Fida Qishta writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 1 January 2009
|Palestinian rescue workers respond to an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, 31 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)|
This morning I went with some friends to visit the Block O neighborhood in the city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. While we were in one of the houses we planned to visit, my phone rang. It was a friend from Gaza City. He was asking about something. Suddenly I heard the sound of an explosion on his end. At the same time I heard an explosion in Rafah too. He said, Fida they are attacking nearby, and I said they attacking here too. It seems that they attacked all of the Gaza Strip at the same time, all the cities at once. We hung up.
My friends and I in Rafah ran into the street, and in the street everybody was running, children and other people who wanted to see their relatives and friends. It was near the time for the second school shift to start so children were all over the streets. Because of the number of students here, which is increasing daily, schools in Rafah work in two shifts. The attack happened at 11:30am, the time when schools change shifts, just as the first shift was coming back from school, and the second shift was to go to school.
When we went to the area it was full of children and people looking at the wreckage. It was dangerous for many people to come and look because the Israeli attack wasn’t over, and from where we were we saw an Israeli warplane attack another police station. Some people could ask, they are police and that gives the Israelis the right to attack them? What about all the civilians who were walking or driving nearby? What about the children who were in this street? It’s impossible that the world sees just part of the truth and denies the important part. Even if it’s a police station, this government was elected and democratically chosen.
Among the people who were killed were people walking nearby or children going or coming back from school. I can’t believe what this world thinks.
Below are some interviews I conducted this morning.
“We heard the explosions and went to the scene. People were shouting. Some of the schoolchildren were afraid. There was damage throughout the whole neighborhood. Until this time we don’t know the exact number of martyrs. But people have been killed and many have been injured. There are martyrs under the wreckage, as you see.”
Naama, 13 years old:
“I was sitting with my friends when the attack happened. We were scared and we ran out of our school. Our headmaster asked us to go home. We saw fire. We were told to leave the area by another street.”
A policeman I talked to said:
“We were at the police station. The Israeli planes came and suddenly the building collapsed on us. I saw four dead bodies near me. They were in pieces. Outside I saw the same thing. Everyone was shouting. I lost consciousness and then found myself in hospital.”
We just received a phone call on our land line. It was the Israeli Defense Ministry, and they said that any house that has guns or weapons will be targeted next, without warning and without any announcement. Just to let you know, we don’t have any weapons in our house. If we die please defend my family.
For the last year and a half the Israeli government has intensified the economic blockade of Gaza by closing all the border crossings that allow aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza. This forced Palestinians to dig tunnels to Egypt to survive. Israel continued to threaten a military operation in the Gaza Strip, until the madness of war became inevitable for both sides. And since it began, hundreds of Gazans have been killed.
I don’t know how other people around the globe think. Did you think to be honest with yourself once to understand the truth? A handmade Palestinian rocket jeopardizes Israeli security, but Israel’s deadly F-16s, rockets, missiles, and tanks don’t jeopardize Palestinian security?
Israel’s military operation makes Palestinian blood fall like rain.
There is no relief in sight. The Israeli government and its army commit inhuman acts against civilians. For the last five days the Israeli missiles killed 394 Palestinians and injured more than 1,800. Do you know my dear reader how many Israelis were killed by Palestinians resistance rockets? Four were killed and 12 injured. I wrote these numbers to say this is not equal, and it’s unfair for the world to keep silent.
On 28 December, we woke up at 7am after an Israeli F-16 attack. Our house was shaking. We all tried to imagine what had happened, but we wanted at least to know where the attack was. It was really scary. We tried to open the main door to our flat, but it was stuck shut after the attack.
Two friends and I climbed out the window to leave the house. It was a shock when I found our neighbor’s pharmacy was the target. It was just 60 meters from our house. They targeted a pharmacy. I still don’t believe it and can’t imagine it. I filmed and asked some people who were really close to the pharmacy about what happened and I asked them their thoughts.
Sixty-four-year-old Saed said, “At almost 6:30am three missiles were fired by Israeli fighter jets. They hit the pharmacy in our neighborhood and the surrounding shops. They’re just civilian buildings. And as you can see, the street is damaged. All of the buildings are damaged. The Palestinian people elected Hamas in a democratic election, and all the world witnessed the election. And we are punished because of Palestinian democracy. If it were Israeli democracy the world would welcome it. I’m 64 years old and I never saw a sweet day in all my life. Since I was born in 1945 we’ve been in a conflict with the Israelis.”
Umm Mohammed said: “They say that they don’t attack civilians, but they attack children. Why do they do that? They care so much about Palestinian rockets hitting them. Don’t they realize how much their air strikes hurt us?
“We fold our arms and they attack us. Then they say to the world that Arabs attack them. Do you see? Did we hit them? Israel is a liar. Israel is a liar. They do anything and they don’t listen to the international community. … There’s no medicine. No drinks, no water, no gas. We are suffering from hunger. They attack us. What does Israel want? Can it be worse than this? I don’t think so. Would they accept this for themselves?
“Look at the children. What are they guilty of? They were sleeping at 7:00am. All night they didn’t sleep. This child was traumatized during the attack. Do they have rockets to attack with?
“They [Israeli forces] attack everywhere. They became crazy. The Gaza Strip is just going to die … it’s going to die. We were sleeping. We were just asleep. Suddenly we heard a bomb. We woke up and we didn’t know where to go. We couldn’t see through the dust. The dust filled the house. We didn’t know where to go. We called to each other. We thought our house had been hit, not the street. What can I say? You saw it with your own eyes. What is our guilt? What are we going to say? Are we terrorists? I don’t carry a gun, neither does my girl.”
Also on 28 December an Israeli F-16 attacked a mosque in Jabaliya. That increased the number of mosques attacked to five, and today they attacked one more in Gaza City. When they attacked the mosque in Jabaliya, one of the houses nearby was totally destroyed. But the house is not the issue. The issue is the family who lives there: five sisters were killed and their mother seriously injured. The first question the surviving daughter asked was, are my dad and mom okay? She was between the two dead bodies of her sisters. How will she forget that? No treatment in the world can erase that image from her mind.
Fida Qishta lives in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. She is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and blogger, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) coordinator for the Gaza Strip.