Tension has been escalating between Israel and the Gaza Strip following the murders of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank and a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem over the last two weeks. The state of Israel has since launched operation ‘Protective Edge’ against the Gaza Strip. Palestinian fighters have responded with rocket attacks against Israeli cities. This is the ‘Gaza War Diary – Day Three’, a personal account from Rasha writing from Gaza as the violence unfolds. Gaza War Diary ‘Day One‘, ‘Day Two‘, ‘Day Three’ & ‘Day Four‘, ‘Day Five‘ are also available to read.
Gaza War Diary – Day Six
Rasha N Abushaban*
Gaza, July 14, 2014 (Alochonaa): Day six of the war has already ended. I will never forget this day in all of my life. My family and I were having our Sohor meal before the sunset in preparation of the next day’s fast. I was sitting opposite to the window, when I first saw bright lights, which soon turned the darkness of the night into the brightness of the day. I did not have much time to say anything, when a few seconds later we heard a series of the most horrifying and scary bombardments. We all ran to the room in the middle of our house. My body kept shaking for so long. I felt my heart stop for seconds, and I couldn’t breathe. I held myself from crying in front of the small children; I could see so much fear in their eyes. I tried to calm down and sit with my laptop to check the news.
I thought it was over and then another huge bombardment pierced through the air. We gathered again to the centre of the house away from the windows. We sat together for a while to make sure that there was no further air strikes hitting our surrounding area. Those were air raids directed at some governmental centres in our neighbour. I live in a building where there are 20 persons staying a the moment, including my sister’s family who were forced to leave their house that was damaged in the war earlier this week. She came to our house seeking some safety. But is there any safety in Gaza? We kept talking, chatting and even laughing. My nephew told us about how in the last blast he was standing up praying then when the bomb hit he lay down on the floor, so he asked us if that prayer was counted or should be repeat it again?We found that both ironic and funny.Then we went to bed in search of some rest after this tough night.
The morning came and the explosions in my area were less intense during the day time. Though, bombings are always more intense during the night. My Father and Brother went to the market for the first time since the beginning of this offensive to purchase vegetables. For the last few days we managed to get our food from a nearby shop. In Gaza there is usually a small shop located in each neighbourhood, who would open for a few hours in the day time only. In the first three or four days of the war there were hardly anyone out on the streets, as the Israeli air strikes were hysterical over the Gaza Strip. For the first time since the war started I went to the balcony, and I saw a few people from the surrounding neighbourhood walking to the street to purchase goods from the shop nearby my home.
Many people who live in critical areas within Gaza have left their houses since the beginning of the war, and have sought safety in the homes of their friends and/or family. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with a landmass of 365 m3 and a population of 1.7million. Most of the houses are multi-storey buildings, which contain many apartments, where in each one lives one family or more. I know people evacuated their homes to stay with relatives. In those circumstances some homes contained 20 people seeking refuge in a single flat with a space of 150m3.
In Gaza we don’t drink water from the tap, we buy water for drinking. The big water tank on the roof is near to being empty, and my Father is concerned what we will do for water if this war is to last for more days ahead. Usually we have a supplier who comes regularly to fill the tank. If we don’t manage to get him, we will have to buy mineral water bottles. I was thinking of the other people of Gaza, and how they will manage with this same situation. Many, if not most of them cannot afford to buy mineral water.
The water problem is very critical in Gaza, as a landmass it is characterised by severe water shortage, of which is highly controlled by the Israeli occupation. The water resources of Palestine are fully controlled by Israel. The Coastal Aquifer is the only source of water in the Gaza Strip. It runs deep beneath the coast of Israel, with Gaza sitting downstream at the end of the basin, and the water flowing underground mainly in an East-West direction. Israel on the contrary, has installed a cordon of numerous deep set wells along the Gaza border, and in this way extracts much of the ground water before it can reach Gaza. Israel sells a limited part of the water to the Palestinians in Gaza. While Israel transports water from this North of it’s territory to the South, us Palestinians are not allowed to move water from the West Bank to Gaza. This is why the aquifer is heavily overused and results in seawater intrusion. Only 5-10% of water the aquifer yields is of drinking water quality. By 2000, the water from the Coastal Aquifer in the Gaza region was no longer considered fit for human consumption due to the high salinity from the sea water intrusion, and the high nitrate pollution from agricultural activity.
My Father returned with the groceries, and I started to help my Mother prepare the food for our meal in the sunset to break our fast. During the daytime, the bombardments could be heard in the distance. While making the salad I started to sing, but was soon interrupted with the sound of bombs in the distance. I stopped for for a moment, then carried on singing my song hoping inside me that this bomb did not cause the loss of any lives. Well I don’t know how many of you have had, or will have, such an opportunity to have the sound of hovering planes over as a tune for your sining, but I have.
The children in the house were watching some cartoons on my laptop as a means to distracts them from thinking about situation. During these tough days of the assault, I intend to gather my nephews and nieces together to let them talk. I want them to express how they feel and what they have experienced. They get excited and act when telling stories of how they went out of the house and managed to run away minutes before the next air strike. Some of them were sharing how suddenly they would jump off their bed after a bomb went off, only to find themselves in the corner of the room; the other children would laugh. I want them to be able to release their stress and to know that their cousins also feel the same. I want them to know it is normal to feel afraid. One of my nephews told me about how lucky he is because he is living inside a real action movie, like one he is used to seeing play on the TV. I am always concerned about how these shocks will impact our long term psychology, especially for the children.
Today I couldn’t stick to my laptop following the news minute by minute, like I had the previous days before. I kept checking every couple of hours. One of the most horrible news f the war was the Batish family massacre. They were murdered last night, and 18 people including women and children were killed by the Israeli airstrike, which hit the family’s home. There were pictures of the dead, including the body parts that were taken to the hospital, and screaming relatives. These images left me speechless. What is happening to the people of Gaza cannot be described in words. These images left me heartbroken.
Today Israeli forces dropped leaflets asking the families located in the Northern area of the Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes. As stated in the leaflets, the Israeli forces were to target the different Northern locations where rockets have been launched from into Israel. Around 8,000 Palestinians from the North(Alatatra ana Alsalaten neighborhoods) evacuated their homes to UNRWA schools in the Jabalya Refugee Camp. There is a mass displacement taking place for the families who live near the border area, who must flee to the central area of Gaza. They fled to the UN schools looking for safe shelters. I remember in 2009, the UNRWA school was bombed, under similar conditions to what is happening now. Simply no place is safe in Gaza.
I have not left the house since the beginning of this assault, but my nephews did to go visit their paternal grandparents during this afternoon. They described the centre of Gaza, which is usually busy, now like a ghost city. They told me that there were hardly any people walking in the streets, except for who were buying bread from one bakery that was open. They passed by the governmental compound near my house that was hit last night, and it was razed to the ground. I am friends who are journalists who are covering the events from the ground. I often think of how brave they are.
People are all following the news about the possible ceasefire. People want this to end sooner rather than later. But at the same time, they want this ceasefire to happen with the fulfilment of conditions made by the Palestinian side. We have been suffering a lot, and we want to take any step possible in order to alleviate our suffering. We want the siege that has been imposed on Gaza since 2006 to be lifted. We want a solution for the electricity problem, as we have been suffering from ongoing power shortages and black outs for years now. We want the opening of the crossing, and improvements for trade and exportation movement, which have been blockaded for years. We want concrete to be allowed to enter Gaza so we can rebuild the damaged houses and facilities.
So we are now done for this bloody day of war. ‘Day Six’ is over. I hope this night to be calmer and to bring some peace. Although I doubt this, because at night time Gaza is really scary these days. I want our normal life to be restored. Well, if that was even called normal. I wish for this to come an end so people can treat their wounds and start to recover from their ordeals.
Gaza War Diary – Day Seven
Gaza, July 15, 2014 (Alochonaa): We have almost concluded another day of this bloody assault. So the beginning of tonight was quite calm, which I expected to be the case, as the saying goes ‘the calm before the storm’. What I mean by calm is that no air strikes are near, but we still hear the sound of hovering drone, which has been ZzzzZZing in our heads day and night. Then out of no where, one huge explosion took place. BOOM! It was directly after the Germany and Argentina FIFA football final. Perhaps the pilot was not happy with the result? Then once more, another huge bomb hit the police station not so far from my house while we were having our Sohor meal before dawn to fast for the following day. I kept thinking of the hundreds of displaced families from the North of the Gaza Strip who are staying in UNRWA schools.
I later sat at my balcony staring at the high sky until the morning came. I saw the neighbours burning their garage in the street in an attempt to get rid of the strong smell; the municipality has not functioned during this assault. The containers have become full and the smell is disturbing. Especially because it is summer and the weather is really hot these days.
Today it has been quite calmer in my area, but I can still hear the air strikes from faraway. Israel continues to shell houses, mosques and medical centres. The most distressing news I heard today was about the doctors from Al Shifa Compound Hospital who have confirmed the use of DIME weapons (Dense Inert Metal Explosive). Most injuries coming into the hospital are quite difficult to medicate due to the excessive use of this type of weapon, which explored into micro shrapnels that cut through the tissue and blood arteries causing severe bleeding and eventually death. Throughout the last assaults on the Gaza Strip, we have heard about Israel using weapons and bad chemicals which are internationally prohibited. I remember Israel and the phosphorous weapons which had an impact on Palestinians for years later t come. Is Israel capturing the population of Gaza to use them as laboratory rats now? Are they using them to experiment and develop their arms industry? How inhuman can this be?
The most disturbing thing I saw today which made my heart cry was the video of the Palestinian Father who hugged the dead bodies of his two children, crying and asking them to forgive him for not being able to protect them. This unarmed and civilian man who cannot do anything in front of the huge Israeli planes or warships, asking his two children for forgiveness for not being there to shield them from the attacks. How heartbreaking is this?
Today I came across that highly publicised video from Diane Sawyer – ABC News Anchor – when during her report directed the audience’s attention to “the rockets raining down on Israel” – while on the screen we saw Israeli jets pounding Gaza. Pointing to a still photo, which was clearly of Palestinians dragging a mattress through the rubble, she described it as “an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can”. I later read that ABC acknowledged the “error”, but one wonders… a lie, once in circulation and so widely accepted becomes hard to refute, no matter how many ‘corrections’ are issued.
Again, I was thinking. What is actually the reason behind this war, and why is it occurring now? Is it the murders of the three Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank? Or is it the Hamas rocket attacks into Israel? Hamas took over the Gaza Strip through democratically elected means. Whether we liked this or not, it was legitimate and it was the people of Gaza who made this choice. When Israel has been shelling the Gaza Strip, targeting civilians and non-combatants, this is not getting rid of Hamas. This is what Israel deems ‘collective punishment’. When Israel justifies this by targeting resistance fighters, Hamas members, police officers, and government figures, they also kill their families and neighbours. More alarmingly, Israeli air forces have been targeting schools, health care centres, mosques, water facilities, disabled rehabilitation centres, and even children’s kindergartens. Can all of these locations be storing weapons? Is that even possible? There is no law, no system and no logic to justify this. The official medical sources have stated this from the beginning of the offensive. More than 70% of the dead and the injured are women, children and elderly, and 90% are civilians.
We don’t have the anti-rocket or missile systems that Israel has (referring to the ‘Iron Dome’). I am wondering if they want to kill some specific figures? If so why don’t they pick and target them? I believe Israel has enough technology to do so. But Israel conducts genocide and massacres against the powerless women, children and people. They capitalise on the people to put pressure on Hamas, and to prolong Palestinian suffering. I wonder how many stories can the Israeli’s tell about the rockets being launched into Israel, and the supposed amounts of ‘horror’ and the ‘psychological’ impact.
In Gaza there have been hundreds of heartbreaking stories of terrorising, murdering and massacring of the civilian population. I don’t speak politics, and nor do I want to. All I care about is that there are HUMANS who are murdering every single day, and that there are HUMANS who are suffering extremely hard circumstances in the Gaza Strip. I imagine what if the Palestinian resistance now had the advanced military technology, and they decided to punish every solider, militant, and politician who is participating in the killing or injuring of any Palestinian. What if they target them, their families and their neighbours? I guess there would be no Israel.
I read that article about Ayelet Shaked who represents the far-right Jewish Home party in the Knesset. This means she is well to the right of Benyamin Netanyahu. She posted this on her Facebook page:
“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just”.
How inhuman is this? We think of all the Israelis as enemy combatants as well. Because 66 years ago , in 1948 , the Palestinians were massacred , and driven from their homes into refugee camps and in diasporas around the world, never allowed to return in violation of international law. The state of Israel was established by expelling the original people who were living there, and by grabbing their land under some claims to historical roots. Since then the Palestinians have been invaded, dispossessed , occupied, brutalised, blockaded, and segregated. Palestine was not ”Land without People”, and we have the right to return . End of story .
My day ended with news about the Palestinian resistance launching a number of small Remotely Piloted Aircrafts, which reached far inside Israel. That was the highlight of my day. Yes , faith can motivate you to invent , create and resist with very basic materials. They did what whole armys of the Arab countries couldn’t do. Also, there is news about a possible ceasefire. Egypt has proposed a ceasefire outline to Israel and Gaza. The Egyptians proposition is for the ceasefire to start tomorrow morning and for Israel to stop aerial, naval and ground operations against the Gaza Strip and to promise not to engage in a ground offensive or harm civilians. At the same time, all the Palestinian factions will hold their fire. Crossings between Gaza and Israel will be reopened, and restrictions on the passage of commodities and people will be eased, in return for a halt to hostilities. This is quite good news, I am looking forward to the responses . I feel optimistic and I think I am not the only one who will feel good on my birthday tomorrow, a lot of other people will too.
*Rasha N. AbuShaaban writes from Gaza in the Occupied Palestinian Territories . She holds a Masters Degree from the University of Aberdeen, UK. She has been working for many years with the civil society sector and in the management of humanitarian and developmental projects in Palestine. Currently she is working at an International NGO. She believes that empowerment and ensuring rights for the Palestinian children , youth and women are key for building a civilized and peaceful Palestinian society.
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