Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My War Diary: Gaza My Soul

Part One

This is a 51 day war account of the how daily lives during the third war on Gaza unfolded one day to the next for its devastated and grieving citizens. This is a heart breaking nightmare. War is not just the numbers nor the political rhetoric it often masks itself in. In the end, it is about people coming to an abrupt end; and the continuum of life stabbed in the heart. In the end, it is about fear; constant fear, till cease fire is declared.  

Day # 1 

So right before we break our Ramadan fast, we heard a small air strike and we knew then that a house has been chosen to be destroyed! Less than 10 minutes later three strong rockets turned the house into pieces.
The funny thing is that Israelis are kind enough to warn the residence so they can start running before shooting, just like a hunting game.
The attack was so close to our house, and it is hard to convince my little sister and brother or even I that it is ok when I know today is the first of the many long hard days to come.
There are air strikes everywhere and one never knows where the next rock will land. We try to keep safe but how can anyone be safe when the enemy is right above seeing every single one of us as a target.  Sadly to be continued…   

Day # 2 

Today we went out, driving through the streets was like driving into a ghost town. Everyone is taking shelter in their houses, knowing that even the houses have been targeted.
The main activity for the day for us besides prying, was watching the news. It just breaks my heart seeing all the martyrs especially the children who hardly know life beyond the games they play every day. They are just like anybody’s children who believe they are safe in their own homes.
We still hear the bombs and still wonder if it is our turn next, the only comfort we have is that we are together. So far, our family is lucky other families are not.
My sister, who is terrified, keeps asking the same question: "they do warn us before they shoot the house, right?” It is almost midnight but the night is just starting for us... 

Day # 3 

Today was relatively quiet in our area, and that is not because the situation is getting better but because they were busy in other areas. We are sad all the time because of what we see in the news and the families that have lost their lives...
So many parents have lost their children and so many children are orphans now. My little sister, who was screaming during a bombing, asked me where can we go, which area in the strip is safe so we can go? There are no answers for these questions.
The whole area is one big target, everyone is scared and we are all worried that they might start a land operation; especially that Israel is seriously considering cutting off water, electricity and Internet from Gaza Strip.
I have no energy today, I will leave you with a picture of how children in Gaza sleep, thinking that closing your ears will stop you from hearing the strike.

Day # 4  

Houses are no longer warned before they are bombed. Entire families have been killed and photos of injured and dead children are coming on a daily basis.
Every picture is a story of its own. It is a face of a family who once was happy, safe and whole. Families that from now on will never be the same and will always grieve a beloved.
It is very difficult to choose the hardest situation to talk about when every single situation is hard and matters. Yet, your tears will run in front of parents grieving their child, standing helpless, not knowing what do. What do you tell the elderly when they lose their children and their grandchildren?
Despite this, with everything going on here, there is no other place in the world I would rather be. With the madness still going on, it is funny how one changes the way of comforting oneself and those around us.
First we convince ourselves that the strikes are far away and the only thing one has to deal with are the sounds. Then when the sounds are getting closer and closer we convince ourselves that as long as we hear the rocket then we will be safe, as it will land somewhere else.
The one rocket that will kill you, is the one you will not hear… 

Day # 5 

Israel bombing checklist:  - People: check - Houses: check - Hospitals: check - Mosques: check - Handicap institutions: check - Schools: not yet. After all it is summer holidays now and it is useless to bomb schools.
My little sister who is nine years old, told me today that her biggest fear is if and when Israelis shoot our house and every one of us die except her, then where and whom will she live with?
My little brother and I went for a walk today and we passed someone we know driving his car. Also we walked near a mosque and worried that it might be bombed so we sped up.
The mosque was not bombed, but that car was and the driver is fighting for his life now....   

Day # 6 

Is it 6 days already??? Displaced families in northern areas of Gaza Strip are taking shelter in schools.
They go to UNRWA schools as they believe it won’t be targeted, it is UN after all, right? Yet in 2009, an UNRWA school was bombed with illegal weapons while people were in it for shelter! What a nice occupier we have?
They sent those displaced families a leaflet explaining which areas will be targeted, what street they should take for evacuating and at what time? But the most important thing they forgot to tell if, whether and when they will return to their homes!
Targeting people, houses and mosques continued under the threat of a ground operation. Meanwhile, the support I see through the social media for us is overwhelming and makes me wonder: what if social media was as active more than 60 years ago?
I think the whole world would have seen Israel for what it really is, just a forced-state of terrorism....  

Day # 7 

Remember that car that was bombed day before yesterday? The driver who was fighting for his life lost the battle today, after suffering severe injuries in his head. He was targeted while he was on duty as an employee of local municipality to ensure that houses get the water they need. He was bombed while driving a municipality car.
He is one of the many who have been on duty since the beginning of the war, especially doctors working 24/7 doing their best in the light of limited resources in the hospitals. Most of them have not gone home since last seven days and on top of that while fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, how, when and where will they break their fast?
Certainly not in the operation room! Amongst the Palestinian doctors you will find a Norwegian doctor who came to Gaza once the war started, marking his presence in all three recent wars on Gaza Strip.
These doctors are not just giving their time and energy but also their lives as they are an equal target, especially paramedics who never hesitate to go out and help who need their help.
They are the ones who deserve the world cup of bravery. 

Day # 8 

I have lost track of the number of days. I had to go back to the previous post to learn that it’s the end of the 8th day. Today the Ministry of Education announced the results of Tawjihi or 12th grade. It is an important stage in every student’s life as it determines one's university future. 
But this year’s Tawjihi results are special for different reasons.
Not only have they been announced during the war on Gaza strip, but also many Tawjihi students were not there to celebrate their success, 35 of them! They have been killed by the Israeli attacks.
What a feeling a mother must be going through while distributing sweets mixed with her tears to celebrate her martyr son's success, who will never join any university.
One of the martyrs is Ibrahim who on June 26th, was feeling hopeful and wrote on his Facebook page: "Thanks to Allah today I finished my Tawjihi exams. I wish that Allah will grant me with success, please pray for me and for all the students."
Ibrahim received an overall result of 89%, but Ibrahim will never know.   

Day # 9 

Since day one of this war children were a target like anyone else. Children from different age groups- from unborn in the womb of their mother, to newly born up to teenagers have lost their lives. They were targeted in different areas- homes, streets, cars and mosques.
Today 4 children aged 11, 10, 10 and 9, who were playing on the beach in Gaza Strip were targeted by Israeli military ships. They didn't stand a chance and were killed immediately.
In the very first picture down here you will see that a nearby area from the children was targeted first, so that the children start running for shelter.
Then they were immediately targeted leaving them dead and others wounded. Those Israeli ships with all the technology they have would have never mistaken them for freedom fighters or even civilian adults.
It was crystal clear to them that they are children, just innocent children playing on the beach. If this single crime doesn't convince you that Israel is a forced-state of terrorism then nothing else will.
And I am not going to apologise for the cruelty of the pictures.   

Day # 10 


Day # 11  

Musings: Our land should never be used as a passage for war tanks for it to come and spread its terror and darkness. Our sky only needs one sun to spread light, not fear and death.

A person should never answer a call of duty only to find his/her child killed and gone. People should be safely sleeping in the warmth of their beds, not on the hard cold floor of a shelter.
Babies should never die alone away from their mothers, on a cold table connected to a tube. They should be warm listening to their mom's heartbeats, and if they must go, then they must go in peace, not murdered with cold hands.
Children should never have the beauty of their face hidden behind bloodied scars, it should only be covered with smiles and joy of chasing colourful butterflies.


Day # 12  

12 days of violence and deaths. Children orphaned, families killed and displaced, people living as refugees in their own country, taking shelter in schools, sharing their beds, food and fear.
All this is considered nothing but collateral damage. I quote my friend, “After being awake all night because of the sounds of bombing, at dawn, Israeli bullets started hitting ours’ and neighbour’s walls, forcing us to run from our houses.”
My friend carried her daughter and her husband carried their son, started running for shelter. One of the neighbours who was carrying his son was directly hit, his son was killed but he, despite his injuries, refused to let go of his son’s body and kept moving with him in his arms.
It could have been a scene of an action movie; only it was a true event of a massacre, an ongoing massacre. This is just one story of many more, happened and sadly still happening.

Day # 13, 14 & 15  

The list of martyrs are getting more familiar as names of friends and people we know are starting to appear on it, and one can't help but wonder, will my name be on that list soon? 
In the past two days we had no internet, the lines were destroyed and it took a while to be fixed. During the last two days, people had a fundraising campaign to help the families who had to leave their houses and take shelter in schools.

The speakers of the mosque asked the families to donate anything: money, food, blankets etc, and despite the hard economic situations the families did. The same speakers asked the people who were leaving the mosque after finishing morning prayers to go leave quietly and not to walk in groups; they feared being targeted by the war planes.

The one image that won't leave my mind is from the massacre that happened two days ago, during the heavy bombing on one of Gaza neighbourhoods, a family took shelter under the stairs of their house (most of us do).

The family, who couldn't leave their house, thought it was the safest place for them. Of course they never made it out, they were killed together while sitting next each other, I just keep imagining the last thoughts they must have.

I already know how they felt when they heard the bombing sounds, but I don't know how they felt when they knew that death is just around the corner. Did they hold hands? Did they call someone? Did the mother tell her son that it would end soon? Or maybe they were just praying, hoping that it won't be so painful and it will end soon.

I keep thinking about them and I keep imagining being in their situation, they were just like us no more than three days ago watching the news and seeing images just like theirs. No-one is safe here, no one. The one thing you can keep doing is holding hands and praying …

Day # 16

Today the number of the Palestinians who lost their lives reached 704, from which 73 lost their life just today. Today words are failing me. Today I will share with you few faces of the war. 

Day # 17 

In 2011 I was granted a scholarship for my postgraduate studies in England. The name of my scholarship is Al-Fakhoora,  and it was established and named after a United Nations school in the north of Gaza Strip which was targeted by Israeli war-tanks in ‘Operation Castled' in 2008- 2009.

The estimated number of people who lost their lives was 46. Today Israel insisted on repeating history and targeted a UN school in north of Gaza Strip. The attacks killed at least 15, and left about 200 injured ones. Who were in the school? There were families and only families.

The families who were forced to leave their houses and take shelter in the school, the same families who were asked to evacuate the school and once they were gathered in the school yard the tanks started shelling.

Despite the massacre which happened in 2008-2009 people still believed that the UN school was red line for Israel, but then terrorist never have any limits at all. Literally there is no safe place in Gaza Strip.

I wonder how many scholarships with the name of bombed schools there will be. 

Day # 18  

So, here are some stories from today: Do you see the little girl in the first picture. She is Shaima, named after her mother, one day old and despite the tubes, she is in stable condition. Her mom, till yesterday a 9 months pregnant woman, was waiting along with her husband for her first baby to come into this world.

Their story never had a happy end. Their house was targeted with two rockets from Israeli war-planes. The mother died, few minutes before reaching the hospital, and once the doctors discovered the baby was still alive, they immediately had her out.
Now imagine little Shaima telling the story of how she was born when she is older! I was watching the news earlier and during the live updates of the situation in Gaza Strip, there was a phone call with the general director of the only hospital in Beit-Hanoun, a city located in the north of Gaza Strip. He was sending an urgent appeal, as the hospital was bombed with war tanks.
The only hospital in the city, which is crowded with patients, was hit with shells from war tanks. UP UNTIL THIS MINUTE, the hospitals can’t be evacuated….
Finally, this evening, there was a press conference, in front of the central hospital in Gaza city for paramedics. One of them said his name and number and spoke to his colleagues asking them to take the Quran that he always carry with him, and continue with his mission whenever he loses his life on duty.
The conference took place after their friend and colleague Mohammed, 32 years old lost his life. He was targeted with his crew while been on duty, with Israeli war-tanks’ shells. Mohammed is the seventh paramedic to lose his life since the beginning of the conflict.  

Day # 19 

A 12-hour ceasefire took place today; those few hours exposed the severity of the destruction in some of the neighbourhoods that were restricted from being entered.

The faces of the tragedy were finally revealed after it was hidden within the darkness of the bloody Israeli hands. The wounds of the people who fled their houses were re-opened when they saw their life and memories turned into piles of rubble.
But what breaks your heart the most are the bodies of their loved ones who have been removed from underneath the rubbles, forcing their families to re-live the pain of their loss.


Day # 20 

Tomorrow is Eid Al-Fitr, a celebration we have at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid is a time of joy and happiness especially for children, but not this year.

In the picture you will see Mohammed carried by his father at his funeral. Mohammed was 2 years old, and if he was with us, tomorrow would have been so different for him.
He would have been probably too excited to sleep, his daddy must have taken him downtown and bought him a new suit and a small shoes for his small feet.
On the morning of Eid, he would have worn that suit, combed his hair and with few drops of his dad’s perfume; Mohammed would be running, smiling with a tummy full of sweets. None of the above will happen with Mohammed.
His smile was a threat to the security of Israel. Mohammed will celebrate Eid in heaven and he won’t be alone. His father joined him just a day after. A wife and a mother who is left behind in their family, will mourn their deaths this Eid. 
Nothing is left in this Eid but broken hearts, and stolen smiles. Eid Mubarak to 236 Mohammed’s in Gaza.   

Day # 21

In Gaza your childhood is measured by how many wars you have managed to survive.   

Day # 22 

Israel has just lost it. They have gone crazy. First day of Eid, and at least 50 were killed today, and this doesn't include the recent numbers, from which children who were enjoying a day out in Public Park.

Israel announced that it will expand its ground military operation, as if it can get any worse, but they are good at beating their high scores when it comes to Palestinian death tolls.
My Facebook page is full with people praying for themselves and their loved ones, and some of those prayers sound like last prayers to me.
In the news, they showed a house in my city which was targeted and eight people lost their lives of which five are women, and this is just here, there are more like that all over the strip. Gaza Strip is on fire tonight; they are bombing everywhere, literally everywhere.  
People are praying for the day light to come sooner this night so it can erase some of the darkness away. 

Day # 23 

A mother told me today that last night all her children wanted to sleep together in one room, as the weather is hot and the room is airy. She didn't allow them and asked them to sleep is several rooms. She said: "If anything happened and the house was targeted, at least they will be in different places, if they all sleep in one room and it was hit with a rocket I will lose them all, but like this I hope some will survive".

Another woman was sitting next to her disagreed and explained that she would rather sleep together and die together. She didn't want anyone to be left behind suffering the loss of their family, in case they are bombed. I would agree with that.  
The rocket which will hit the house usually takes the whole house down, it doesn't matter which room you sleep in. What really matters is that you tell your children how much you love them before they go to sleep. One never knows who wakes them up, you or an Israeli warplanes. 

Day # 24 

Well, I guess Israel was right today, I mean they chose the right targets to support their security. Look, they targeted a UN school again which had families taking shelter in the building.

Then they targeted a market, again a good target, I mean how dare we try and live our life, we don't need to get fruits and vegetables anyway, they are luxury, we need to stick to their bullet diet.
Like this, we might not be considered as a threat to the security of Israel. Israel's dirty game to break us is not working, hence they are going more mad than before. Meanwhile we will keep getting our fruits and vegetable from our markets. 

Day # 25 

72-hour ceasefire will start tomorrow, Friday at 8 am. I am glad they said 72 hours, not three days, 72 sounds longer than 3.

We need an hour to count the wounded, an hour to count the dead and another to say goodbye.
We need an hour to kiss the sun, and an hour to sleep under the moon.
We need an hour to grieve a child and another to buy a lollipop for a child.
We need an hour to breathe clean air and an hour to smell the flower.
Then in the rest of the hours, we will try to put together a thousand shredded pieces of stolen lives.  

(The second part of Laila's dairy will follow next week.)

- Laila Barhoum

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