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‘, ‘Day Six & Seven‘ are also available to read.
Gaza, July 18, 2014 (Alochonaa): In my earlier posts I spoke of an optimism regarding the proposed ceasefire. But now I write this with great disappointment, as the war is still taking place over the Gaza Strip. Instead of the proposed ceasefire I was waiting for, Israel has further escalated the military offensive. They have continued to target civilian houses, and ministers and PLC members.
According to the media reports, Hamas spokesman Sami Sbu Zuhri said that Hamas were not consulted by Egypt regarding the proposed ceasefire arrangements, and had only heard of the initiative through media outlets. Al Qasam, the military wing of Hamas, had not been sent military details about the Egyptian initiative from either side, “officially or unofficially”. Therefore, Hamas rejected the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.
The resistance in Gaza is mainly made up of Hamas, Jehad and other factions. President Abbas can’t be a party or a mediator in the truce of ceasefire. The official announcements of the resistance stated that they will not return to a ceasefire with Israel until Israel abides by certain conditions, which include the following: stopping the Israeli offensive on Gaza, lifting the siege and releasing prisoners who have been freed in the Wafa Al-Ahrar deal (in exchange with the Israeli soldier, Shalit).
Day eight and ten are over and we are approaching day eleven of the latest Gaza War. Israeli attacks have continued to cause civilian casualties, including amongst children. Yesterday, in the most disturbing news, four Palestinian children of the Baker family playing on the beach were killed by fire from Israeli gunships, and another three children of the Shuhaibar family were killed seeking shelter in their homes. The hospital I mentioned in my previous posts, the Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, no longer exists. It has been totally destroyed and patients and staff had to be evacuated as it was hit floor after floor.
I wrote this report as Israeli forces were preparing an expansion of ground operations into Gaza. Israeli forces have begun to line up at the border supported by artillery fire, and there are reports of a “poisonous white gas” being used. Fortunately, I had some electricity today, but large parts of Gaza are without electricity and living in darkness as some of the main electricity lines have been cut by artillery. There has been no announcement from Hamas about a ceasefire today but the UN and Israel have negotiated a unilateral six hour ceasefire for humanitarian reasons which is in effect today. This means people can leave their homes and find food and water, and the banks are open so people can collect their salaries and savings. I went for a quick tour of the surroundings and, though you could still smell the explosives in the air, people, hundreds of them, were lined up at the banks. People were rushing to get as many necessities as they could and get back home.
The Israeli offensive has come during the month of Ramadan, the most holy month for Muslims, where fasting and abstinence from drinking, smoking and other unsavory activities is practiced during daylight hours. Fasting is meant to cleanse the soul and Ramadan is a time of humility and patience. However, this offensive in Gaza has made Ramadan difficult. It already begins with 16 hour days of fasting in the summer heat and it is hard to sustain our spirits with the added problems of the Gaza War.
The hundreds of displaced families are breaking their fast in schools and temporary shelters, whilst the doctors, nurses and paramedics are functioning during the day time fast and must have their meals in the hospital corridors or on the streets to recharge and continue their daring work. Every day we have our morning and evening meals listening to the bombing outside, and we ask God to give us strength and patience, to bless the souls of the martyrs, and help the wounded and helpless people of Gaza.
Today Gaza is under siege. Since 2007, when Hamas took control over Gaza, Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade. Since then, access in and out of Gaza has been limited and the crossing points are under control of Egypt and Israel, and even Egypt only opens the Rafah crossing in exceptional circumstances. Palestinians require permits from Israel to leave or enter Gaza and requests for these permits are routinely denied. Israeli authorities also regulate the goods entering and leaving Gaza, making it difficult to transport in food, water and medicine, as well the fuel needed for electricity generators. In addition, the Israeli navy maintains a tight blockade of the coast and many feel that the siege constitutes an illegal collective punishment of Gaza.
The current offensive in Gaza has also begun in the midst of a financial crisis. After a Fatah-Hamas unity government was sworn in last month it became clear that the politicians had failed to address basic management issues, such as who would pay the salaries of the 50,000 employees of the former Hamas government. These people haven’t got a full salary in months now. This issue is creating more political divisions between Hamas and Fatah. Since 2007, Hamas has run its own civil service in Gaza, but during this time the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority continued to pay the salaries of its 165,000 employees in the Gaza Strip even though the PA was no operating there. Even today, during the ceasefire, the only people who got their salaries were PA employees – most people must borrow money from friends or relatives to buy food and water.
As of now the death toll is over 200 and the injuries exceed 1000, yet it is still not over. This must come to an end soon. Today, as I went outside, I saw the faces of the people. They looked pale, exhausted, anxious and melancholy. I would give anything to feel that my friends, family and loved ones are safe and I want this to come to an end more than anyone can know.
*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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