Gaza father tried to console his children, then Israel killed him

Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza in May left the coastal enclave in ruins… once again.

More than 250 Palestinians were killed, including at least 67 children.

About half of those killed were civilians, according to UN monitoring group OCHA, and 245 of them were killed by Israeli fire. Some were killed as a result of rockets fired from Gaza that fell short.

Multiple generations of multiple Palestinian families were in some cases almost completely wiped out. Fourteen families lost three or more members in a single attack, while 19 families lost two or more members.

In some instances, only one member of a nuclear family survived. In one case, 21 members of the same family were killed.

This is Part III of a series that documents the names, faces and stories of some of the victims of Israel’s May 2021 attack on Gaza. Read Part I here and Part II here

When Israel began bombing Gaza earlier this month, Ahmad al-Mansi struggled to console his fearful children.

Hala, Sarah and Malek featured regularly on a YouTube channel run by their father, titled “Sarah and Hala the stars,” which currently has over 280,000 subscribers.

The children create all kinds of videos with their father, such as filming a family barbecue, hanging Ramadan decorations, playing pranks on each other or completing challenges.

In the last days of Ramadan, the three children bought clothes for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday and modeled them for their online following.

“On Eid day, we usually dress up in the morning, pray and then visit our relatives to share the blessings of the holiday,” al-Mansi says in another video he posted on 12 May.

“This won’t happen in Gaza. Why? Because there is fear in the streets.”

This marked the third day of Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip.

A boy and two girls are seated next to each other on a couch
Malek, Sarah and Hala lost their father Ahmad al-Mansi to Israeli airstrikes.

In the video, al-Mansi goes to the market and buys candy, toys and snacks for his children to try to comfort them and distract them from the sound of Israel’s shelling.

He gets each of them their favorite pack of chips and a fishing toy for the girls.

Even as they play with their new toys, they seem anxious and distracted by the sounds of warplanes flying above and missiles falling around them.

The video ends with the children running for cover under pillows and into their father’s arms after the sound of a warplane is heard close by.

That video would be his last.

Two days later, just before midnight, Israeli warplanes dropped missiles at their neighborhood in Qalibo Hill, east of Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza.

A missile dropped in the family house’s garden, killing Ahmad al-Mansi and his brother Yousif al-Mansi. Their neighbor, Ahmad Muhammad Sabbah, 28, was also killed.

Ahmad al-Mansi was reportedly a member with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

Two days before he was killed, he had asked his wife, Nesma, to move to her father’s house with their three children to be safer, Hamza Abu Eltarabesh reported to The Electronic Intifada.

His brother, Palestinian photojournalist Muhammad al-Mansi, said he was “documenting Israel’s crimes” at the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza when he recognized his brothers among the dead.

Muhammad al-Mansi’s wife had miscarried some days earlier because of anxiety caused by Israel’s bombing, he wrote in a prior post on Instagram.

Hala, Sarah and Malek – now paternal orphans – posted a video on their channel mourning their father and saying he loved Jerusalem and had always wanted to visit it.

Another video posted by their uncle last month shows Hala and Malek trying to smile and pray for their father.

Sarah, a little older and more aware than her siblings, is clearly struggling to conceal her grief.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.