The Gaza Strip is lately experiencing the largest escalation of violence since Cast Lead operation in 2008-2009 that claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians, among them over 350 children. Since the beginning of this year, several strikes by Israel have been justified by presence of military training camps or tunnels, and the lives claimed were said to be militants.
On the night of March 22, however, Israel started military operations that led to the bloodiest day in Gaza in two years. Shortly before midnight, 19 civilians – including seven children and two women – were injured by air strikes that were supposed to target tunnels and explosive manufacturing sites in retaliation to rockets sent from Gaza into open fields in the Eshkol Regional Council.
On Tuesday, March 22, during the evening, Israeli tanks shelled a house East of Gaza city belonging to Al Hilo family, killing four (among them two children, aged 11 and 16 years, and a 50-year-old man) and injuring 10, all civilians.
Later in the evening of the same day, Israel bombed Gaza for the third time, killing another four Palestinians belonging to the Al Quds Brigades (Islamic Jihad military wing), bringing up the casualties to eight dead.
As Israel claims retaliation of rockets fired from the Strip to justify the air strikes, Hamas specifies that the rockets were fired in retaliation to previous strikes that killed two of its militants the week before.
On Twitter, Yousef Munayyer notes:
@YousefMunayyer: CONTEXT MATTERS: ONE #Israel artillery shell today killed at least 4 times as many people as 100s of Qassam rockets over 3 years #gaza
Drawing the parallel between the events that led to Cast Lead Operation and the current ones, he adds on his blog:
So when the war on Gaza inevitably started at the end of December in 2008, it permitted many editors to create this simple, context free story line:
Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month cease-fire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory.
[…] Another common feature of these stories is how shallow the context is. We are told Palestinians were killed by Israelis yesterday after Palestinians fired rockets over the weekend. 3 days, that's it. That's all the context we get. What happened before that? Don't we need to know? As far as editors are concerned, we don't.
On March, 23rd, a bomb attack in Jerusalem targeting a bus stop killed one woman and injured more than 30 others. The attack stirred wide condemnation:
@Huwaidaarraf: 1 bomb in #Jerusalem that wounded 25 Israelis will get more attention than all the bombs that Israel dropped on #Gaza killing 8 yesterday.
In Gaza, Palestinians predict a new escalation of violence as Tzipi Livni, the current Israeli Opposition Leader and leader of Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, asks for a new Cast Lead, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signals a new wave of air raids over the Strip:
@Omar_Gaza: @AmoonaE I mean that 2night Israhell will bomb the hell out of us even if Jerusalem-Operation has nothing 2 do with us! Gaza has 2 pay :-S
@imPalestine: Here's my plan for the night: I'll sleep now for a couple of hours before the bombing begins which is usually sometime around midnight #Gaza
Drones invade Gaza sky in the late hours of Thursday, as attacks are expected:
@Jnoubiyeh: It is past 1 a.m. now in besieged #Gaza and there are 185 Israeli drones in the skies. Is sleeping an existential threat to #Israel now too?
Israeli special forces are then reported to have made an incursion into Northern Gaza:
@Omar_Gaza: BREAKING: Israeli special forces took over a house that belongs to Al Zendah family in Beit Lahya #Gaza they r stationed in it!
@Solarah: All police stations & security centres been evacuated.. State of EMERGENCY declared in #Gaza #Palestine
@imPalestine: A state of cautious anticipation among #Gaza residents now as Israeli drones have completely cleared off the sky #Palestine
In this stressful moment, some still manage to keep some sense of humor:
@Omar_Gaza: LOOOOOOL RT @imPalestine: People want the drones BACK! Please no F16s, no Apaches. let's be friends! Allah yostor (May God have mercy) #Gaza #Palestine
After midnight, on March, 24th, bombings start and Gaza bloggers set up a livestream enabling people to witness the bombings by themselves as they happen:
@Jess_Gaza: Mohammed Qudaih via FB Huge Explosion in Rafah city now
@WillOuda: 5 missiles till now…explosions heard in the distance to the south and east of #Gaza city
@Omar_Gaza: Israel targeted a tunnel in Rafah with 1 missile & a security HQ belongs 2 Hamas with 4 missiles which affected the high-voltage power lines
Drones haven’t stopped hovering the Strip on Thursday, and bombings have been reported early this afternoon:
@livefromgaza: they're back : the drones #Gaza #zanana
@Omar_Gaza: F16 striked again a while ago, targeted a crowd in jabalya, 1 injured! #Gaza
@Solarah: OMG! Again!!! more & more Ambulances rushing out & to Al-shifa Hospital! #Gaza #Palestine # Israel
Around 8:30pm local time, strikes started again:
@SafaJoudeh: 6 consecutive #Israel F16 strikes on #Gaza just now, LOUD, ambulances screaming, ppl on the street yelling
@imPalestine: I was lying all the time when I said I got used to it. You never get used to being BOMBED by F-16s! #Gaza #Palestine
@annan6: the US Consulate has told all Americans to leave #Gaza. A repeat of the Gaza Massacre coming soon? I really hope not. I pray not. Please no
As I finish this report, bombings stop and are replaced by drones:
Omar Ghraieb, blogger from Gaza, reports:
Gaza, March 24 Thursday, In Gaza City, Israeli F16 warplanes bombed an intelligence headquarter named “the ship”, using at least five missiles, also raided the al-Rayes mountain with one missile and a room that belongs to “Gaza” sporting club, also “Badr” security HQ belonging to the Qassam Brigades, Hamas militant wing, with three missiles.
According to witnesses in the northern Gaza Strip, the shelling caused enormous material damage in the homes of civilian citizens in Maqqousi residential buildings which are located near the “Badr” security HQ, which was bombed with two missiles by Israeli warplanes.
According to Adham Abu Salmeyah, Health ministry official, one citizen got injured by shrapnel in the face, he is 10 years old and his name is Raid Afifi. More injuries reported to have reached Al Shefa hospital for treatment.
The loud bombing triggered a massive panic that hit women and children.