Despite the announcement of unilateral ceasefires by both Israel and Hamas, attacks by the Israeli military on Gaza continue while Palestinian factions have been launching rockets into Israel. In this post we hear the latest from Gaza's blogs.
Prof. Said Abdelwahed, who teaches English at Al-Azhar University, writes at Moments of Gaza (February 18):
Yesterday evening, an Israeli attack helicopter flew over our heads in Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood; it launched a missile somewhere in our area! Also, F-16 targeted two places in Khan Younis and Rafah. Last night, almost at midnight, F-16 executed three raids on targets to the north of Gaza city! Many of the places they target nowadays were hit sometimes during the war, so that they attack destroyed places! The thing was that those raids were off the air! There was no mention of it in the news as if it became a normal daily life practice!
American writer Elliott Woods, who is Gaza on a Pulitzer Center grant, has described the situation in a post on February 9:
Now that I have been here for almost a month – mostly during the so-called cease-fire – I can feel the continual threat in my bones. It's an ever present unease, like a headache or a hangover that doesn't keep you in bed, but keeps you conscious of the fact that something isn't quite right. What must it be like to live with this sort of uncertainty, this deadly anxiety, for years on end?
Australian activist Sharyn Lock writes (February 16) at Tales to Tell:
A South African teacher who reads this blog asked yesterday: “I’ve heard that everyday people are still being killed in Gaza, is this true?”
Yes. Almost every day there are further injuries, and often deaths. And as usual, the majority of the time they are civilians.
Sharyn gives some examples of the attacks that have been happening, then says:
Language and time limitations mean I am not able to always let you know details of the continuing injuries and deaths that are happening here as a result of continuing Israeli attack. Often, we will hear explosions, and it will take a day or two before we find out accurately what they were and who they affected. This week I am going to resume a regular weekly ambulance shift so that I can keep some level of awareness and witnessing. But sadly, whether you hear about them from me or not, you should assume these injuries and deaths continue, because in Gaza, this is what Israeli Occupation looks like.
Canadian activist Eva Bartlett blogs at In Gaza, and in a post on February 17 writes about the plight of farmers on Gaza's eastern border:
Abu Alaa lives in Khan Younis and owns land in the newly-extended “Buffer Zone”, the strip of land along the Green Line which, from North to South, cuts into Palestinian land by a full 1 km now. When the Buffer Zone was ‘only’ 300m, it was already 300m too much land absorbed by the Israeli military occupation forces. Now that it is an arbitrary 1 km, are the people whose livelihoods have been decimated in every imaginable way from the siege (choking Gaza ever since just after Hamas was elected) meant to lay down their farming tools, give up self-reliance, and stand in aid lines for aid that is anyway unavailable? Like any competent people, Palestinians do not want to be aid-dependent; they crave for the right to self-sufficiency and the chance at an economy rather than receiving (or not receiving, as it goes these days) UN and other charitable hand-outs. Israel’s ongoing control of Gaza and its borders has meant that those farmers able to produce vegetables, fruit or flowers cannot export them. The meagre concession for Valentine’s Day, enabling a pathetic export of 25,000 flowers, was just that: meagre and pathetic. For the last 3 years, the flower and strawberry exports have near-completely ceased. […] So the farmers within, who try to earn a living, and simultaneously provide the vegetables used around Gaza, continue their non-violent struggle to exist, working their land and harvesting their onions, parsley, radishes, spinach, beans…to the rhythm of gunfire.
Eva goes on to say:
These fertile rural eastern border areas of the Gaza Strip are emptying, because farmers, many of whom have farmed here for generations, are now too frightened to live and work on their own land. The confines of the Gaza Strip, which is just forty kilometers long and ten kilometers wide, are being shrunk even further by relentless Israeli invasions, by the imposition of an arbitrary and expanding “buffer zone” and by the targeting of civilians and farmers trying to live on and earn a living from their land. […] Just as the international community has stooped silently complicit to the siege on Gaza which has denied Palestinians of every conceivable means of existence and livelihood, so too are international leaders silent to the oppression of the farmers and fishermen, the poorest and the bravest, facing Israeli fire and ending up like Mohammed, Anwar, or 23 year old Rafiq who was targeted 2 miles off Gaza’s coast while in a small fishing boat. Israeli soldiers sprayed the boat with bullets, the ‘dum-dum’ exploding bullets hitting Rafiq in the back and exploding into numerous tiny shrapnel pieces which pierced his lungs and remain dangerously close to his spine, impossible to remove. These are not isolated and random instances. They are part of the policy of cutting off any means of self-sufficiency the Palestinians try to engage in, and of continuing in the efforts to break Palestinians’ will, efforts which have included a years-long, brutal siege, a 23 day bloody war killing over 1370 Palestinians, and the ongoing targeting of civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.
The anonymous foreign activist blogging at Writing from Gaza tells the story (February 16) of 19 year-old Ali Abdul Salam Al Sa’ay who lost his right eye, left hand and three fingers from his right hand when hit by a missile fired from an Israeli gunboat off the Gaza shore on January 10 (before the ceasefire). Ali is from Al Shati’ [Beach] camp:
Al Shati’ camp was particularly targeted during the Israeli war on Gaza. Shelling of the camp took place ‘24 hours a day’, explains Ali’s father, Abdul Salam. ‘All the houses that face the sea were evacuated. They fired from gunboats, planes, everything’.
Explosions in al-Shati’ camp continue, as Israeli gunboats continue to pound the camp. ‘Daiman, daiman (always, always)’, croaks Ali. His father adds, ‘It is getting normal for the people to hear the shooting. It’s like drums now. Many people are getting injured’.
Louisa Waugh writes (February 16) at New Internationalist's Gaza Blog:
Faiza lives in Rafah, just 200 metres from the border with Egypt. Her house stands in front of a labyrinth of tunnels that have been dug underneath the Gaza border with Egypt. […] I knew her family had been evacuated from their house throughout the war, and had just recently returned. So I drove down to Rafah to see them. Rafah was ravaged by this war – the houses near the border have been blasted by artillery shells, bombs and machine guns and the landscape is scarred and ruined. It feels desolate – this is the coverage of Gaza you see on TV. Faiza's house, at the far end of a rough dirt track, now stands almost alone – her neighbours’ homes on both sides have been flattened by bombs, and she tells me many of the locals are still too scared to come back to the area because of the continual bombing. The Israelis say they are intent on destroying the network of tunnels, and almost every night there are airstrikes that shake Faiza's home, terrifying the children and the adults. When the bombing gets too intense, the family flees to their relatives who live further from the border.
‘We've been evacuated at least five times since the [18 January] ceasefire,’ she tells me. The word ‘evacuated’ carries the image of white UN vehicles arriving in convoy to rescue the vulnerable and speeding them away from imminent danger. But for the few people left here in this bombed-out buffer zone, evacuation means they get ten minutes notice to pack up and leave on foot.