Thousands of miles away from the conflict in Gaza, Tariq Hamouda and his wife, Manal, are grappling with the unimaginable loss of three generations of their family. This Palestinian American couple, residing in Maple Grove, Minnesota, has been deeply affected by the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which claimed the lives of 42 of their relatives. The tragedy occurred over a week ago, but the couple is still struggling to come to terms with the magnitude of their loss.
Manal Saqallah, now Manal Hamouda, lost four of her brothers, a sister, and most of their children when their family compound in Gaza City’s Sheikh Ejleen neighborhood was destroyed in two explosions on October 19. While the family believes it was an Israeli airstrike, this claim cannot be independently verified. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated they needed coordinates for the house to provide any comments, but the family was concerned about possible repercussions, so they declined to share the information.
A video obtained from a neighbor shows the aftermath of the attack: charred ruins and rubble that were once three buildings, surrounded by largely untouched homes in the residential area. Despite the evidence, Manal has struggled to accept the reality of the situation. The grief is palpable, with the loss of loved ones hitting especially hard.
Tariq and Manal, who are originally from Gaza but have lived in Minnesota since 2004, have experienced periods of fear and conflict between Israel and militant groups in the region. However, the recent escalation has been unprecedented. The conflict began when Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant group breached the barrier separating Gaza from Israel, leading to the deaths of more than 1,400 people and the abduction of over 220 others. In response, Israel launched extensive airstrikes on Gaza, primarily aiming to dismantle Hamas’s rule over the territory.
Tragically, the civilians caught in the crossfire have borne the brunt of the violence, with thousands of Palestinian casualties and over a million people internally displaced. Amid the loss and suffering, Tariq Hamouda is struggling to mourn those who perished, as he remains deeply concerned about the safety of those who managed to survive.
The situation has also taken a toll on Manal’s cousin, Eyad Abu Shaban, who resides in South Florida. Losing 42 family members, ranging from three months to 77 years old, in a single incident has been incredibly distressing for him. The deceased were staying in one compound, where they sought refuge after evacuating a neighboring area. They had received a warning from the IDF about potential military activity in the vicinity but were not instructed to leave their home.
Despite the warning, airstrikes targeted their compound, resulting in devastating losses. The video footage provided by surviving family members shows the grim aftermath as the deceased are laid to rest in a mass grave. Among those killed were four of Manal’s brothers, all of whom were eye doctors operating Gaza’s largest family-owned network of eye clinics.
Tariq Hamouda asserts that his family was not involved in militant activities and had no connections to the conflict. They were ordinary civilians, including medical professionals, with no affiliations with Hamas. Despite the immense tragedy, the Hamouda family has received support from their local community in Maple Grove, with an outpouring of love and assistance during this challenging time. Community members came together to pray for the family at a local Islamic center, and even a staff member from Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office in Minnesota reached out to offer condolences and support.