Mohammad Qadada is in a state of shock.
He has been like this since Tuesday when the 13-storey building housing his tech start-up was razed to the ground during Israel’s relentless aerial bombardment on the besieged Gaza Strip.
For days now, Israeli fighter jets have targeted several landmark buildings in the heart of Gaza City, completely flattening at least two high-rise blocks. Hanadi, a tower with a mix of residential apartments and commercial offices, including Qadada’s Planet for Digital Solutions, was one of them.
According to local sources, unmanned Israeli surveillance planes targeted Hanadi with several warning missiles before its destruction by fighter jets that caused severe material damage in the upscale Rimal neighbourhood.“The building’s guard told me that day he received a phone call from the Israeli side, telling him to evacuate the building within two hours,” Qadada told Al Jazeera.
“We didn’t manage to evacuate our company’s equipment,” the 31-year-old said. “We decided not to risk it and go into the building. The time was very limited and people in the surrounding residential area were very afraid.”
Qadada founded Planet for Digital Solutions in 2017 and grew the company to employ 30 people.
“Since the targeting and levelling of the building, the question of ‘why’ has never left my mind. Why was it targeted?” said Qadada. “The staff and me, all of us, are in a collective shock state.”
Israel says the buildings are being targeted because they are being used in part by fighting factions in Gaza, arguing that this makes them “legitimate” targets. But Qadada said the strikes increased the suffering of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip by weakening its already devastated economy and taking away livelihoods.
“The youth here are striving to find stable job opportunities, but in a blink of an eye we lose everything,” he said.
Lama Mohamed, a 30-year-old journalist, said Hanadi had a special place in her heart as she had spent her honeymoon there.
“The apartments have a fantastic view of the sea,” she told Al Jazeera. “These are not only buildings, but these are places that constitute landmarks of Gaza City, which many people have special memories of.”
At least 83 Palestinians, including 17 children, have been killed and hundreds wounded since Israel began its offensive on Monday, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
The escalation began after Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets towards Israel, in what they said was a response to the violent storming by Israeli police of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound last week that wounded more than 500 worshippers.
Muhammad Deif, the shadowy commander of the armed wing of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, had also warned Israel to back down from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, where Palestinian families are facing imminent forced displacement from their homes in favour of Jewish settler groups. Seven Israelis have also been killed in the rocket attacks, according to Israeli officials.
With a population of two million crammed into 365 square kilometres (140 square miles), the Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Unlike Israeli towns and cities, there are no bomb shelters for its residents to take refuge in.