It was supposed to be an evening of entertainment in Gaza, watching the World Cup semifinal at a cafe in a welcome break from 48 hours of Israeli air strikes.
But the evening was cut brutally short when an Israeli raid flattened the Fun Time Beach cafe in the southern Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday, killing nine people and wounding 15.
All that is left of the popular seaside cafe — where dozens broke their Ramadan fast on Wednesday night before settling down to watch Argentina play the Netherlands — is a large crater and a few mounds of sand.
The cafe’s multicolored sign is still standing, somewhat crookedly, as colorful bunting and canvas windbreakers lay strewn on the floor, torn down by the force of the blast.
The Israeli missile scattered the dead and wounded across the beach, and made a hole so deep that seawater filled it up from underground after impact.
“It was a normal social occasion,” said Wael Soboh, a local policeman who is employed by the Palestinian Authority.
“The boys ate their Ramadan iftar meal here, and then began watching the match. It is not a military area.”
Eight people were killed immediately in the blast, medical sources said, all of them residents of the nearby city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.
Bulldozers were earlier Thursday busy searching for a ninth man believed to buried underneath the soggy sand, as locals looked on in the searing midday heat.
“It’s possible the missing guy was blown to pieces,” said another local, Mohammed Astal.
Later, Gaza’s emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the body was found, raising the toll in the attack to nine.