Two brothers, aged nine and three, were killed Wednesday in the northern city of Nazareth as Katyusha rockets fell in the downtown and suburban areas of the city.
The deaths mark the first time since the recent violence has begun that the victims have been Israeli Arabs. It was the third Israeli-Arab population center to be hit by Katyusha rockets during this conflict, though, after Madjal-Krum and Tubas Zangarit.
For a Jerusalem Online video of the day's events click here.
Nazareth residents reported hearing blasts at around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening as two rockets fell, one immediately after the other. The brothers, Muhammad and Rabiya Taluzi, were playing in the Bilaal neighborhood - located in the middle of a narrow steep road, with three-story buildings on either side - when a Katyusha fell, exploding next to them. They were killed immediately.
Eyewitnesses descried horrific scenes saying it was impossible to identify the bodies of the two children. Holes caused by metal pellets packed into the Katyusha dotted the wall of the adjacent buildings and the rocket left a crater in the road.
The brothers were buried a few hours later in the city according to Muslim custom.
The mayor of Nazareth, Ramiz Jaraisi, condemned the attack, calling it "a terrible event."
"Two innocent children who were playing in the street paid with their lives," he said. "It's a very high price for this war. There's nothing to do except call on the parties for a cease-fire to stop this war immediately."
But Jaraisi was reluctant to place the blame entirely on Hizbullah. "War is war," he said. "The issue is stopping the war, not blaming this side or that. When there is war, tragic results take place. I hope that both sides think reasonably, not emotionally."
Jaraisi said he hoped that international mediation would stop the violence. "I hope that the international community, the European governments and the United States will not continue watching, but will take real actions to bring this war to an end."
The rockets struck a Mazda automotive repair shop as well as a three-story residential building. At least twenty people were wounded by shrapnel, while over 100 were evacuated to hospitals for shock. A number of wounded were evacuated to Nazareth's Italian and English hospitals, while others were taken to hospitals in Afula, some 12 kilometers away.
Nazareth is a densely populated city of 70,000 people in the Northern Galilee. Most of its residents are Christian or Muslim Israeli Arabs. Despite its size, Nazareth is poorly equipped to deal with these kinds of attacks. Most houses and apartments are built without specially constructed bomb shelters, and there are no safe public places for citizens to seek refuge.
"The danger here is more than in other places," Jaraisi said. "We are not prepared for such events."
Residents of Nazareth described hearing the rockets as they landed in the town. The manager of Tishreen, an upscale restaurant, reported hearing "a loud boom, like a bomb." He said that everything in the city had been closed, including his own restaurant, because of the warnings.
Another store manager said that he heard two explosions and an "an enormous sound." The attacks, he said, have become "so much closer to us."
Like the mayor, many residents of Nazareth seemed frustrated with the violence itself, but were adamant that the blame lay on both sides.
"People are afraid and angry," said Sharif Sharif-Safadi, an expert on Nazareth who lives in the city. "People are not with Hizbullah, they are with their city. When an attack arrives at your house, you don't care who's doing it."