as well as the remnants of a reconnaissance projectile.
The Interior Ministry has carried out 1,200 missions to neutralize, defuse and destroy unexploded ordnance and ammunition in Gaza since May 10, when Israel launched an 11-day bombardment of a coastal enclave.
The escalation of violence followed the crackdown on protesters in the Israeli-occupied Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamaz, a Palestinian group led by Gaza, issued an ultimatum to withdraw Israeli forces from the vicinity of the holy site, which is also sacred to the Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.
Following the ultimatum, Hamas fired several rockets at Jerusalem, and shortly afterwards, Israel launched air strikes on Gaza. Health officials say the Israeli bombing continued for 11 days, killing at least 260 Palestinians, including 66 children. Rockets fired by militant groups in Gaza have killed at least 13 people in Israel. Hamas և Israel agreed on a ceasefire on May 21.
The bombing of Gaza caused widespread damage destruction of infrastructure, including 1,800 housing units, 74 public buildings, 53 educational institutions, and 33 media offices. Damage to the Desri desalination plant also left more than 250,000 Palestinians without access to clean drinking water.
Gaza Interior Ministry’s explosives engineer, Capt. Mohamed Mekdad, told Al Jazeera that the 70-member bomb disposal squad had not suffered any casualties since May 10, despite the lack of vital defense equipment.
“The team does not have protective vests or high-tech equipment that can detect the presence of explosives,” McDad said. “They only have simple equipment, like a toolbox that can be found in almost every household.”
The engineer said that during the blockade of 13-year-old Israeli Gaza, the entry of defense equipment by Gaza bomb disposal groups was prohibited.
MacDad says the main job-related risk during the Israeli attack was the likelihood of the team being targeted.
“The second risk is the type of ammunition thrown by Israel. How dangerous are they? Can the designated technician assess all this with the basic equipment at his disposal?”
The final step in the process of collecting and neutralizing unexploded ordnance is to move them to a central warehouse in Rafah, preparing for their destruction.
McDadd said the latest attack saw a new type of weapon used for the first time in the Gaza Strip – GBU-31 և GBU-39 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Two tons of explosives, designed to penetrate heavily fortified military sites, were used to level high-rise buildings that housed residential apartments, as well as commercial and media offices.
Courses և field experience
The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a Palestinian Authority building in Gaza. The first team was trained by US experts, and in 2006 the team was strengthened by the addition of more engineers and technicians.
Deadly Israeli 2008-2009 offensive In the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) began operations in addition to training the Interior Ministry’s bomb disposal squad.
During 2014-2020, UNMAS responded to 876 explosive ordnance claims, directly removed, destroyed 150 large air bombs containing 29,500 kilograms of explosives, and assisted in the clearance of 7,340 explosive remnants (ERW).
MacDad said recruits from the bomb disposal squad receive their training from current staff based on their years of experience working in the field.
“For the last 10-11 years, no one working in this field has gone to Gaza for training abroad,” he said.
“Every day can be your last”
Assad al-Alul, who has led the bomb disposal squad for the past eight years, says their job is the most dangerous inside the security department, which includes police and internal security agencies.
“The choice to work in this field is our choice նշան it is a sign of honor as we eliminate any harm և danger that threatens our citizens,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Just working in explosives engineering means you are a martyr,” he added. “Leaving your job every day can mean the last day of your country, because any mistake means it will be your last mistake – exceptions.”
Three technicians from the bomb disposal squad in 2014 were killedIn addition to a foreign journalist and a Palestinian translator at the scene after an attempt to defuse a rocket in northern Gaza.
Despite the risks of the job, al-Alul said he had not considered quitting.
“Who will undertake to protect our children from injury or death knowing all these risks?” he said. “We are working to provide a better future for the next generation so that they do not have to live with amputated rockets or bombs.”
“Every day you see death, but the Savior is God. It is an honor to die defending our people. “