Gaza by Ewa

natlogIn the days before blogs/trinkets I used to circulate reports from Palestine by a former student from Goldsmiths Ewa Jasiewicz.  Years later, but soon after Aki Nawaz (from FDM/Nation – logo adjacent, documentary film currently in production) had been on one of the first boats to run the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza, Ewa arranged that I might be able go on the fifth boat. I’m afraid I am the wrong sort of doctor for the moment, and the youngster Emile is a bit young for such adventures just yet anyways. But Ewa is up for it and adds to the many amazing things she’s done since leaving Goldsmiths (about ten years ago).  Since she is now in Palestine again, you can follow her on Gaza Friends.

Here is the first of what I expect will be many varied and worthwhile reports:

Gaza today: ‘This is only the beginning’
By Ewa Jasiewicz

As I write this, Israeli jets are bombing the areas of Zeitoun and Rimal
in central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the
internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows
nearly blew out just five minutes ago as a massive explosion rocked the
house. Apache’s are hovering above us, whilst F16s sear overhead.

UN radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of Al
Shifa hospital – Gaza and Palestine’s largest medical facility. Another
was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip.

Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts that plunge
the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only
perhaps tonight it is the darkest night people have seen here in their
lifetimes.

Over 220 people have been killed and over 400 injured through attacks that
shocked the strip in the space 15 minutes. Hospitals are overloaded and
unable to cope. These attacks come on top of existing conditions of
humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity,
fuel and freedom of movement.

Doctors at Shifaa had to scramble together 10 make shift operating
theatres to deal with the wounded. The hospital’s maternity ward had to
transform their operating room into an emergency theatre. Shifaa only had
12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.

There is a shortage of medicine – over 105 key items are not in stock, and
blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed.

Shifaa’s main generator is the life support machine of the entire
hospital. It’s the apparatus keeping the ventilators and monitors and
lights turned on that keep people inside alive. And it doesn’t have the
spare parts it needs, despite the International Committee for the Red
Cross urging Israel to allow it to transport them through Erez checkpoint.

Shifaa’s Head of Casualty, Dr Maowiye Abu Hassanyeh explained, ‘We had
over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the
operating theatre, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were
sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital
in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short
space of time.’

And as IOF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenaz said this
morning, ‘This is only the beginning.’

But this isn’t the beginning, this is an ongoing policy of collective
punishment and killing with impunity practised by Israel for decades. It
has seen its most intensified level today. But the weight of dread,
revenge and isolation hangs thick over Gaza today. People are all asking:
If this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?

11.30am
Myself and Alberto Acre, a Spanish journalist, had been on the border
village of Sirej near Khan Younis in the south of the strip. We had driven
there at 8am with the mobile clinic of the Union of Palestinian Relief
Committees. The clinic regularly visits exposed, frequently raided
villages far from medical facilities.  We had been interviewing residents
about conditions on the border. Stories of olive groves and orange groves,
family farmland, bulldozed to make way for a clear line of sight for
Israeli occupation force watch towers and border guards. Israeli attacks
were frequent. Indiscriminate fire and shelling spraying homes and land on
the front line of the south eastern border. One elderly farmer showed us
the grave-size ditch he had dug to climb into when Israeli soldiers would
shoot into his fields.

Alberto was interviewing a family that had survived an Israeli missile
attack on their home last month. It had been a response to rocket fire
from resistance fighters nearby. Four fighters were killed in a field by
the border. Israel had rained rockets and M16 fire back. The family,
caught in the crossfire, have never returned to their home.

I was waiting for Alberto to return when ground shaking thuds tilted us
off our feet. This was the sound of surface to air fired missiles and F16
bombs slamming into the police stations, and army bases of the Hamas
authority here. In Gaza City , in Diere Balah, Rafah, Khan Younis, Beit
Hanoon.

We zoomed out of the village in our ambulance, and onto the main road to
Gaza City , before jumping out to film the smouldering remains of a police
station in Diere Balah, near Khan Younis. Its’ name – meaning ‘place of
dates’ – sounds like the easy semi-slang way of saying ‘take care’, Diere
Bala, Diere Balak – take care.

Eyewitnesses said two Israeli missiles had destroyed the station. One had
soared through a children’s playground and a busy fruit and vegetable
market before impacting on its target.

Civilians Dead
There was blood on a broken plastic yellow slide, and a crippled, dead
donkey with an upturned vegetable cart beside it. Aubergines and
splattered blood covered the ground. A man began to explain in broken
English what had happened. ‘It was full here, full, three people dead,
many many injured’. An elderly man with a white kuffiyeh around his head
threw his hands down to his blood drenched trousers. ‘Look! Look at this!
Shame on all governments, shame on Israel, look how they kills us, they
are killing us and what does the world do? Where is the world, where are
they, we are being killed here, hell upon them!’ He was a market trader,
present during the attack.

He began to pick up splattered tomatoes he had lost from his cart, picking
them up jerkily, and putting them into plastic bags, quickly. Behind a
small tile and brick building, a man was sitting against the wall, his
legs were bloodied. He couldn’t get up and was sitting, visibly in pain
and shock, trying to adjust himself, to orientate himself.

The police station itself was a wreck, a mess of criss-crossed piles of
concrete – broken floors upon floors. Smashed cars and a split palm tree
split the road.

We walked on, hurriedly, with everyone else, eyes skyward at four apache
helicopters – their trigger mechanisms supplied by the UK ’s
Brighton-Based EDM Technologies. They were dropping smoky bright flares –
a defence against any attempt at Palestinian missile retaliation.

Turning down the road leading to the Diere Balah Civil Defence Force
headquarters we suddenly saw a rush of people streaming across the road.
‘They’ve been bombing twice, they’ve been bombing twice’ shouted people.

We ran too, but towards the crowds and away from what could possibly be
target number two, ‘a ministry building’ our friend shouted to us. The
apaches rumbled above.

Arriving at the police station we saw the remains of a life at work
smashed short. A prayer matt clotted with dust, a policeman’s hat, the
ubiquitous bright flower patterned mattresses, burst open. A crater around
20 feet in diameter was filled with pulverised walls and floors and a
motorbike, tossed on its’ side, toy-like in its’ depths.

Policemen were frantically trying to get a fellow worker out from under
the rubble. Everyone was trying to call him on his Jawwal. ‘Stop it
everyone, just one, one of you ring’ shouted a man who looked like a
captain. A fire licked the underside of an ex-room now crushed to just 3
feet high. Hands alongside hands rapidly grasped and threw back rocks,
blocks and debris to reach the man.

We made our way to the Al Aqsa Hospital. Trucks and cars loaded with the
men of entire families – uncles, nephews, brothers – piled high and
speeding to the hospital to check on loved ones, horns blaring without
interruption.

Hospitals on the brink
Entering Al Aqsa was overwhelming, pure pandemonium, charged with grief,
horror, distress, and shock. Limp blood covered and burnt bodies streamed
by us on rickety stretchers. Before the morgue was a scrum, tens of
shouting relatives crammed up to its open double doors. ‘They could not
even identify who was who, whether it is their brother or cousin or who,
because they are so burned’ explained our friend. Many were transferred,
in ambulances and the back of trucks and cars to Al Shifa Hospital.

The injured couldn’t speak. Causality after casualty sat propped against
the outside walls outside, being comforted by relatives, wounds
temporarily dressed. Inside was perpetual motion and the more drastically
injured. Relatives jostled with doctors to bring in their injured in
scuffed blankets. Drips, blood streaming faces, scorched hair and shrapnel
cuts to hands, chests, legs, arms and heads dominated the reception area,
wards and operating theatres.

We saw a bearded man, on a stretcher on the floor of an intensive care
unit, shaking and shaking, involuntarily, legs rigid and thrusting
downwards. A spasm coherent with a spinal chord injury. Would he ever walk
again or talk again? In another unit, a baby girl, no older than six
months, had shrapnel wounds to her face. A relative lifted a blanket to
show us her fragile bandaged leg. Her eyes were saucer-wide and she was
making stilted, repetitive, squeaking sounds.

A first estimate at Al Aqsa hospital was 40 dead and 120 injured. The
hospital was dealing with casualties from the bombed market, playground,
Civil Defence Force station, civil police station and also the traffic
police station. All leveled. A working day blasted flat with terrifying
force.

At least two shaheed (martyrs) were carried out on stretchers out of the
hospital. Lifted up by crowds of grief-stricken men to the graveyard to
cries of ‘La Illaha Illa Allah,’ there is not god but Allah.

Who cares?
And according to many people here, there is nothing and nobody looking out
for them apart from God. Back in Shifa Hospital tonight, we meet the
brother of a security guard who had had the doorway he had been sitting in
and the building – Abu Mazen’s old HQ – fall down upon his head. He said
to us, ‘We don’t have anyone but God. We feel alone. Where is the world?
Where is the action to stop these attacks?’

Majid Salim, stood beside his comatosed mother, Fatima. Earlier today she
had been sitting at her desk at work – at the Hadije Arafat Charity, near
Meshtal, the Headquarters of the Security forces in Gaza City. Israel’s
attack had left her with multiple internal and head injuries, tube down
her throat and a ventilator keeping her alive. Majid gestured to her, ‘We
didn’t attack Israel, my mother didn’t fire rockets at Israel. This is the
biggest terrorism, to have our mother bombarded at work’.

The groups of men lining the corridors of the over-stretched Shifaa
hospital are by turns stunned, agitated, patient and lost. We speak to one
group. Their brother had both arms broken and has serious facial and head
injuries. ‘We couldn’t recognise his face, it was so black from the
weapons used’ one explains. Another man turns to me and says. ‘I am a
teacher. I teach human rights – this is a course we have, ‘human rights’.
He pauses. ‘How can I teach, my son, my children, about the meaning of
human rights under these conditions, under this siege?’

It’s true, UNRWA and local government schools have developed a Human
Rights syllabus, teaching children about international law, the Geneva
Conventions, the International Declaration on Human Rights, The Hague
Regulations. To try to develop a culture of human rights here, to help
generate more self confidence and security and more of a sense of dignity
for the children. But the contradiction between what should be adhered to
as a common code of conducted signed up to by most states, and the
realities on the ground is stark. International law is not being applied
or enforced with respect to Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip, or on
’48 Palestine, the West Bank, or the millions of refugees living in camps
in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

How can a new consciousness and practice of human rights ever graduate
from rhetoric to reality when everything points to the contrary – both
here and in Israel ? The United Nations have been spurned and shut out by
Israel , with Richard Falk the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights
held prisoner at Ben Gurion Airport before being unceremoniously deported
this month – deliberately blinded to the abuses being carried out against
Gaza by Israel . An international community which speaks empty phrases on
Israeli attacks ‘we urge restraint…minimise civilian casualties’.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet.
In Jabbaliya camp alone, Gaza ’s largest, 125,000 people are crowded into
a space 2km square. Bombardment by F16s and Apaches at 11.30 in the
morning, as children leave their schools for home reveals a contempt for
civilian safety as does the 18 months of a siege that bans all imports and
exports, and has resulted in the deaths of over 270 people as a result of
a lack of access to essential medicines.

A light
There is a saying here in Gaza – we spoke about it, jokily last night. ‘At
the end of the tunnel…there is another tunnel’. Not so funny when you
consider that Gaza is being kept alive through the smuggling of food, fuel
and medicine through an exploitative industry of over 1000 tunnels running
from Egypt to Rafah in the South. On average 1-2 people die every week in
the tunnels. Some embark on a humiliating crawl to get their education,
see their families, to find work, on their hands and knees. Others are
reportedly big enough to drive through.

Last night I added a new ending to the saying. ‘At the end of the tunnel,
there is another tunnel and then a power cut’. Today, there’s nothing to
make a joke about. As bombs continue to blast buildings around us, jarring
the children in this house from their fitful sleep, the saying could take
on another twist. After today’s killing of over 200, is it that at the end
of the tunnel, there is another tunnel, and then a grave?’, or a wall of
international governmental complicity and silence?

There is a light through, beyond the sparks of resistance and solidarity
in the West Bank, ’48 and the broader Middle East. This is a light of
conscience turned into activism by people all over the world. We can turn
a spotlight onto Israel’s crimes against humanity and the enduring
injustice here in Palestine, through coming out onto the streets and
pressurizing our governments; demanding an end to Israeli apartheid and
occupation, broadening our call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and
for a genuine Just Peace.

Through institutional, governmental and popular means, this can be a light
at the end of the Gazan tunnel.
—–

Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer,
and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for
the Free Gaza Movement.

http://www.FreeGaza.org

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Comments

  • spiritualway  On 28/12/2008 at 8:45 pm

    Perhaps a blogsite and post from the other side of the border where hundreds of rockets have rained down on nearby communities for weeks would create some semblence of “balance” to understanding this continuing story of hatred and violence!

    Continuing to “elect” thugs and calling them politicians, that have no concerns for the people that they “represent” with an agenda of destroying the people on the other side of the border will keep this tragic story going on and provide opportunities for posts such as this one by “experienced journalists” like Ewa Jasiewicz for some time to come!!!

    Like

  • john hutnyk  On 28/12/2008 at 10:46 pm

    ummm, xmas spirit is a strong suit for ‘spiritual way’ I see. How many were killed in Palestine, did you count? All happily endorsed by the Bush administration. But that is of course a debate to be had elsewhere… Your use of the word thugs – now, that is interesting – rather than the usual ‘terrorists’. Its a word from Bengal. The cult of thuggee involved bandits attacking the rich compradore and sometimes English occupiers as they travelled the high roads of the ‘Empire’. They tied a ruppee coin in the end of a dupatta (a kind of scarf) so that when they crept up behind someone to strangle them they could get a little purchase on the ‘embrace’. Something for the annals of the history of weapons – but not quite the same as attack planes and helicopter gunships huh.

    Were you at the rally in London? Did you hear that the calls for peace? For an end to the occupation?

    Like

  • john hutnyk  On 29/12/2008 at 12:40 am

    Visit here: http://swedenburg.blogspot.com/2008/12/gaza.html

    Like

  • a very public sociologist  On 29/12/2008 at 1:12 pm

    Some good posts over at Lenin’s Tomb on this.

    Like

  • john hutnyk  On 31/12/2008 at 3:09 pm

    #2

    Beit Hanoon
    By Ewa Jasiewicz, reporting from besieged Gaza
    Tuesday 30th December 2008

    It happened at 9am this morning. We were speaking to Sabrine Naim at the
    time, standing and talking in the Naim family home which had been wrecked
    this morning. Chunks of debris – one a meter long and a foot wide – glass,
    and sharp slices of their own broken roof, had smashed onto beds, chairs,
    their kitchen and living room. Only two of their family of 12 had been
    home at the time. They were expecting an attack. And it came at 4am – a
    missile strike by an F16 on the local police station and Popular Front for
    the Liberation of Palestine offices. Smouldering rubble and rocks and dust
    were strewn across the heart of Beit Hanoon – the market, taxi rank and
    main street littered with debris.

    Sabrine had been hit in the face with small chunks of her neighbour’s
    home. One side of her right cheek was covered with a thick white dressing.
    She looked watery eyed and exhausted. Debris had also struck her in her
    heavily pregnant stomach. With only a month to go until giving birth, she
    spent two hours in the local hospital before being discharged.

    The 4am blast shook us all out of our beds. A gigantic abrupt bang – the
    sound of concrete walls, floors and steel rods exploding on impact in an
    instant. The strikes had been happening all night – most of them in
    Jabaliya again. Distant thuds that you strain to map in your mind.

    We had spent the night in Beit Hanoon, a town home to some 40,000 people
    in the North of the Gaza Strip. Beit Hanoon borders Erez Crossing and Houg
    (now called Sderot) in Israeli territory. The town possesses some of the
    most fertile land in Gaza. Much of it – orange groves and olive trees –
    has been bulldozed by the Israeli military to clear cover for fighter fire
    against Israeli settlements and towns. Even so, because of its’ proximity
    to Israeli towns, rockets have been known to be launched from here.

    The family home we stayed in had been occupied by Israeli soldiers in the
    last invasion in 2006. The family of six was moved into the downstairs
    flat, whilst soldiers blasted holes in the walls of rooms on the top floor
    to make sniper posts. If the noise of an invasion – tanks, apaches, F16s,
    heavy boots, agitated soldiers and the never-ending sneer of the
    surveillance drones – didn’t keep the family awake. Then the sound of
    single shots and the wondering what or who had been hit, worrying that a
    neighbour or family member had been struck, would add to the internal
    invasion.

    The house, located in a courtyard with olive trees and a roof with clear
    views of the surrounding streets made an excellent vantage point for
    snipers. Another home, of local doctor Mohammad Naim, a specialist in
    treating prematurely babies at Shifa Hospital had been occupied 12 times
    in the past 8 years by Israeli soldiers. He hadn’t even bothered to paint
    over the naked grey concrete smears in the walls in his upstairs room.
    They had been sniper holes. And he knew they would be back again. His
    outside wall too, bore the spray painted orientation indicators typical of
    occupying soldiers moving through narrow alleys at night.

    ‘Do you think you’ll move if they invade?’ I asked him. ‘Where will I go?’
    He said, ‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go?’. He showed me the lock of
    his front door, ‘This as been smashed open at least 20 times’ he remarked.
    Dr Mohammad had been blindfolded and taken to the agricultural school in
    Northern Beit Hanoon during the last invasion, along with all local men
    aged between 16-40.

    He had been interrogated and detained from Thursday afternoon under Friday
    evening. ‘Every invasion they occupy my house. They cut the electricity
    and use their own flashlights. Last time my family were all downstairs for
    five days. My children are the worst affected, they remember everything,
    the tanks, the invasion, and being jailed; none of us are allowed to go
    out even when there is a break in curfew’. Asked how the soldiers behaved
    towards the family, he said, ‘Well it depends on the shift, sometimes
    they’re decent, sometimes they can be aggressive. But with the situation
    as it is now, any movement could attract fire’.

    ’50 people were killed here’. This is my friend Sabr talking. He’s
    pointing to the street outside his sister’s home – another one always
    occupied by soldiers, like that of Dr Mohammad. In the last invasion,
    resistance had confronted advancing tanks. The result was a bloodbath. His
    family home had been leveled to the ground.

    Walking through the streets here, nearly every house has a martyr –
    martyrdom status is attributed to anyone, young or old, fighter or
    civilian – who has been killed by occupation forces. It is a mark of
    respect, and a coping mechanism for the sheer volume of death and an
    inconsolable, mounting level of loss that affects every family.

    It is also a way to honour and pay tribute to lives violently taken, and
    let life live after death under occupation. Everyone knows a neighbour, a
    friend, a cousin, somebody who was killed by Israeli occupation forces.
    Communities here feel each death personally, because so many so know one
    another personally. The extended family lines and kinship networks that
    have grown up from the collective experience of dispossession and
    expulsion are a web of support and a common thread made solid in the form
    of houses built from tents, all close together and all bearing witnesses
    together. Because the size of families and the proximity in which people
    live together, there is a natural participatory experience in almost every
    aspect of daily life. And every killing there is a witness, to almost all
    that happens in peoples lives, there are witnesses, always a ‘together’.

    We pass a huge crater in the Al Wahd Street, just opposite the Al Quds
    community clinic. Its where a missile from either a Surveillance drone or
    F16 blasted Maysara Mohammad Adwan, a 47-year-old mother of 10, and
    24-year old Ibrahim Shafiq Chebat into a pile of cement and clay-like
    mud. Ibrahim’s father, Shafiq Chebat, a classical Arabic teacher, was the
    first to uncover his body, but he did not immediately recognize his son. A
    Bulldozer was clearing debris when an arm was discovered. ‘I never
    expected to find him here’, he explained, ‘He was a civilian, he had gone
    to work at the 7-up factory, I thought he was at work’.

    Because of an Israeli strike close to the factory in Salahadeen Street,
    staff were sent home early for their own protection. Shafiq’s sister in
    law Fatima explained to me, ‘The mud and the rocks, they were piled meters
    above his body, meters! It was two hours before they got to him. And then
    his father didn’t know it was him. It was his youngest son that said, ‘Its
    Ibrahim, Its Ibrahim’. And he said no my son it’s not him, but then we he
    wiped the mud from his face and when he saw it was him, he fell on the
    ground, he fainted on the ground’

    Ibrahim had been working at the 7-UP plant to save money for his wedding.
    He was due to marry Selwan Mohammad Ali Shebat, a woman widowed before she
    could wed, she now describes herself as ‘broken’ and ‘suffocated’ with
    grief.

    The women’s grieving room was full of mothers with lost sons, sitting
    around Ibrahim’s mother on gaudy sponge mattresses. Fatima and Kamela,
    sisters of Sadeeya, Ibrahim’s mother, had both lost a son each. ‘I am a
    mother of a martyr and she is a mother of a martyr, we are full of martyrs
    here’. Fatima’s son, Mohammad Kaferna, was killed by a tank shell in
    September 2001, whilst Kamela’s son Hassan Khadr Naim was killed by a
    missile strike in 2007.

    Sadeeya was stunned and disorientated in her grief, throwing her arms up
    she keened over the memory of her dead son, ‘I said don’t go out, don’t go
    out, don’t go out, don’t go out’.

    Sadeeya’s sister Kamela takes me by the eyes and leans forward. ‘They are
    using weapons of war against us’, she says, ‘we’re civilians and they are
    bombing these neighbourhoods with war planes’.

    Blue tarpaulin grieving tents silence the streets of Beit Hanoon, like the
    rest of Gaza. Men sit side by side in lines on plastic chairs, taking
    bitter coffee and dates. With their quiet collective remembrance, they are
    the passage ways for too many families and communities into new levels of
    desolation and collective resilience.

    So, I think we need to go back to 9am this morning. And the ‘it’ of what
    happened.

    We had been talking to Sabrine Naim, in her rubble home when we heard two
    soaring, succinct, thuds. A plume of black smoke stormed up into the sky.
    We had though it was too far, maybe the outskirts of Beit Hanoon – in the
    end we go to Beit Hanoon hospital – the only one in town. It’s a basic
    facility with just 47 beds, compared to Shifa’s 600, and no intensive care
    unit. With Beit Hanoon expected to be first in the firing line if Israeli
    ground forces invade, the Hospital is desperately under-equipped to cope.
    Two days ago it had just one ambulance. Now 5 have been scrambled from
    other local state and private hospitals and wait in the parking lot primed
    for the worst.

    ‘They’re bringing them in, they’re bringing them in’, we hear people say.
    I expect to see a wailing ambulance come veering round the corner, instead
    a cantering donkey pulling a rickety wooden cart vaults up to the hospital
    gate. Its cargo three blackened children carried by male relatives. They
    hoist their limp and contorted bodies into their arms and run in to the
    hospital. Their mother arrives soon after by car, running out in her bare
    feet to the doors.

    Haya Talal Hamdan aged 12 was brought into the main emergency ward and
    lain down. She was soon covered with a white sheet, as her mother,
    comforted by relatives disintegrated into pieces. Ismaeel aged 9 came in
    breathing, his chest pushing up and down quickly as doctors hurriedly
    examined his shrapnel flecked body.

    In the emergency operating theatre was Lamma, aged just 4. Opening the
    door, I saw a doctor giving her CPR, again and again, trying to bring her
    to life, but it was too late. She died in front of us.

    Lamma’s mother blamed herself, ‘I asked them to take out the rubbish, to
    take out the rubbish, I should never have asked them to take out the
    rubbish’. A female relative was livid with disbelief, ‘She hadn’t even
    started school! We were, sleeping, and they call us the terrorists? How
    could they cut down this child with an F16?’

    Doctor Hussein, a surgeon at Beit Hanoon Hospital said the cause of death
    was ‘multiple internal injuries and internal bleeding’. Their fatal
    injuries were consistent with their bodies having been ‘thrown up and down
    in the air 10 meters’.

    Outside the hospital I turn around and see a young girl, maybe 10 years
    old, in a long skirt and slightly too big for her jacket. She’s beautiful,
    with straggly brown air and deep brown eyes. She’s on her own which is
    rare for any child here, they always stick together and move together. She
    looks eerily alone in the car-less empty street. I say hi and smile and
    she comes over and we shake hands, and I’m struck after the violence of
    the death of Lemma and Haya, and turmoil and out of control grief of the
    hospital at how vulnerable she is and how uncertain anything is about her
    future.

    After the hospital, we made our way to the scene of the strike – Al Sikkek
    Street, close to the Erez Crossing. Two large craters around 6 meters in
    diameter and 20 meters apart scared an empty wasteland between a row of
    houses. One had turned into a lake; the missile downed power lines had
    smashed into a water pipeline, now spewing fresh water into the crater.
    Iman, 12 years old, a tough, long haired tom-boy wearing a wooly hat and
    jeans, witnessed the whole attack. She took us up the roof of her house to
    point out where and how and what she saw.

    At the second crater, next to two green wheelie bins, we see a twisted
    bicycle and wooden cart, mangled together with plastic bags of rubbish
    that the children never got to dump. There is still blood on the ground.
    Crowds of young men gather to stare into the craters, and point to the
    gushing water mixing with sewage. They also point out a blasted building
    near by – its corner missing – a casualty of a 2007 Israeli missile
    attack.

    We walk back to the main street, now lined with solemn male, mourners, in
    groups talking quietly or looking listlessly at us. Iman explains to us,
    ‘I always ask God for me to become a martyr like the other children. My
    mother is always asking why, but they’re killing children here all the
    time, and if I die, then I prefer to be a martyr, like the others. Even
    it’s better to die than live a life like this here.’

    —–
    Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer,
    and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for
    the Free Gaza Movement.

    http://www.FreeGaza.org

    Like

  • john hutnyk  On 09/01/2009 at 12:11 am

    Inside Gaza
    By Ewa Jasiewicz

    WHEN I got there, the gates of Beit Hanoun hospital were shut, with
    teenage men hanging off them. The mass of people striving to get inside
    was a sign that there had been an attack. Inside the gates, the hospital
    was full. Parents, wives, cousins, emotionally frayed and overwhelmed,
    were leaning over injured loved ones.

    The Israeli Apache helicopter had attacked at 3.15pm. Witnesses said that
    two missiles had been fired into the street in Hay al Amel, east Beit
    Hanoun, close to the border with Israel. With rumours of an imminent
    invasion this empty scrubland is rapidly becoming a no-man’s land which
    people cross quickly, fearing attack by Israeli jets.

    But the narrow, busy streets of the Boura area rarely escape the
    intensifying airstrikes.

    Eyewitnesses said children had been playing and waiting in the streets
    there for their parents to finish praying at the nearby mosque. “We could
    see it so clearly, it was so close, we looked up and everyone ran. Those
    that couldn’t were soon flat on the ground,” said Khalil Abu Naseer, who
    was lucky to have escaped the incoming missile.

    “Look at this, take it,” insisted men in the street, handing me pieces of
    the missile the size of a fist, all with jagged edges.

    “All the windows were blown out, our doors were blown in, there was glass
    everywhere,” explained a neighbour. It was these lumps of missile, rock
    and flying glass that smashed into the legs, arms, stomachs, heads and
    backs of 16 people, two of them children, who had been brought to Beit
    Hanoun Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

    Fadi Chabat, 24, was working in his shop, a small tin shack that was a
    community hub selling sweets, cigarettes and chewing gum. When the missile
    exploded, he suffered multiple injuries. He died on Friday morning in
    Kamal Adwahn Hospital in Jabaliya. As women attended the grieving room at
    Fadi Chabat’s home yesterday to pay their respects, Israeli F16 fighter
    jets tore through the skies overhead and blasted four more bombs into the
    empty areas on the border. Two elderly women in traditional embroidered
    red and black dresses carrying small black plastic shopping bags moved as
    quickly as they could; others disappeared behind the walls of their homes,
    into courtyards and off the streets.

    At Fadi’s house the grief was still fresh. Nearly all the women were
    crying, a collective outpouring of grief and raw pain with free-flowing
    tears.

    “He prayed five times a day, he was a good Muslim, he wasn’t part of any
    group, not Fatah, not Hamas, not one, none of them, he was a good student,
    and he was different,” said one of his sisters. She took me to see Fadi’s
    younger brother, who had been wounded in the same airstrike. Omar, eight,
    was sitting on his own in a darkened bedroom on a foam mattress with gauze
    on his back covering his wounds.

    “He witnessed everything, he saw it all,” the sisters explained. “He kept
    saying, I saw the missile, I saw it, Fadi’s been hit by a missile’.”

    The memory sets Omar off into more tears, his sisters, mother and aunts
    breaking down along with him.
    Nine-year-old Ismaeel, who had been on the street with his sisters Leema,
    four, and Haya, 12, had been taking out rubbish when they were struck by
    the missiles.

    Ismaeel had been brought into the hospital still breathing and doctors at
    first though he would pull through, but in the end he died of internal
    injuries.

    Within the past six days in Beit Hanoun alone, according to hospital
    records seven people have been killed, among them three children and a
    mother of ten other youngsters. Another 75 people have been injured,
    including 29 children and 17 women.

    As well as the fatalities and wounded, hundreds of homes have had their
    windows blown out and been damaged by flying debris and shrapnel. Two
    homes have been totally destroyed. Nearby the premises of two
    organisations have been reduced to rubble. One of them, the Sons of the
    City Charity, associated with Hamas, was blasted with two Apache-fired
    missiles, gutting a neighbouring apartment in the process and breaking
    windows at Beit Hanoun Hospital. The Cultural Development Association and
    the offices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were
    levelled by bombs dropped from F16 jets.

    It is hard to imagine what the Israeli pilots of these aircraft see from
    so far up in the sky. Do they see people walking; standing around and
    talking in the street; kids with sticks chasing each other in play? Or are
    the figures digitised, micro-people, perhaps just blips on a screen?

    Whatever is seen from the air, the victims are often ordinary people. Last
    Thursday night saw volunteers from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in
    Beit Hanoun take to the streets in an effort to save lives. Like all
    emergency medical staff in Gaza, they risk death working in the maelstrom
    of every Israeli invasion, during curfews and night fighting.

    In one of the ambulances during an evening of total darkness caused by
    nightly power cuts, I meet Yusri, a veteran of more than 14 years of
    Israeli incursions into the Beit Hanoun district of Gaza. Moustachioed,
    energetic, and gregarious, Yusri is in his 40s and a local hero. Seen by
    people within the community as a man who rarely sleeps, he is a front-line
    paramedic who zooms through Gaza’s streets to reach casualties, ambulance
    horn blaring as he shouts through a loudhailer for onlookers and the dazed
    to get out of the way.

    “Where’s the strike?” Yusri asks locals, as we pick our way through a
    gutted charred charity office and the house of the Tarahan family. Their
    home, on the buffer zone, has been reduced to a concrete sandwich. There
    are six casualties, but miraculously none of them are serious.

    Beit Hanoun Hospital is a simple, 48-bed local facility with no intensive
    care unit, decrepit metal stretchers and rickety beds. I drink tea in a
    simple office with a garrulous crowd of ear, nose and throat specialists,
    surgeons and paediatricians. The talk is all about politics: how the plan
    for Gaza is to merge it with Egypt; how Israel doesn’t want to liquidate
    Hamas as it serves their goal of a divided Palestine to have a weak Hamas
    alienated from the West Bank.

    The chat is interrupted by lulls of intent listening as news crackles
    through on Sawt Al Shab (“The Voice of the People”), Gaza’s grassroots
    news station. Almost everyone here is tuned in. It is listened to by taxi
    drivers, families in their homes huddled around wood stoves or under
    blankets and groups of men on street corners crouched beside transistor
    radio sets.

    It feeds live news on the latest resistance attacks, interspersed with
    political speeches from various leaders, and fighter music – thoaty, deep
    male voices united in buoyant battle songs about standing up, reclaiming
    al-Quds (Jerusalem) avenging fresh martyrs, and staying steadfast.

    News is fed through on operations by armed wings of every political group
    active in Gaza; the Qasam (Hamas), the Abu Ali Mustapha Martyrs Brigade
    (PFLP), the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (which is affiliated with Fatah) and
    Saraya al-Quds (Islamic Jihad). One thing is widely recognised – the
    attack on Gaza has brought all armed resistance groups together. However,
    everybody adds wryly that “once this is all over, they’ll all break apart
    again”.

    One of the surgeons asks me about whether I’m scared, and whether I really
    think I have protection as a foreigner here. I talk in detail about
    Israel’s responsibility to protect emergency services; to cease fire; to
    facilitate movement;, to respect the Geneva Conventions, including
    protection of civilians and injured combatants. The surgeon talking to me
    is an intelligent man, highly respected in the community, in his late 40s.
    He takes his time, explaining to me in detail that all the evidence from
    everything Gazans have experienced points to Israel operating above the
    law – that there is no protection, that these laws, these conventions, do
    not seem to apply to Israel, nor does it abide by them, and that I should
    be afraid, very afraid, because Gazans are afraid.

    He recounts a story from the November 2006 invasion which saw more than 60
    people killed, one entire family in one day alone. About 100 tanks invaded
    Beit Hanoun, with one blocking each entrance for six days. He remembers
    how the Red Cross brought water and food and took away the refuse. All
    co-ordination was cut off with the Palestinian Authority. The same will
    happen this time, he insists. He remembers too how one ambulance driver,
    Yusri, a maverick, a hero, loved by all the staff and community, faced
    down the tanks to evacuate the injured. Yusri, the surgeon says, just
    drove up to the tank and started shouting through his loudhailer, telling
    them to move for the love of God because we had a casualty, then just
    swerved round them and made off.

    Yusri has carried the injured and dead in every invasion in the past 14
    years. He shows me a leg injury sustained when a tank rammed into his
    ambulance. The event was caught on camera by journalists, and a case
    brought against the Israel Occupation Forces, but they ruled the army had
    acted appropriately in self defence.

    “Look in the back of the ambulance here, how many people do you think can
    fit in here? I was carrying 10 corpses at a time after the invasion, there
    was a man cut in two here in the back, it was horrific. But you carry on.
    I want to serve my country,” he says.

    During a prolonged power cut in that six-day invasion there was no
    electricity to power a ventilator, and doctors took turns hand pumping
    oxygen to keep one casualty alive for four hours before they could be
    transferred. Roads were bulldozed, ambulances were banned from moving,
    dead people lay in their homes for days, and when permission was finally
    given for the corpses’ collection, medics had to carry them on stretchers
    along the main street.

    Today in Gaza everyone is terrified that such events are now repeating
    themselves, only worse. Gazans now feel collectively abandoned. The past
    week’s massacres, indiscriminate attacks and overflowing hospitals, and
    the fact that anyone can be hit at any time in any place, has left people
    utterly terrorised. No-one dares think of what might become of them in
    these difficult and unpredictable days. As they say in Gaza, “Bein Allah”
    – “It’s up to God”.

    Like

  • john hutnyk  On 09/01/2009 at 12:12 am

    Riding on fire and a third intifada
    By Ewa Jasieiwcz, in Jabaliya and Beit Hanoun, Gaza
    Thursday January 8th 2008

    I’ve been working with the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance services in
    Jabaliya, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya for the past 5 days and nights.

    For the past five days the Red Cross and the Red Crescent emergency
    services have been blocked from evacuating the injured and the dead from
    key areas surrounding Jabaliya and Gaza City. Special Forces have occupied
    houses in the areas of Zeitoun, Atarturah, Zoumo and Salahedeen.

    Paramedic Ali Khalil’s team was shot at on Monday afternoon. He told me,
    ‘We had been told we had the go-ahead from the Israeli army through
    co-ordination with the Red Cross but when we arrived at the area we were
    shot at. We had to turn back’. Yesterday afternoon, a medical volunteer,
    Hassan, was shot in the leg as he and his colleague had to drop the
    stretcher they were carrying after coming under Israeli sniper fire. There
    are reports of scores of dead bodies lying in the streets un-claimed. The
    Palestinian Red Crescent Society estimates there are 230 injured which
    they haven’t been able to pick up.

    There are reports of 18 corpses in one home alone and the injured dying
    from treatable wounds because of a lack of access to medical treatment.

    Last night, at around 9pm, Marwan, an experienced paramedic, bearing the
    scars of years of Israeli invasions, sustained another yet another. He was
    shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper in Eastern Jabaliya. Gnarled by his
    work, picking up the pieces after Israeli attacks, he had said only the
    day before yesterday, ‘This is no life, its better to die, it would be
    better to be dead than this shit’.

    The blockade on any rescuing is reminiscent of the battle of Jenin in
    April 2002. Israel forbade ambulances from entering the camp, blowing up
    one with a tank shell and killing Dr Khalil Sulleiman, the Head of the
    Palestinian Red Crescent. The army cut water and electricity and bulldozed
    an entire neighbourhood, complete with residents still in their homes,
    over the course of 11 days. The death count in the 11-day Jenin massacre
    was 58, but estimated to be much higher. Here in Jabaliya, this is the
    equivalent to around 4 days in the past week or almost the whole of
    yesterday. Between December 27th and January 5th, in Jabaliya alone, 119
    people had been killed and 662 injured. An average of 15 people are dying,
    violently, every day. On January 6th, with the Fakhoura school massacre,
    50 people were killed in just one day. Hospital authorities mark the day
    as the single worst day they have ever seen in Jabaliya.

    Sporadic battles are taking place between Palestinian resistance fighters,
    armed with basic machine guns, the odd grenade, and warm clothes. They’re
    up against the fourth most powerful army in the world, armed with
    state-of-the-art war planes, Merkava tanks, regional governmental
    co-ordination and intelligence, a green light to kill with impunity in the
    name of self defence, body armor, night vision, and holidays in Goa when
    it all gets too much.

    The paramedics, drivers and volunteers at the emergency services risk
    their lives every time they leave their base and even working within their
    bases.

    Medics evacuated their original base near Salahadeen street due to heavy
    shelling from Israeli forces early last week. They then moved to the Al
    Awda Hospital in Beit Lahiya because again, it was too close to the battle
    front, and again to a community centre in Moaskar Jabaliya to be ‘safer’.

    However, against a backdrop of deafening crashes and bangs of bombs
    falling close by, on Monday at 12.45pm, an Israeli surveillance plane
    fired two missiles into the Al Awda Hospital compound. The first slammed
    into a police car, the second, impacted two minutes later into the ground
    just meters in front of the Hospital’s clinic. Two rescue workers were
    injured in the head and face, but we were all lucky to escape without any
    serious damage.

    Right now we’re back at the Jabaliya base, still close to the sound of
    pounding tank shells, apache strikes, and light gunfire met with
    staggering rapid fire 50 caliber tank-gun fire, the odd grenade and the
    ever menacing and maddening sneer of surveillance drones.

    Yesterday around 1am we were called out to a strike in the Moaskar
    Jabaliya area. The area was pitch black, our feeble torches lighting up
    broken pipes streaming water, glass, chunks of concrete and twisted metal.
    ‘They’re down there, down there, take care’, people said. The smell of
    fresh severed flesh, a smell that can only come from the shedding of pints
    of blood and open insides, was in the air. I got called back by a medic
    who screamed at me to stay by his side. It turned out Id been following
    the Civil Defence, the front line responders who check to see if buildings
    are safe and put out fires, rather than the medics.

    The deep ink dark makes it almost impossible to see clearly, shadows and
    faces lit up by swiveling red ambulance lights and arms pointing hurriedly
    are our guides for finding the injured. ‘Lets get out of here, lets get
    out’ say the guys, and we’re leaving to go, empty handed, but straining to
    seeing what’s ahead when a missile hits the ground in front of us. We see
    a lit up fountain of what could be nail darts explode in front of us. They
    fall in a spray like a thousand hissing critters, we cover our heads and
    run back to the ambulance. One of the volunteers inside, Mohammad, is
    shocked, ‘Did you see? Did you see? How close it was?’

    At approximately 4am, we hit the streets in response to an F16 war plane
    attack on the house of Abdullah Sayeed Mrad in the Block Two area of
    Jabaliya Camp in the Northern Gaza Strip.

    Mrad is said to be a high ranking Hamas official according to local
    sources. The attack leveled the house. Every house strike is like walking
    into a smoking grave, broken doll-like bodies of children to be found
    beneath layers and layers of white rubble and burning shrapnel.

    We took Adam Mamoun Al Kurdi, aged 3 to Al Awda. He died of multiple
    shrapnel injuries to his skull and lower thighs.

    We sped back 5 minutes later – four teams in four Red Crescent ambulances,
    to fetch more casualties. Thankfully there were none.

    Whilst waiting in the ambulance we suddenly heard a deafening bang and saw
    an orange flash before our ambulance was showered with shrapnel, glass and
    brick. The target of the attack was another house belonging to Sayeed
    Mrad. Medics say the strike was from an F16. The depth of damage caused
    was consistent with the force of an F16-fired bomb.

    The house, reduced to rubble, was just two meters from our ambulance.
    Ambulance driver Majdi Shehadda, 48, sustained deep lacerations to his
    face and right ear and went into shock in the ambulance. He was treated
    with oxygen. Four rescue workers sustained minor injuries and had to be
    treated for smoke and dust inhalation. One, Saaber Mohammad Awad, 34, was
    preparing to exit his ambulance when the bomb hit. ‘The door smashed
    against me and the windows smashed in because of the pressure. I expected
    to die. If we had been outside just a second later, we would have been
    killed. The ambulance saved our lives’.

    The four ambulances, one with all of its’ windows blown in and damage to
    medical stocks inside, the others with cracked windows, were trapped by
    rubble blocking our exit route.

    We had to carry Majdi on a stretcher over the debris of the bombed house
    in total darkness whilst Israeli drones menaced the skies above us. I
    tripped up over twisted steel foundation poles at one point and dropped
    the oxygen tank, the pipe detaching and hissing oxygen out over the
    rubble. We all evacuated the area after 15 minutes, along with a family,
    carrying their blankets, mattresses and belongings, as another property
    belonging to Sayeed Mrad also in the area was at risk of being bombed.

    The ambulances would have been clearly visible to Israeli drones and
    special forces with their rooftop indentification markings, bright
    flashing lights and solo movement in the deserted, pitch black strees of
    Jabaliya.

    An aerial curfew
    Everyone is terrified by surveillance plane strikes here. ‘Zenane’ they
    call them, because of the zzzzz sound they make. They have been firing
    explosive missiles into people – people walking, in cars, sitting in
    doorways drinking tea, standing on rooftops, praying together, sitting at
    home and watching television together.

    In Naim Street Beit Hanoun, at 9.30pm on Sunday, Samieh Kaferna , 40, was
    hit by flying shrapnel to his head. Neighbours called him to come to their
    home. Fearing his home would be struck, he and a group of relatives began
    to move from one home to another, to be safer.
    The second missile struck them down directly. When we arrived one man,
    eyes gigantic, was being dragged into the pavement, half of his lower body
    shredded, his intestines slopping out. He was alive, his relatives were
    screaming, we managed to take four, whilst six others, charred and
    dismembered, were brought in on the back of an open cattle truck. Beit
    Hanoun Hospital was chaos, with screaming relatives and burning bodies.
    Three men died in the attack, 10 were injured, six from the same Abu
    Harbid family. Three had to have leg amputations, and one a double
    amputation.

    Burning shrapnel in eyes is a common injury, shrapnel slices deep into to
    any soft fleshy parts of the body. We brought a boy from Beit Hanoun with
    a distorted heavily bandaged head wrapped in bandages, to Al Nasser
    hospital with its specialist eye unit and mental health clinic. When we
    get there, its pitch black, doctors are sitting around candles, the place
    is freezing and full of shadows. Both the doctors and their have been
    patients blinded with Israeli-controlled power cuts that intensify the
    confusion, fear, and psychological darkness caving in on people here.

    Burning shrapnel in eyes – like those of three year old Shedar Athman
    Khader Abid from Beit Hanoun, ‘injured in the left eye, explosive injury,
    full thickness corneal wound, iris prologue and vitreous loss’ according
    to her medical report. Her father approaches my friend, quietly, to ask if
    its possible for me to help her, to get her out to have eye surgery, ’This
    girl, she was like a moon, haram, three years old and her beauty is robbed
    from her’.

    Extremely hot, shrapnel lodges in chests, legs, faces, hands, stomachs,
    and skullls. I’ve been taught, don’t focus on stopping bleeding with
    shrapnel injuries, there is very little blood, the foreign bodies burn
    inside. Many casualties we’ve brought in that seem ok, literally, on ‘the
    surface’, only to die a few days later. People talk about the missiles
    being poison tipped, and there have been reports of white phosphorous
    being used.

    Dead for buying bread
    Last night four members of a family were traveling back from the bakers in
    Beit Lahiya. Squeezed into a white skoda, their bag of bread still warm,
    they were struck by a surveillance plane missile at 6pm. Khaled Ismaeel
    Kahlood, 44, and his three sons Mohammad 15, Habib, 12, and Towfiq, 10,
    were cut into pieces by the attack which blew their car in two. Taxi
    driver Hassan Khalil, 20, was also martyred in the attack. The bodies
    brought into Kamal Odwan hospital were virtually unrecognizable.

    A Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees ambulance was fired upon
    at approximately 8.30am on Sunday morning killing Paramedic and father of
    five, Arafa El Deyem, 35. He and another rescue worker had been evacuating
    casualties which had come under fire from an Israeli tank East of Jabaliya
    in the North of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses report that as the door of the
    ambulance was being closed a tank shell hit El Deyem. El Deyem died from a
    massive loss of blood following a major trauma to his chest. Paramedics I
    ride with cherish his memory, carrying his photo – a kind and strong
    looking, bearded man – on their mobile phones.

    The following day, at the family’s grieving tent, five of El Deyem’s
    relatives were killed when a missile smashed into the tent in the Beit
    Hanoun Area. Arafat Mohammed Abdel Deinm, 10, Mohammad Jamal Abdel Dein,
    25, Maher Younis Abdel Dein, 30, and Said Jamal Said, 27, all died from
    head and internal explosive injuries. Witnesses claim the missile was
    fired by an Israeli surveillance drone.

    The Ministry of Health confirmed that Doctor Anis Naeem, a nephew of the
    Hamas Minister of Health, Bassem Naeem, and a colleague were killed in the
    Zeitoun area on Sunday afternoon when a missile strike from an Israeli
    surveillance plane impacted on the home they had entered in order to
    retrieve casualties.

    Rescue workers Ihab el-Madhoun 35, and Mohammad Abu Hasira, 24, were
    struck by Israeli missiles when trying to collect casualties in the Jabal
    Al Rais area of Jabbaliya last Tuesday. Witnesses said Ihab went to
    assist his colleague following a strike on the rescue workers. He too was
    then struck.

    Abu Hasira was brought to the Kamal Ahdwan governmental hospital in
    Jabaliya and died at 7.30am according to hospital records. The cause of
    death was multiple trauma injuries. Ihab died from massive internal
    injuries following an operation on his chest and abdominal area five hours
    later.

    Khalil Abu Shammalah, Director of Al Dhumeer Association based in Gaza
    City said: ‘It is a breach of the fourth Geneva Convention to target
    emergency medical services under conditions of war and occupation.
    Battlefield casualties are also protected under the Geneva Conventions and
    cannot be targeted once injured. Israel is in breach of international
    law’.

    The Israeli news agency Y-Net recently reported that Yuval Duskin,
    Director of the
    Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet, told the Israeli cabinet that large
    numbers Hamas operatives are hiding in hospitals and dressing as medical
    workers. Palestinian medical officials have dismissed the claims as
    ‘nonsense’. Rescue workers are terrified that hospitals will join the list
    of civilian targets including homes, schools, universities, mosques, and
    shops hit in Israel’s offensive so far.

    Homes crushed
    People and their homes are being pulverized by Israeli tank shells, F16s
    and bulldozers. I traveled to the buffer zone area of Sikka Street close
    to the Erez checkpoint, to see the damage. 27 houses had been crushed by
    either bulldozers or tank shells, one had been destroyed by an F16 bomb.
    10 water wells and 200 dunums of land – orange groves and strawberry
    fields, have been bulldozed, and approximately 250 people have been made
    homeless.

    Six members of the Kiferna family were crushed to death when their home
    was fired upon by Tanks on Sunday night.

    People were coming back to their homes for the first time. The Hamdan
    Family had three homes in a row destroyed. I asked one woman sitting
    amongst the ruins of her home where she would go now? She replied, ‘Beit
    Hanoun UNRWA school’.

    ’But do you think that will be safe?’ I asked her. ‘No, but I have nowhere
    else to go’ she replied.

    The Al Naim Mosque was also completely destroyed, holy books still
    smouldering from the attacks. Approximately one in 10 of the some 100
    mosques in the Jabaliya area have been destroyed in Israel’s assault. ‘We
    see them as personal centers for us, theyre not Hamas, and we paid for
    them out of our own money, they belong to us, not anyone else’, explained
    one Imam based in Jabaliya.

    The demolition of Mosques means many people are praying in the streets, at
    the Kamal Odwan hospital, people pray in the garden area opposite, and at
    the funeral for the 42 people, mostly children, massacred at the Fakhoura
    School , hundreds prayed on the ground that was turned into an early
    graveyard.

    Forced out
    On Sunday night, all Sikka Street residents were given five minutes to
    leave their homes, ordered out through loudhailers, unable to take any
    belongings with them, rounded up by Israeli occupation forces and taken to
    the Al Naim Mosque. Women, children and the elderly were put inside and
    men aged between 16-40 were kept in a field outside in the cold and
    interrogated. Six were taken to Erez, three were released a day later and
    were told by soldiers, according to a witness, that it was safe for them
    to make their own way home along Salahadeen Street. It was there that
    special forces allegedly shot 33 year-old Shaadi Hissam Yousef Hamad 33,
    in the head.

    Torn schoolbooks lie amidst rubble, and Iman Mayer Hammad picks through
    the debris of her life, a hejab, shoes, pictures, she cries out, ‘Its all
    gone, everything, they’ve taken everything, my children can’t finish their
    exams, how will they finish their exams?’

    Hundreds of children won’t be finishing their exams in Gaza because
    they’re dead.

    Whether people stay in their homes or leave, they are being bombed. Majid
    Hamdan Wadeeya, 40, was hit in the leg and spine with shrapnel while he
    and his family were preparing to leave their home in Jaffa Street,
    Jabaliya. We arrived at his home on Tuesday afternoon to find the family’s
    decrepit red car still running and the family minivan stuffed with
    mattresses, towels, blankets, and belongings, blasted open. They had been
    hit by a missile from either a drone of apache. ‘We were going from the
    bombing, from the bombing’, screamed his children, all terrified. We
    managed to take half of the family, the rest got in their red car and
    followed.

    We were interviewing residents at the UNRWA elementary school in Jabaliya,
    close to the Fakhoora school, at exactly the same time of the massacre.The
    Sahaar family, which had walked from their home in Salahdeen Street to
    seek refuge in the school on the first day of invasion, were asking us,
    ‘But do you think we are safe here? We feel that any time a missile could
    come down us? Are we safe here?’ The 500 people, some 50 families living
    in classrooms, share just 14 toilets and rely on rations to survive. The
    nights are cold as the windows have been smashed out by Israeli bomb
    attacks. Noone can sleep at night because of the sounds of homes, mosques
    and people being bombed to the ground.

    The fabric of life
    Everyone here knows someone who has been killed in Israel ’s massacres. I
    can’t keep up with the stories of missile struck cousins, nephews,
    brothers, the jailed, the humiliated, the shot, the unreachable, the
    homeless, the now even more vulnerable than ever, people, not pieces,
    piling up in morgues all over Gaza, not pieces, people. These people are
    struggling to live and breathe another day, to avoid the lethal use of
    F16s, F15s, Apache Helicopters, Cobra Gun Ships, Israeli naval gun ships
    that are targeting them.

    These networks and vision have held strong for 60 years, but another
    fabric of life is being planned by Israel. Whilst people say they are
    resisting the worst attack on them since the Nakba, Israel proceeds to
    cantonise the West Bank, under a project of roads and tunnels ‘for
    Palestinains’ which reinforce the existing illegal settlement system,
    apartheid wall, land and water theft and Palestinian bantustanisation.
    Under the banner of ‘development’, this network of new facts on the
    ground, ‘for the Palestinians’ is called, ‘The Fabric of Life’. Israel is
    blasting holes in one corner of the Palestinian fabric of life through
    extreme violence, and tearing up another part with the help of
    international companies and governments and internal authority complicity.

    Back at Kamall Odwan hospital, Dr Moayan, explains, ‘It’s not about just
    riding the streets of civilians, because, they are bombing us even when we
    have left, when we are inside supposedly safe compounds. I have left my
    house, and now have nowhere else to go, nowhere else to go.’ He continues
    to say what hundreds of people are saying, ‘This is the worst we have ever
    seen, we have never had this level of violence. It has shocked even us. In
    Lebanon they killed over 1700 people, will it come to this here?’

    The global intifada
    This killing continues, day and night, and its not just people that are
    being physically dismembered, their families are being dismembered, their
    communities are being dismembered, the landscape of Gaza is full of holes.
    The fabric of these communities, that neighbours no longer neighbours,
    that families no longer living or alive together is being stretched to
    breaking point. People are being made refugees again, tents as homes
    awaiting them again, as no buildings or building materials are available
    for people to even rebuild their shattered lives, their smashed homes,
    shops, mosques, governmental buildings, community centres, charities,
    offices, clinics, youth centers.

    How do you break a people that won’t be broken? ‘They will have to kill
    each and everyone of us’ people tell me. From the first days here people
    were expecting ‘the shoah’ threatened upon them by Matan Villai , Israel
    ’s deputy defence minister this February. It is happening. It is happening
    now. This is the Shoah.

    The third Intifada being urged now has to be our intifada too. As Israel
    steps up its destruction of the Palestinian people, we need to step up our
    reconstruction of our resistance, our movements, of our communities in our
    own counties, where so many of us live in alienation and isolation. We
    need to be the third intifada – people here need more and say repeatedly
    that they need more than the demonstrations, because they are not stopping
    the killing here. Demonstrations alone, are not stopping the killing here.

    The arms companies making the weapons that are targeting people here, the
    companies that are selling stolen goods from occupied land pillaging
    settlements, the companies building the apartheid wall, the prisons, the
    East Jerusalem Light Railway system. These companies, Carmel Agrexco,
    Caterpillar, Veolia, Raytheon, EDO, BAE Systems, they are complicit in the
    crimes against humanity being committed here. If the international
    community will not uphold international law, then a popular movement
    should and can – we can use the legal system of international law as one
    of many means to hold on to our collective humanity.

    The European Union decision, undertaken by the Council of Ministers this
    December, to upgrade relations with Israel, from economic ties to
    cultural, security, and political relations must be reversed. The EU
    represents a core strategic market of legitimacy and political economic
    reinforcement of Israel and as such its capacity to commit crimes against
    humanity, with impunity.

    We can cut this tie, we can halt this decision which if approved this
    April, will empower Israel further, bring it closer to the ‘community of
    nations’ of the EU, and give a green light for further terror and crimes
    against humanity be inflicted upon the Palestinian people. This is a
    decision which has not yet been ratified. We can influence that which
    hasn’t happened yet.

    There are concrete steps that people can take, learning from the lessons
    of the first Intifada and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign
    to dismantle the South African Apartheid regime. Strategies of popular
    resistance, strikes, occupations, direct actions. From the streets into
    the offices, factories and headquarters is where we need to take this
    fight, to the heart of decision-makers that are supposedly making
    decisions on our behalf and the companies making a killing out of the
    occupation. The third intifada needs to be a global intifada.

    Like

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,750 other followers

%d bloggers like this: