The Palestinian village of Halhul, located a kilometer north of Hebron in the West Bank, is mourning the death of Mahmoud Abu Asbah (48). The father of six, a construction contractor, was killed Monday night when a rocket fired by militants from the Gaza Strip hit a building in Ashkelon.
"We have not yet told our little brother about the incident," said Bashir, one of the victim’s six children. "He is 4 years old and was very attached to dad."
Bashir said that his father used to sleep in Israel all week and returned home on weekends. "Yesterday, a few hours before the incident, I spoke to him and he told me that the 'situation is very scary and dangerous' and that he would like to return home until the end of the fighting, but could not find a cab."
The son added that "before dad went to sleep he told me that he would call us in the morning and let us know that he had left Ashkelon. We were waiting for his call, we started to worry, we called him several times and he did not answer anyone until we were told he was killed by a missile."
Monday night at 23:49 a heavy barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip was fired at Ashkelon. One of them directly hit the back of a building in one of the older neighborhoods of the city. The apartment on the fourth floor, where Abu Asbah was staying, suffered the most severe damage. As a result, the Palestinian contractor was killed and another woman who was in the apartment suffered moderate injuries.
"We are four brothers and two sisters," said his son. "Three of the brothers are students. We are afraid to go pick up my 4-year-old brother from kindergarten because he does not know that father will return home in a coffin. He was very attached to my father, this morning he even said to me, 'I miss dad and I am happy he is coming home today. My mother does not stop crying, our lives are destroyed; we do not know how to deal with his death."
As for the current round of fighting, the son said, "I hope that this war will stop. My father has Jewish friends and he was in good contact with everyone, we do not want others to go through what we've been through. It is very painful.”
'I took the girl out of the rubble'
Gennady Baskin, who was one of the first rescuers to reach the injured in the house in Ashkelon, said: "I went up to the fourth floor and suddenly I heard movement between the stones, I moved a stone and then I saw someone's hand. I began digging and suddenly I saw a body. I removed the woman from the rubble and she was screaming ‘child, child,' and I realized that I had to look for a child. Then the rescue forces came and removed me."
This morning Baskin arrived at Barzilai Hospital in the city because he was feeling ill. "I'm all trembling and suffering from anxiety, when I hear sirens, I do not know where to run and what happened with that child. It’s runnig through my head all day.”