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Israeli strike kills 23 at family home of Gazan comedian

According to Gaza's health ministry, a well-known Palestinian comedian named Mahmoud Zuaiter was among the 23 individuals killed and many others injured in an Israeli air strike on Friday. The attack targeted his family's home in Deir al-Balah, causing it to collapse and resulting in a high number of casualties, particularly among women and children.

Published February 23,2024

An Israeli air strike on Friday destroyed the home of a well-known Palestinian comedian in Gaza, killing at least 23 and injuring dozens more, according to the health ministry in the Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud Zuaiter's family home in the Deir al-Balah area of central Gaza was flattened, with most of the victims women and children, it added.

Zuaiter, who was injured in the attack, has more than 1.2 million fans on Instagram while his videos have been seen widely on YouTube.

AFP interviewed him in early 2014 after a Palestinian parody of a car advert by Belgian martial artist and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme went viral.

In the advert, Van Damme is shown straddling two moving trucks. The Gaza version is similar but involves two cars being pushed because of a lack of petrol.

In a video posted online after Friday's attack, Zuaiter, who is in his late 30s, is seen holding an injured child.

"I have spoken strongly against anyone leaving Gaza and I was praying to God, please don't force me to leave Gaza... because I love Gaza and its people so much," he is heard saying.

"But it seems they want us to leave Gaza."

He then bursts into tears.

AFP contacted the Israeli military, which asked for coordinates and the timing of the strike, without making any further comment.

The strike came with no let-up in Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip, as it seeks to destroy Hamas after the October 7 attacks on Israeli communities near the border with the Palestinian territory.

Some 1,160 people were killed in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures, with about 250 others taken hostage.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,514 people across Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.