A dead toddler’s legs and bare feet poked out from under layers of concrete in the ruins of a block hit by an Israeli air strike, and three men tried to release the top half of the body by pulling out chunks of debris with their bare hands, Reuters reports.
At one point, having removed a large piece, one of the men picked up the child’s legs, which were dressed in black trousers, and gently tried to retrieve the body, but it was still stuck and the legs flopped to the ground.
The scene took place early on Monday in Rafah, after a strike late the previous night destroyed a residential block and left a yawning crater as deep as a multi-storey building.
The dead toddler was eventually freed and wrapped in a black cloth. A man cradled the body to his chest, despair etched on his face, and carried it away from the ruins, surrounded by other men, some of whom put their hands on his shoulders.
“There is no God but Allah, and all martyrs are beloved by Allah,” the men chanted as they walked.
Another tiny body was also being carried away, that one wrapped in a colourful blanket.
Local residents told Reuters more than a dozen people had been killed in the strike, including several children. Several of the dead were still buried in the rubble.
Rafah is located at the southern end of the Gaza Strip close to the border with Egypt. Israel has been urging civilians to move southwards from other parts of the Strip to avoid being caught up in heavy combat, but survivors in Rafah said nowhere was safe.
The war began on 7 October when Hamas, the group that runs the Gaza Strip, rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 people including babies and toddlers and seizing 240 hostages of all ages, according to Israeli figures.
Vowing to destroy Hamas in response, Israel has responded with a military assault on the densely populated Palestinian enclave that has killed more than 15,000 people, most of them women and children, according to health officials in Gaza.