Eye witness accounts from the Gaza Strip

Posted: January 6, 2009 in News
Tags: ,

This has been passed onto me by a friend who has links with organisations involved in the Gaza Strip. Maybe worth a read:

I am not in Gaza, this article has been put together with two young women in Gaza who spent several hours describing the events of the last few days to me on New Years Eve. They want the world to know what is happening…

New Years Eve in Gaza: ‘We are human…’

Amahl and Rana are two sisters, in their early 20’s. Both live in the Gaza Strip – Rana lives in Gaza City where she is married to a surgeon who works at Shifa Hospital, and her sister Amahl is a recently qualified GP who lives with their parents in Deir Alballah. For days now both Rana and Amahl have lived with the constant sound of the Israeli bombing and shelling which has already killed more than 400 people and injured over 2000. Rana lives in one of the most heavily bombarded areas of Gaza City:

“The situation here is the worst ever. I’m from Gaza city, the ‘Al Nasser’ area. Right now I can hear shelling by war boats and tanks. I live in a big house near ‘Al Mashtal’ which was the first target for the Israeli army. The distance between this place and my home is about 400 meters. The Israeli army shelled it with 6 rockets from F-16 fighter planes and you can imagine what happened… All the windows in my house have been blown-out by the recurrent shelling. The house didn’t just shake; every window has been blown-out by the ongoing and repeated shelling!”

Rana is living through this constant bombardment whilst she is pregnant. There are two schools in her immediate neighbourhood; her coming child should one day attend one of these schools:

“At 11 o’clock on Saturday the bombing started. There are two schools in this area and the students were running everywhere to escape from the shelling, they were screaming and crying. I don’t know if any were killed, but all buildings round here are affected by the bombing. It seems that every single moment there is a shelling… and Gaza is so small that every shelling can be felt by everyone. This area has been hit many times from F-16’s but now they use tanks. Last night I slept underneath the stairs… but I didn’t feel any safer. I got to sleep at 6am for just two hours; my husband came back from the hospital at that time. He is a surgeon at Shifa Hospital. He was injured during the first attacks but ‘Thank Allah’ he is ok. I have hardly seen him since Saturday; he is home for just two hours a day usually. When he went back to Shifa this morning he told me I wouldn’t see him again today, he has to work. We communicate when we can by phone. The situation is so serious, this is all out War against us and the hospitals are full of injured. There is a desperate lack of medicine and as far as I know the hospitals are struggling to accept new cases as it’s so overcrowded.”

Amahl is herself also a qualified Dr, she understands clearly the depths of the current medical and humanitarian crisis Gaza is facing:

“One thing to understand here is that we have many doctors but most of them are General Practitioners, There’s a lack of real surgeons and specialists because there’s no money to complete a speciality, and it’s so hard to get a scholarship. I am a GP and I wanted to go down there to the hospital, it’s so dangerous to get there but I rang them to see if I could go and they said they had enough GP’s, they need specialists. This is why we need to transfer the injured out of here, when they are really hurt we cannot treat them now. They say there are more than 1700 (New Years Eve figure) injured now but very few are getting out for the treatment they need.”

Both Amahl and Rana know how desperate the medical situation is and say borders must be opened to get the injured out. They are clearly both frustrated and angry at the actions of Egypt and their refusal to let more people cross the border. A few people have been transferred, but nowhere near the numbers who need further treatment. Rana says she heard that 50 had been transferred on New Years Eve, her sister is clearly and rightly angry:

“Really? Oh thanks to the great Egypt!!!”

At this stage our conversation was broken very disturbingly, Rana couldn’t talk more:

“Must get down now, helicopters…”

The internet connection went dead.

Amahl was able to continue the conversation from her computer in her house in Deir Alballah, yet Rana’s abrupt disappearance left an uncertain void:

“…That is happening all the time (losing contact due to bombings), we are getting used to it. We asked her on the second day to come and stay here, but that was so risky. It’s safer to stay where she is than to risk moving by car…”

This horrible uncertainty about ever hearing from or seeing loved ones again must be filling the lives of every Palestinian in Gaza. Also like every other Gazan, Amahl has become a prisoner in her own home since the attacks began:

“I haven’t left my house since Saturday. I live in Deir Alballah, its a ‘quiet’ (compared to central Gaza City) area about 20kms from Gaza City that was bombed on the first day. Two areas here were hit by F-16’s but after that we can hear the planes and bombs but its not like it is in Gaza City. When the bombing started my father was in the police building collecting his driving licence, he said they heard the bombings but they thought it was only the ‘voice’ (engine noise) of the aircrafts. Then they saw the windows blow out of a nearby building and ran outside. At the moment he ran into the street the bombs hit the police building… Thank God he got out! My father, and all of my family, has not left our house since he survived that bombing. He has been very quiet and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. He has just faced death…”

Amahl and Rana’s father finally left the house on Wednesday in search of food. Amahl explained that when he finally got out there was only one mini-market in the whole area that had any sugar or rice left, and supplies of anything are very hard to come by:

“There is no bread in the shops although one or two bakeries have some, and flour is available in some places but so expensive that no one can afford it, people are calling flour ‘White Gold’ now… A 30kg sack should cost around 60 shekels but now its 230 shekels or even more, and many people were already relying on the UNRWA for flour and now there is none. We have had no gas at all for over two weeks, and electricity only for around 6 hours a day usually. We do have a generator but that’s running out of benzine and there is no more benzine available. We are relying on candles, but there are no more candles left in the shops…”

At this point, Amahl also disappeared from the conversation as yet another power cut hit Deir Alballah. A few hours later I managed to contact Rana again briefly, she had survived the latest bombardments.

She was keen to pass on a message to the outside world before the bombing and shelling resumed and she would have to run for cover

again:

“Support us… say NO to your dying Governments!”

I asked what she meant by ‘dying’.

“Cheating, lying, shameful…”

Just before Rana again disappeared into another dark and silent void she continued with three simple words, these were the last words I heard from Rana on New Years Eve 2008:

“We are human…”

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Comments
  1. elinorloewen says:

    Thanks for this post, I’ll have to keep it bookmarked so I can link it when some loony throws up on my blog.

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