Thursday, 20 November 2014

My War Diary: Gaza My Soul

Part Two

Day # 26 

Today I will not talk about Gaza Strip and its different neighbourhoods. Today I will talk about my city, Rafah, and my neighbourhood, where all my family and I live. As I am writing this post there is a continued aerial bombardment and the zzzzzzz noises are louder than every night.
So far the death toll in Rafah has reached 62, just for today, no need to say that most of them were children and women. A whole neighbourhood was bombed by Israeli tanks, and the bodies of innocent people were on the streets.
The main hospital in the city had to be evacuated; it is their punching bag now. There is no space left in the morgues anymore. The day that was supposed to be the first day of a three day ceasefire turned out to be another bloody day.
No one is in the streets, and there is no entry and exit from the city. We are surrounded by Israeli tanks and war-planes. Regarding the rest of the Gaza Strip, it is the usual- families being killed and houses being bombed.   

Day # 27  

It is in the night time when the Israeli thirst for blood is on its peak. Night is the time when they commit their crimes. The last time I slept at night was 27 days ago.
My family and I remain awake all night, most of the time watching news or just talking and talking and talking. Israelis prefer bombing at night to kill some and scare the hell out of the rest of us. Under the dark skies everything is maximized, the rockets’ sounds, the war-planes’ sounds and the deadly silence that follows.
Israelis enjoy killing people while they are asleep, they want to spread horror, and wake up the children in the middle of the night screaming and running. They want to break our strength and our faith.
They are just some cowards hiding under the cover of the dark. It is when the sun rises we release the breath we were holing all night long.
It is the sun that clears our skies and sends us some peace. Every time the sun sets everyone just goes home, and says, here comes the night and the terror it brings.

Day # 28-32 

As much as we were isolated when the internet was disconnected for three days; it felt good to be away from the worrying online news. It was almost like a holiday away from the war, especially as it was followed by a three day ceasefire.
When one is in a relatively-quiet area, and watches horrible news, somehow deep inside the mind, one keeps saying it is not near us, it is away, it won’t happen to us. One is convinced that watching the news is different from being in the news.
When the Israeli army went deep inside the neighbourhoods of my city, Rafah, it just felt more real than it already is, and it made us think, we are next. The ceasefire was very much welcome and for the first time since this madness we slept at night and had breakfast in the morning.
We went out in the garden and enjoyed the sun without keeping an eye on the sky. The ceasefire will end tomorrow 8:00 am. No one knows what will happen next. Again, I have prepared my emergency bag, which has this printed: KEEP CALM AND FREE PALESTINE. 

Day # 33 

How does it feel when Israel shoots a rocket near you? There is no way to know when a rocket will be fired from a war-plane but there is a window of barely two seconds when one gets to know that it has been launched. The strength of the sounds depends on how near it is.  
At the beginning, one sees a strong red light in the sky; after that one hears a very thin and strong hissing sound of the rocket while it goes to its target. This hissing sound is the worst. Even worse than the sound of the explosion once it hits the target. Since the year 2000, we have been hearing these sounds and it has always felt the same.
During these two seconds, one holds their breath along with their life, listening, anticipating, and wondering where it will go this time. Is it coming towards us? Then comes the explosion, a very strong sound that one hears inside the head, and feels it as if every cell in the body is going to explode.
Sometimes the sounds are very strong, shaking up the houses. We joke about it saying the house is dancing. Upper floors shake more, that is why during the attacks people will usually go to the ground floor if they can.
While I was writing this, an area near us was attacked with at least 15 rockets or so. I wonder if Israelis are done for tonight.  Have a look at some of the rockets that were launched on Gaza. Look how huge that thing is, and just imagine the destruction it will leave, and they are not just one or two. 

Day # 34 

The ceasefire, which took place few days ago, was an opportunity for the martyrs to be buried by their near and dear ones. Near my house there is a large ‘fridge’ that is used for flowers farm.
During the attacks in my city, Rafah, the number of people who were killed by the Israeli army out-numbered the capacity of the hospitals’ morgues. They found alternatives in flower fridge, and in one case an ice-cream freezer was used for children’s bodies (see photo).

Children always look into an ice-cream freezer with joy, and try to choose the flavour they would like to have.  They do not deserve to be killed and then kept in what is their source of joy. The people who lost their lives never had a proper funeral; their families didn’t have the chance to say a proper goodbye, and never hugged them for the last time.
They were just waved at from a distance and rushed to be buried. They deserved to be kissed and hugged; their last goodbye should have been as it should have been. It is never easy to say goodbye, not with this insurmountable pain.   

Day # 35 

Tomorrow a 72-hour ceasefire will start. It is both, good and not good. We are done with temporary-ness; we need something solid and stable; we just can’t keep jumping from one ceasefire to another.
Are we in a state of war or not? For me, we have been in a state of war all my life, not just the past few years.
We are going to enjoy the few hours of ‘peace’ but if the negotiations that are taking place in Egypt, fall through, then that is it, things will just fall apart and it is going to be worse, and this time many of us won’t be as lucky as before.

Day # 36 

First day of ceasefire went well, no surprises, nice and quiet. It is hard when you wake up and open your eyes and try to remember what day is today, war or no war.
The first thing that comforts you is the fact that you wake up in the morning, which means we were not up all night listing to explosions and just waiting, looking forward for second day of 'normal'. 

Day # 37-38 

Ok so a three days ceasefire ended today. The negotiations in Cairo (Egypt) did not seem to lead anywhere, and they are not saying a thing about what is going on behind those closed doors.
Another ceasefire will take place and this time it is for five days, we are not super excited about it; we don't want to jump from one ceasefire to another. 
We are tired from this instability; we don't want to get old waiting to come home to peace. 

Day # 39  

"They steal your bread, only to give you a crumb... then they demand of you to thank their generosity...Oh their audacity!" Ghassan Kanafani (a Palestinian writer).
Since the beginning of the war on Gaza, there was remarkable increase in the activities of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) in Palestine and around the world, proving its ability to unite people around the world in the favour of a right cause.
BDS in Palestine is a great opportunity to enhance the growth of the Palestinian industrial sector, but what I saw today shows that this sector was not spared during this war on Gaza, just like other previous wars.
Around 134 factories within different sectors were targeted and left with partial and complete damage. One of them is Al-Awda factory. Al-Awda, a food processing factory was targeted and severely damaged. Established in 1977; this factory is/was a leading one within the sector and was home for over 400 Palestinian workers.
Israeli is not just targeting the Palestinian resistance; it is also targeting the infrastructure within the Gaza Strip. Poor infrastructure would prevent the growth of our economy, and will hold us back ensuring our dependence on imported products.
So it is not others’ tax money that pays for their guns; it is also our own money they use to kill us with. P.S. The ceasefire, shakily, is still holding on… 

Day # 40 

We are still enjoying the few days of ceasefire and it is so hard to live life normally. Yesterday I went back to work in Gaza City for the first time since the beginning of the war.
So much destruction and so many tensed faces walking down the street, waiting for outcome of ongoing negotiations. By the end of the day I went to the market and got the biggest chocolate bar I found there, and I took a break away from war.
I showed my little sister a picture on Facebook; it was a little girl in the UK with her birthday cake. My sister was jealous and said: “Look she is having a birthday party as if they don’t have war" I asked her if she thought there is war in every country in the world and she said yes.
I grew up thinking that conflict is all over the world just like in my county. Now my sister who was born 22 years after me has the same feeling. 

Day # 41-42 

In every war there is always a story behind every face and a story behind every number. And there are always stories that will break your heart. Today my friend told me one that broke my heart.
It is about Asma, a girl from Gaza city in her twenties. In one of the Israeli massacres Asma's house was targeted and all her family members were killed, but this is not the saddest part. Asma, alive, was trapped under the rubbles of her house, in a two hours ceasefire her uncle went to her and with the help of the civil defence and paramedics they tried to save her.
She was crying all the time: "Why did you leave me?” Two hours were not enough for them to get her out and before the war resumed they made the hardest decision. They left her alive, screaming, crying and scared. There was nothing they could do. The Israeli army would coldly kill them.
They left with the promise that they will come back and they did, few days later. When they went to her she was barley holding on to life, and she died on her way to the hospital.
I can’t even imagine how she felt trapped on a war scene, lonely and scared. And I can’t imagine what her uncle must be feeling who had to leave her, helpless, knowing that he couldn't do anything.
I can just see her crying: “why did you leave me? Why are you leaving me again? This is Asma, a face of hundreds more buried in Gaza. 

Day # 43 

So today is the last day of the 5-days ceasefire, and by the end the negotiation team decided to give it another 24 hours as the informal news goes that an agreement might be signed by tomorrow. No one knows for sure what will happen and what is really happening in Egypt, but we will know for sure by tomorrow.
Today was birthday of a little girl in the picture, Maha, seven years old. Maha, who lost her mother in an Israeli attack on her house, is paralyzed from neck below from that attack.
Her birthday was different this year, it was in a hospital without her mother and this time she wasn’t able to cut the cake, but she had an amazing support from amazing people and will always do.
Happy birthday Maha, keep up your beautiful smile.  

Day # 44 

So ceasefire no more. War is back and the death toll is on the rise. Of course, Israel followed its war-protocol: they bombed a house, killed a child and had the cherry on the top with targeting an ambulance. As my friend said: Gaza is sinking again after taking a short breath.
The question is for how long can we hold on to that breath? 

Day # 45 

If Israel wasn’t the one who is occupying us; would USA and other countries still consider Hamas as a terrorist organization? Would they have called for our freedom?
If those countries who could help us really wanted to help us, wouldn’t they have ended the siege on Gaza Strip from the first year itself and showed the red card, which Israel deserves, at least when the first military operation against Gaza Strip took place in 2008?
Doesn’t the world have enough proof for the war crimes that were committed by Israel against us? Aren’t they equally evil as the crimes committed by Taliban and ISIS? Doesn’t USA think that we need the same protection they try to give to the people who flee their houses because of ISIS?
Doesn’t judging us according to a set of criteria set by our occupier and oppressor is a naive way to understand what is really going on? Aren’t issues such as health care, poverty and unemployment in the USA are in need for all the millions and millions of dollars which USA wire to Israel’s military sector every year?
Don’t you think it is time to have the courage to answer these simple direct questions and let the truth shine? And one final question: Can someone please switch off those damn drones so we can go to sleep?

Day # 46 

It was 2:30 in the morning. Some of us were asleep, others awake and I was on the edge of falling asleep. Suddenly we heard rocket explosions.
We thought when we heard the first one that it is a warning and a house near us is being targeted. Then we heard more and more, it was so loud and I cannot even describe it. The ones who were asleep jumped screaming: “what is going on?"
My little sister woke up screaming running everywhere not knowing where to go! There was dust everywhere and the sounds of shredded glass just won’t stop. We jumped and carried the children and left to the next house assuming it is safer. Some of us held the babies and others helped the elders to take a shelter, and the rest barely had the ability to get themselves out.
We and the other families next door gathered on one room, praying and waiting for what will come next, and by then it was over. We were lucky no one was injured but lots of us won’t go to sleep early tonight and if we do we will make sure that we are fully dressed in case we need to go on the run again.
That night a house nearby was targeted with heavy rockets and seven people lost their lives.

Day # 47 

"We teach life, sir. We teach life, sir. We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir." Rafeef Ziadah

Day # 48 

Today Israel war-planes completely destroyed a 12-story building in Gaza City. Nearly 50 families lost their houses and what they own in it. The families were given a 10 minutes warning to evacuate.
Just imagine them running down the stairs carrying their children. Imagine the elders who can barely walk running for their life.
Israel has just been targeting more and more houses. This is the first time they targeted such a big building. No one knows what other firsts they intend to do. 

Day # 49 

More bombs. More deaths. More irreversible scars. A hand that will never grow, a foot that will never run and a father who will never kiss his child again. 


Day #50 

50 days of war flew away just like that. 50 days filled with horror and pain. I wish we could go out and light 50 candles for each day that were stolen from us.
I wish we could light 2133 candles for every soul that found a new place in heaven. I wish we could light 10895 candles for every man, woman and child who have been injured and are in pain and trauma – physical, emotional and mental.
And I wish we can light a candle for the rest of us who are forever wounded and stamped with war scars…     

Day # 51

...of the third war on Gaza-Palestine: THE WAR IS OVER


- Laila Barhoum

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