Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Gaza, now

As civilians continue to die as a result of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, it is time for the world to act to stop Israel’s violence, reports Adie Mormech

Al-Ahram Weekly

I’m writing this from near the Gaza seaport, from where I can see smoke rising around me from the bombs falling on the Gaza Strip from the Israeli planes above. Words fail me.
Despite the limits to life imposed by Israel’s five-year siege on Gaza, some kind of normality is attempted in Gaza. How could it be any other way, when the majority of the population is made up of children? Do parents and older siblings have any other option?
Yet this civilian population, most of which is now holed up in the dense refugee camp buildings and urban centres of Gaza, is now facing the wrath of some of the most powerful aerial bombing available to humankind. As I write, the constant bombardments consume the senses and shake the entirety of the surroundings. For the over 300 people injured or killed so far by the Israeli F16s, drones and gunboats, the loss for them and their families will never disappear.
I can barely write a sentence before more news comes through. “Six injuries from a bombing in Sheikh Radwan, children among them, including a four-year old child who was playing in the street.”
“An elderly man just killed in the Zeitoun neighbourhood, with four others injured.” Friends have received text messages from the Israeli occupation forces saying in Arabic, “Stay away from Hamas the second phase is coming.”
Twelve-year-old Abdallah Samouni, to whom I teach English in Zeitoun Camp, called me a little while ago. “We’re really scared,” he said. “We moved to get away to Zeitoun and went to our grandmother’s house. Take care of yourself. There are so many bombs.”
Abdallah lost his father and four-year-old brother, shot by Israeli soldiers who entered the family house during the land offensive called Cast Lead on Gaza over the new year of 2009. In just three days, he was injured and lost 29 members of his extended family. His mother Zeinat has now moved her seven remaining children to a town further north, but the bombs are raining down all over the Gaza Strip.
“We moved everyone out, but the bombing is so bad here. All the kids are screaming. Whenever an attack happens, they come and hold onto me. The children remember what happened before, and they think only of the worst,” Zeinat said, who, like so many others, has had to put aside her own fears to show strength to her children.
Seeing the Western media distort the picture of what is happening here, just as they did during the massacres that took place during Israel’s Cast Lead attacks, made my call to Abdallah all the more angry. This year from 1 January to 6 November, 71 Palestinians were killed and 291 injured in Gaza, while no Israelis were killed and 19 were injured, according to the United Nations.
How many Western media outlets offer proportionate time to Palestinian victims and Israeli victims?
Just as Israeli forces initiated the Cast Lead attacks, this time the Israeli army’s initial attack took place on Thursday, 8 November, with an Israeli incursion into Gaza in Abassan village. The Israeli forces opened fire indiscriminately and levelled areas of Palestinian land. The shooting from Israeli military vehicles seriously wounded 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa while he was playing football with his friends. He died the next day of his injuries.
On 10 November, Palestinian resistance fighters attacked an Israeli army jeep patrolling the border with Gaza, injuring four Israeli occupation soldiers. Israeli forces then targeted civilian areas, killing two more teenagers playing football, and then bombed the gathering mourning their deaths, killing two more.
Five civilians were killed, and two resistance fighters, including three children. Fifty-two others, including six women and 12 children, were wounded. When Gaza is under such attacks, can anyone doubt that the resistance forces will fire back? Once Israeli forces had carried out further bombardments, one of which was the extra-judicial killing of the Hamas military commander Ahmed Al-Jabari, the circle was complete.
Until the time of writing this article, more than 150 Palestinians have been killed, together with three Israelis. The majority of Palestinian victims have been civilians. Hundreds have been injured, many of them children and women. The number is rapidly rising.
Even this comparison is detached from the context, since Gaza is under Israeli military occupation, illegal according to United Nations resolutions and a five-year blockade, deemed to be collective punishment by all the major human rights organisations and violating Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions.
The right to resist enforced military occupation by a foreign force is also enshrined in international law, a right that should be self-evident. This explains the jubilation of the Palestinians in Gaza when rumours spread that one of the rockets that usually hits open land this time had brought down an Israeli F16 fighter jet, the likes of which had carried out over 600 airstrikes over the Gaza Strip over the last three days.
Visits to hospitals did not take long to convince any neutral observer that these Israeli aerial attacks and shelling from gunships had hit many civilian areas.
At the main Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, every 10 minutes more people were arriving in ambulances — an elderly man, a young man, a child, and two more children. Once they have been used to care for the injured, stretchers get a new towel and are then sprinted back out for the courageous paramedics of the Palestinian Red Crescent to go back into the danger zones to find the latest victims of the Israeli attacks.
There weren’t many beds free in the intensive care unit, where some patients had brain injuries from embedded shrapnel. On a recent visit, a tiny child, 10-month-old Haneen Tafesh, was rushed in. She had very little colour or life in her and was rolled out onto the hospital bed. She had suffered a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull. Later that evening, news came through that she had not survived.
Director of the Al-Shifa Hospital Mithad Abbas asked, “we know Israel has the most precise and advanced weaponry. So why are all these children coming in?” Abbas said that if the casualties increased, there would be a severe lack of basic medicines and supplies, such as antibiotics, IV fluids, anaesthesia, gloves, catheters, external fixators, heparin, sutures, detergents and spare parts for medical equipment. What’s more, electricity blackouts would hit hard, since there was not enough money for suitable fuel for the generators.
Once again, as I write five huge blasts from nearby shake our building and our senses. The bombings have progressively escalated, especially once night falls. Jabaliya Refugee Camp, Shejaya, Rafah and Meghazi I learn have been under a continuous barrage of attacks. One blast came during an interview with a Canadian radio station, which must have helped the audience understand what was happening.
A 13-year-old girl, Doaa Hegazi, was hit in the Sabra neighbourhood as she walked home with her family. Shrapnel was embedded all over her upper body. “We are children. It is not our fault, and yet we have to face this,” she said. “They are occupying us, and I say, as Abu Omar said, ‘if you’re a mountain, the wind won’t shake you.’ We’re not afraid. We will stay strong.”
And so the night goes on. The future of Gaza is uncertain. The fate of everyone here is uncertain. Which people now preparing to go to their beds will have their lives turned upside down by the loss of a loved one over the next few days? I know some very warm people here that I feel strongly attached to, people that you would instantly care for if you met them. The madness of this violence makes me wonder what we have done to ourselves. Why do we allow humanity to manifest itself in this way?
Outside, you can make a difference. I’m asking you, the reader, to do so, because the Israeli air force will not empathise with the people it looks down upon through cockpit windows. Nor do Israeli politicians.
However, you can empathise, and you can act, in the usual ways and now multiplied by 10. Small and larger efforts to create a massive international mobilisation against the violence are the only way to reduce the extent of the horror and loss facing the Palestinians of Gaza.
The Israeli cabinet has now approved the call-up of 75,000 army reservists, compared to the 10,000 reservists called up for the massacres during Israel’s air and land offensive in Cast Lead. There is not much time left for the world to act.

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