'Until the necessary change is achieved...'

Photojournalist Eman Mohammed was lightly wounded during Saturday's Israeli air strikes, but this didn't stop her from continuing to document what was happening to her community. This is her story.
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© Eman Mohammed

GAZA, December 29, 2008 (MENASSAT) — Black clouds of dust spread to cover the skies of the Gaza Strip in the early morning of last Saturday. After multiple explosions were heard in over forty different locations, all that could be seen was faces covered with blood and dirt coming out from under destroyed buildings and houses, while others could be heard crying out from under the rubble.

The horrifying scene of  school students and citizens wandering in the streets checking the dead bodies' identities was a very unusual view that this part of the world hasn't witnessed perhaps since the Sabra and Chatila massacre in Beirut in 1982.

However, the catastrophe was even greater in the security headquarters and  training compounds of the Gaza police, where a graduation festival was being held when the Israeli air force struck. Bodies were lying all over each other, with some dying policemen able to move only their fingers as they shouted the Shahada of Islam—a sign of  being ready to die .

Medics rushed to the targeted locations where more than 160 people were killed by the end of Saturday. Bodies were lined up on the ground of Al Shifa hospital because of the shortage in space inside the morgue. Hundreds of worried families also gathered there, trying to find missing relatives or at least to bury them in case they were dead.

The look on 55-year-old Abu Mohammed's face was unforgettable as he checked the bodies on the floor looking for his two sons, who work as police officers. Finally, he had the chance to find out that one of them was alive and safe. But the other was lying lifeless near his walking stick.

Five daughters killed

Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the head of emergency services at the Gaza Ministry of Health, declared that the final number of  martyrs after three days since the start of Israel attacks on Gaza was about 300 citizens. He added that at least 140 of them were policemen and more than 160 others were civilians, including children.

The Southern  Gaza strip wasn't in any better shape than Gaza City. More than five mosques here were targeted by several Israeli missiles. The Balosha family's house was next to one of these mosques in Jabalia. A night-time air strike directed at the mosque instead caused the death of five young sisters from the same family. The only survivors were the parents, their eldest daughter and a son. The five Balosha sisters were all buried in one mass grave according to their mother's wishes.

"We all were sleeping in our beds," recalls the only surviving Balosha daughter. "I only woke up when the rescue forces came and got me out from under the rubble. I could hardly see, but I remember calling for my younger sisters and nobody answered!"

In a statement issued immediately after the first raid, the Israeli military warned that "this operation will be continued, expanded and intensified as much as will be required." Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense Minister, said, "We face a period that will be neither easy nor short, and will require determination and perseverance until the necessary change is achieved in the situation in the south."

What has been achieved so far is that the destruction and casualties in Gaza are massive. Wounded citizens have trouble finding a hospital bed and proper medication. The Israeli air strikes will continue until further notice.

(Eman Mohammed is a freelance photojournalist in Gaza and a MENASSAT contributor.)


JANUARY 3, 2009: Eman Mohammed has this photo report from the northern Gaza Strip where an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday killed the two youngest girls of the Hamdan family in Beit Hanoun. Lama, 4, and Haia, 11, had been dumping garbage near their house when they were hit. Their 11-year-old brother Ismail died  later from his wounds.  © Eman Mohammed