The Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza show no sign of relenting, and in Gaza City there is now street fighting. In this post bloggers describe the fear experienced when Israeli soldiers arrive in the neighbourhood, explain how important prayer has become, and emphasise the need to keep telling the world what is going on.
Prof. Said Abdelwahed, who teaches English at Al-Azhar University, explains at Moments of Gaza how he is managing to send out information:
One friend of mine sent to me from Europe asking how do I manage to send e-mails in the middle of this situation and continuous fight. At first I remained for 15 days without electricity and with little drinking water. Mobile phones were broken except and hardly for sending SMS. Telephone lines remained okay for the whole time but there were static lines at times. During those days I used a small generator to operate my laptop. Three days back, the electricity company maintained some transformers and wires so that we had electricity again. We pumped water to a reservoir upstairs! However, it is still that the electric power shuts off between now and then; some other times we receive electricity for 2-3 hours, and other times the electric current continues for 10 hours or more. Thus, I send my e-mails. … My priority is to catch any opportunity to contact the world.
In another post he updates us on the situation:
My family and I are okay but stressed. Yesterday's early morning's ground and air attacks on our neighbourhood was really tough. Battle lasted for five hours! The Israeli army killed 14 including 2 children, demolished by their bulldozers one home of Sweerky family, destroyed plants and trees in a nearby agricultural land, destroyed a mosque minaret, burnt one home of al-Jarwsha family. My children were scared to death; they screamed and crumbled together in one room. I expected the Israeli tanks to move deeper into the neighbourhood; army tanks and special forces were in the second street from me! Electricity was shut off and homes and streets were in total darkness! Dozens of families moved out of their apartments panicked. They left from back streets! Because I was not sure of what may be next; in such situations no one can tell how the soldiers will behave when they reach! Thus, in an early step and to calm down my children, I deleted all my messages to my friends about the situation in Gaza! Forty people died in the day before yesterday. Last night was a night of bombing from tanks and artillery; it continued to this morning too. Mobile phones can hardly operate, but sometimes we can send mobile short messages to know about the safety of each other. […] I have just received a mobile message from my neighbour who lives in the fifth floor (I live in the fourth floor) in which he wishes me and my family to remain safe! To tell you the truth, I was so sad to lose my diaries of the ongoings in Gaza, but this morning with the electricity back, I saw my messages on the internet blogs. […]. In a way, it tells historical moments!
Laila El-Haddad, whose parents are in Gaza, blogs at Raising Yousuf and Noor:
I receive the dreaded 9pm call from my father. My heart skipped a beat- late night calls always bear bad news. […] I learn that my cousin's father-in-law has been hurt. His house in northern Gaza was hit by Israeli forces, then bulldozed to the ground. He was arrested, blindfolded and tortured – including made to fall off stairs, fracturing several ribs. He then had to walk an hour to Gaza City's Sheikh Ijleen neighbourhood. His wife was also forced to leave in her pajamas in the middle of the night and walk alone to the city.
I talk to my father until the bombing subsides – until another hour. Sometimes we don't say anything at all. We simply hold the phones to our respective ears and talk in silence, as though it were an unfamiliar technology. As though I can shield him from the hell being unleashed around him for those few minutes. However absurd it sounds, we feel safe somehow; re-assured that if something happens, it will happen while we stand together.
In another post she describes how the residents of Gaza have nothing left but prayer:
The fear is salient; it is suffocating; it is in the air, friends say, and no one knows what's coming next, and there is no where to turn to except up in the Heavens above. And so many people in Gaza have taken to doing just that: they are waking up for special pre-dawn prayers qiyam il layl in the “last third of the night” – a window of time when believers feel especially close to God and when it is said He is especially close to our calls upon Him, and supplications and prayers are most likely to be answered. And so they tremble, and they wait, and they pray during this small window to Heaven for the gates of hell to be closed. And then it is dawn once again.
Palestinian photojournalist Sameh Habeeb blogs at Gaza Strip, The Untold Story:
Several untold stories still under the rubbles of Gaza devastation. The more time this war lasts the more victims fall down, their stories buried with them. Most of the Gaza Strip plunges into deep darkness since the start of this war. I find several hardships to send out this report due to power problem. Today, a rocket targeted my uncle's house. My house got several splinters and rocket shrapnel.
Louisa Waugh, who was living in Gaza until recently, writes at the New Internationalist's Gaza Blog:
For those of us on the outside looking in, it is impossible to know how life feels inside Gaza right now. But my Gazan friends tell me on the phone that they are going through hell. ‘Tell me what is happening, what are people doing to help us,’ my friend Mohammed asks me when I finally get through to him in Gaza City. ‘I have no water or electricity, at home, and no way of hearing the news. Tell me something is being done. Tell me, please God, tell me this is going to end soon.’
Dina Hazem, a university student, writes at the group blog Moments of Gaza:
The occupation troops are closing in my city. They are one street away from my neighborhood. In the last weeks, people used to move around in the streets, even if for a little bit. But ever since 2 days I haven't seen anything or anyone except speeding ambulances. My heart aches for how my once prosperous, vibrant, rich city slowly turning into a city surrounded by death, danger, destruction and haunted houses…
What the Palestinians in Gaza are getting used to on a daily basis are things like these:
…the smell of gunpowder in the air
…the sound of ambulances here and there
…the sound of fighter jets and helicopters in the sky
…the trembling, terrorizing sound of bombs far and near
…the sounds of baby cries
…the news of people dead, injured, lost or homeless
This is what we're getting on a daily, but even hourly basis…for the past 2 weeks. To me, this is not life. This is death in the making.
Mohammed Ali, who works for the NGO Oxfam, writes on the Oxfam blog:
The situation has now reached such a critical point that doctors frequently confront dilemmas such as these – to treat the child who is bleeding to death or the baby who has severe head injuries? While doctors ask themselves these tough questions, some politicians continue to debate whether or not we are facing a humanitarian crisis. Since the Israeli military attacks started on Gaza, no salaries have been received and hardly any one has been able to work. Many people here depend on agricultural farming to make a living, and the Gazan population relies on these farmers to be able to eat vegetables; the blockade is allowing hardly anything in. No farmer will go to their farmlands these days, like all of us, they fear being killed if they move out of their homes or even if they stay put. […] The occupation has put Gaza on a drip feed; we have had just enough to keep us alive but not enough to make us feel as though we are really living… now this. If I make it to the end of this conflict, I want to leave the minute I am able to. I do not want my children to grow up in this environment, strangled by the occupation, familiar with the sounds of F16 fighter jets, unable to leave the country if they need life-saving treatment.
Australian activist Sharyn Lock writes at Tales to Tell:
Tonight in the hospital are 3 tiny new babies, triplets. They are sleeping soundly in their incubators, despite the tank fire that comes ever nearer. For them alone I don’t want to leave the hospital now; we have heard some terrible rumours of what has been done to babies, apparently deliberately, and there are some grim pictures. […] Someone was talking the other day about how the high birth rate amongst Palestinians really worries Zionist Israelis who greatly fear being outnumbered in this region. I made some comment about how families are losing not one but several children due to houses being bombed etc. And suddenly I thought – what if this attack is partly aimed at killing as many children as it can? Is it really possible someone in Israel has sat down and calculated how to do that? I just can’t begin to think about this.
I am far more worried about being arrested than being killed. I would like to think I am not important enough for the army to bother, and if they come into the hospital I can monitor and document and challenge their behaviour if need be. (Cos a load of guys with guns are really going to listen to me, right?) But I couldn’t bear to be taken out of this small beleaguered place, and if occupation lasts a long time, one international in it for the long term is more useful than one who got arrested 5 minutes after the soldiers arrived.
Canadian activist, Eva Bartlett, blogs at In Gaza. She describes how, when she and fellow activist Alberto Arce were accompanying two Palestinian emergency medical workers as they collected a dead body, the medics were shot at, and one of them was hit in the leg:
Arce’s video footage caught the incident, and is testimony to what we’ve seen, what medics have told us they’ve long endured, and what Israeli authorities belligerently continue to deny: Israel is targeting medical personnel, as Israeli forces target journalists, civilians, and these days in Gaza anything that moves. No sanctuary, no safety, no guarantee of medical service.
The footage taken by Alberto Arce can be seen here.