A car was fired upon by what appeared to be an Israeli tank on the outskirts of Gaza City, an eyewitness told NBC News on Monday, as the major ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave drew more international calls for civilians to be protected.
Freelance photographer Bashar Talib said he was traveling in a nearby vehicle on the Salah Al Deen road when the vehicle was hit.
The driver of the white car saw the tank “at the last minute,” he said. “He was close to the tank and the bulldozer. He stopped his car to go back, but he was targeted before driving,” Talib added.
Video shot by his colleague Youssef Al-Saifi, a local journalist, who was traveling with him, shows a white car moving ahead of them down the road. As their vehicle slows down, the white car slows down and starts to turn around.
Just as it starts to drive away in the opposite direction, the tank then fires a round that hits its back end and black smoke erupts.
The vehicle carrying Talib and Al-Saifi then turns around and drives away quickly. “The man is dead, a whole family,” they scream as it speeds up.
NBC News could not independently verify that a family was in the white car.
Asked about the incident by NBC News, the IDF said it would not comment on the positions of its forces inside Gaza. But IDF Maj. Nir Dinar told The Wall Street Journal that “terrorists use civilian infrastructure like cars. They don’t have tanks or military jeeps.”
Driving in the opposite direction, Talib said they passed “a bus filled with civilians and children” moving straight toward the white car and the tank.
Although they shouted for it to “go back,” he said the driver did not hear them because he was traveling too quickly.
The incident took place hours after Israel’s military said it had struck more than 600 militant targets over the past few days as it expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told a news conference that the IDF would “continue and intensify” its ground operation and “additional forces” had entered the besieged enclave over the last day. Some of them had fought with “terrorists who barricaded themselves in buildings,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the war enters its fourth week, aid agencies are warning that Palestinian civilians are in dire need of fuel, food and clean water as Gaza’s infrastructure has reached a point of near collapse. On Saturday, crowds of people broke into four U.N. facilities and took food supplies. The United Nations said this was a sign that civil order was starting to break down.
With no central power for weeks and little fuel, hospitals are struggling to keep emergency generators running to operate incubators and other lifesaving equipment.
A spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Monday that blasts had rung out less than 200 feet from the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, which is sheltering thousands of people.
Strikes hit near Gaza City’s Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals and the Indonesian and Turkish hospitals in northern Gaza in recent days, the U.N. said.
After Talib and Al-Saifi shared their video of the tank blasting the car, it was posted by the Palestinian foreign ministry, which described its passengers as martyrs.
Talib, meanwhile, said he was grateful to be alive.
“God spared our lives,” he said. “If there was no car driving in front of us, we would be targeted.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com