Kerala woman killed in rocket strike in Israel while she was on video call with husband

The deceased, Soumya Santhosh, was a native of Idukki who had been working as a caregiver in Israel for the past seven years.
Soumya Santhosh, a native of Kerala’s Idukki, who was killed in rocket strike in Israel
Soumya Santhosh, a native of Kerala’s Idukki, who was killed in rocket strike in Israel
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A 31-year-old woman from Kerala who was working in the city of Ashkelon in Israel was killed in a rocket strike from Gaza on Tuesday. Family members of Soumya Santhosh, a resident of Idukki, told news agency PTI that the rocket struck her residence. At the time of the rocket strike, she was talking to her husband Santhosh, who is in Kerala, over a video call.

“My brother heard a huge sound during the video call and the phone got disconnected suddenly. We immediately contacted fellow Malayalees working there and came to know about the incident,” Santhosh’s brother Saji told PTI. Soumya, who hailed from Keerithodu in Idukki district, was working in Israel for the last seven years, her relatives said. She was employed as a caregiver attending to an old woman in the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. She has a nine-year-old son who lives with her husband in Kerala.

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan condoled Soumya’s death and said he had spoken to her family.

MLA-designate and Nationalist Congress Kerala leader Mani C Kappan condemned the incident. In a Facebook post, Kappan, who represents the Pala seat in the Kerala Assembly, said thousands of Keralites working in Israel were living in fear. He also sought intervention of the Union government and the state government in the issue.

Over the last month, tension has been brewing between the Israeli government and Hamas with things escalating further over the last few days and both sides indulging in shell attacks. According to reports, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 32 Palestinians, including 10 children. Over 200 people have been wounded. In Israel, three people, including the Kerala woman, have lost their lives.

The current violence has coincided with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a time of heightened religious sentiments. Heavy-handed Israeli police measures in and around Jerusalem’s Old City stoked nightly unrest. Another flashpoint has been the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where dozens of Palestinians are under threat of eviction by Jewish settlers.

Confrontations erupted last weekend at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism. Over four days, Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinians in the compound, who hurled stones and chairs at the forces. At times, police fired stun grenades into the carpeted mosque.

On Monday evening, Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza. From there on, the escalation was rapid.

The United Nations had earlier expressed concern over the situation in the region. On Tuesday, UN Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland took to Twitter asking for a ceasefire from both sides. “We’re escalating towards a full scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take full responsibility of de-escalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by the ordinary people. The UN is working with all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now,” he said in the tweet.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video address on Tuesday said that Israel has “eliminated dozens of terrorists including senior commanders” and that the country will continue to do so. In another sign of growing unrest, demonstrations erupted in Arab communities across Israel, where protesters set dozens of vehicles on fire in confrontations with police.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas was the most intense since a 50-day war in the summer of 2014. In just over 24 hours, the current round of violence, sparked by religious tensions in the contested city of Jerusalem, increasingly resembled that devastating war.

(With inputs from PTI)

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