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‘, ‘Fasting Under Fire‘ are also available to read.
Rasha N. AbuShaaban*
Gaza, July 21, 2014 (Alochonaa): I wrote this diary on the afternoon of the thirteenth day of the war. The ground offensive has been taking place for more than 48 hours now. The last couple of days have been the worst days since the war began. Tonight I can hear the shelling from tanks every 10 seconds. The Israeli soldiers didn’t reach more than 500 meters inside Gaza from the ‘green line‘. The artillery continues to fire on both people and their homes from a distance. Since the ground invasion was launched, the death toll has increased dramatically from approximately 150 (within the period before the ground offensive), to now being over 500, and over three thousand injured. The number of dead and injured increases minute by minute.
Tonight Israel continues to launch attacks in an uncontrolled manner. Dozens of civilians living near the border line, particularly in the East of Gaza City have lost their lives to Israeli attacks. The ICRS could not send all the required ambulances and medics to the area because of the heavy shelling. It was heartbreaking to hear the SOS calls coming from the East of Gaza that Red Cross lines were busy and that ambulances could not enter the bombed areas. The SOS calls named the dead and the injured, and characterised the streets as running red with blood. I would later come to see the videos and photos the following morning.
Gaza woke up to images of unarmed women, children and the elderly scattered throughout the streets of Shejaiya. Hundreds of families fled to the centre of Gaza and the UNRWA schools that were already running over capacity. They were forced to leave everything, they ran through the streets barefoot, screaming and crying. Family members pushed the disabled and the elderly in wheelchairs. One of the survivors of the Shejaiya massacre stated the following:
“Heavy shelling was massive and nonstop. We left our homes and started running away. We kept running and running.. then someone falls.. We couldn’t look back and kept running in the street, then another one falls and we keep running. By the time we arrived to a ‘safe’ place in Gaza City, we were 12 although we were 50 when we left our homes”.
The reporter from Al Jazeera couldn’t continue his report because of his state of shock. The doctors and nurses continue to function under pressure during these outrageous scenes. I can’t believe this is happening, and what is harder to digest is that the world keeps silent. This is now a new level of catastrophe.
The battle between both sides continues to intensify. According to the Qasam brigade (the military arm of Hamas), more than 34 Israeli soldiers have been killed, many other injured and some tanks bombed. Qasam have posted a numbers of videos of the tanks they have damaged. The Israelis have announced the killing of five soldiers. Israel tends to not give information unless it is already international knowledge. The light-bombs have turned the darkness of Gaza into daytime since the ground offensive has started, but our lives remain characterised by darkness.
Can you read again my description for the situation occurring in one given night of this bloody war in the Gaza Strip? In each day of this conflict, there are endless violations against the convention relative to the protection of civilians persons in times of war. Where does the world stand on this? Where is the international community? You don’t have to be a human rights specialist, and you don’t need to understand politics in order to understand what is happening in Gaza and to demand an end to these war crimes. The conflict does not require you to be Muslim or Arab, you only need to be human. I strongly believe that admitting to what is happening in Gaza, in terms of constituting war crimes, is a test for the wider humanity. If you are human you will call it the onslaught and mass murder of people, if not you will call it self-defence.
Today we heard the sound of missiles being dropped from Apache. We understood that it was a warning missile that comes before an air strike. We ran to the middle of the house. The war planes closely followed, flying at a low altitude, until launching an air strike that hit somewhere not far away and shook the entire house. They warplanes continued to fly over causing terror for us all. I used to think I was safer living in the centre of Gaza City, which is situated away from the border. But so what? No place is safe in all of Gaza now. Anywhere can be a target at any time.
For those who don’t know what a ‘warning missile’ is, it is a ‘roof knocking missile‘, which refers to the missiles dropped by the Israeli forces on targeted building. It serves two purposes, firstly to guide the F16 to hit the target, and secondly to provide a few minutes warning for the inhabitants inside to evacuate before the air strike. Some houses get this kind of warning and are able to scramble together a few minutes to evacuate. The so-called “knock on the roof” technique has been condemned by Amnesty International’s Philip Luther, who said: “There is no way that firing a missile at a civilian home can constitute an effective ‘warning’. Amnesty International has documented cases of civilians killed or injured by such missiles in previous Israeli military operations on the Gaza Strip”.I came across a video of a house being hit with this ‘warning missile’, but saw that it took less than one minute until the F16 air strike hit.
I often become concerned about the evacuation process. The hundreds of families that are forced to flee seek refuge in UNRWA schools, or with their relatives. But I keep remembering the Fakhora UN school that was bombed by the Israelis in the Cast lead war in 2008 and massacreing those civilians who had sought shelter. There is no place that is safe when war comes to Gaza. But what can you expect when you ask a captive population to evacuate when border crossings remain tightly closed? There is nowhere to hide.
I am a civilian. I have never hurt anyone in my life, not even an insect. I have never carried any kind of weapons. I am a human, like all of these hundreds of people who have been murdered as they try to survive in these extremely hard circumstances. I know the people of Gaza are simple people. We don’t live in fancy houses. Most of the women cover their heads with a hijab and dress modestly. Most men are bearded. We don’t have KFC or large shopping malls. We don’t wear branded clothing. But I know for sure that we are human. We contain the same blood and organs like all other humans on this planet. Palestinian parents love their children. We love our families. We like to enjoy our lives. The children of Gaza are like all children in this world; they are pure, innocent and deserve to be protected. All of us in Gaza want to feel safe. We don’t ask for much. Our demands to stop this bloodshed and this war are simple; we want endurance of our human rights, our safety to access food, water and medicine.
Outside of Gaza the majority of the world wakes feeling safe. They have control to enjoy they life, experience joy, happiness or pain and misery. In Gaza this is not the case. We have been under siege for so many years, we have been under fire – this is not our choice. All day I watch the news, see images and videos of Gaza’s women, children and elderly being murdered and injured. They were crying and screaming. They were hiding their faces with their hands. They were sticking their heads against the wall as if they were trying to hide from this oh so real nightmare . Every single one of these people who are still alive can tell you hundreds of heartbreaking stories. These are stories that you can’t find in novels or fiction. These stories are so painfully real. I can’t keep out of my mind the picture of the little kid who was injured and held the paramedic asking him to not leave him alone. He is just a small child who has lost his family and feels lost. All he wants is to be safe and to feel protected.
As Palestinians we want to feel safe. We want to plan for our future, and have it go the way we planned. We need to have security for access to food, water and medical supplies. I wish to stop ending conversations with my friends with ‘stay safe’, while knowing that it is completely not within their control. I wish to stop seeing my friends posting about losing some relatives, or friends, or helping trapped families to get out of their houses under the fire. I fear to fall asleep at night in case I do not wake to a bombing that shakes my body. I stay awake until my body cannot resist, so I sleep in the day times when the bombs are less frequent, and I am too tired to feel them. I wish this to be a nightmare that I can wake from, but no this is certainly the Palestinian reality.
*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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