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Fear and terror spread in Gaza

Created 30/12/2008 - 21:11
GAZA, December 30, 2008 (MENASSAT) — Fear, terror, anticipation and an unprecedented confusion are  increasingly the prevailing mood among Palestinians in Gaza as Israeli F-16 warplanes intensify their strikes across the entire Gaza Strip.

On the fourth day of what Israel has dubbed Operation Cast Lead, over 370 people have been killed and over 800 injured—with no end in sight.

What is happening in Gaza adds an element of truth to the popular Palestinian saying—a reflection of 60 years of occupation—that "the worst is yet to come."

Although Israel started bombing on December 27th, it seemed even more violent on Monday night, when Israeli warplanes conducted more than fifty air strikes, targeting the governmental ministry complex and the houses of Hamas leaders and party members.

The damage included hundreds of civilian homes, since the ministerial complex is located in the heart of a residential area.

People described the air strikes as consecutive, never-ending earthquakes that "ignite fear" and cause mass destruction.

Once again, the Israeli warplanes ensured that no one in Gaza slept.

'They are bombing everything'

Before the start of this war, Israel had already completely suffocated the Gaza Strip, imposing a complete blockade on medical supplies, material goods and basic resources. It was a systematic operation aiming at weakening the Islamist Hamas movement after it won legitimate parliamentary elections in 2006.

Israel further tightened the embargo of the Strip when Hamas violently overthrew their rival Fatah security apparatus in the summer of 2007. British aid groups said in May that humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip were the worst in 40 years.

Now, the streets in Gaza are empty apart from the few Gazans waiting in queues for loaves of bread at the odd bakery that has remained open.

The destruction is overwhelming. The smell of death is spreading and the mourning tents are increasing in number. Fear has taken over the Strip and the Israelis have just started, the locals say.

Mouin al-Agha, the owner of a drapery store in Gaza, expressed his concern and anger at the indiscriminate bombing.

"They are bombing everything, not only Hamas infrastructure. A missile targeting one Hamas building destroys dozens of neighboring houses. I don't know how the Israelis can say that they are not targeting civilians and their properties.

"My home is 400 meters away from the ministries complex that was bombed last night. The windows of my house were smashed and the glass flew over my children's heads."

He pointed to one of his children, who had been mumbling since morning and hadn't stopped crying for several hours because the air raid sirens are on seemingly 24 hours per day in Gaza.
"Where am I supposed to buy glass now, knowing that it is missing from the markets because of the blockade Israel has been imposing on us for the past two years?" al-Agha asked.

'Now there is no reason to stand against Hamas'

Oum Mohammad is a teacher in a private school in Gaza. She said that many of the victims are employees working in Hamas buildings with no party allegiance to Hamas.

"Look at the murder of the Al-Balousha family. They lost five daughters when a mosque was hit in Jabalia. Israel knows the camp is full of citizens.

"I had some reservations towards Hamas before, but when the killing machine targets the entire Palestinian population, it means that we are all in danger and there is no reason to stand against Hamas. We only pray for Hamas' safety and the safety of the children, elderly, women, and all the Palestinian people," Oum Mohammad said.

Sahib Salim, a student at the Islamic University, said Israel killed six of his friends in northern Gaza yesterday while riding a bus heading to the north, and that they were all supporters of Hamas' rival political movement Fatah.

"What mistake did they make?" he asked. "I might be the next victim, for the Israelis are no longer differentiating between civilians and politicians. They are targeting everyone."

Salim was extremely emotional when talking about the bombing of his university.

"We are losing our friends and brothers, even our educational future. Apparently, Israel has a systematic plan to throw the Palestinian population into ignorance. The university is an academic institution for all Palestinians and there is no point in bombing it."

Abu Hazem, a Gazan who preferred not to use his real name was surprised that Israel has been targeting mosques.

"The destruction of six mosques so far means there are no red lines for Israel, and this worries us for the future. What happened to the Al-Balousha family is a great example of the huge disaster we are facing."

The Al-Balousha family lived next to the Imad Akel mosque in Jabalia. The Israeli army launched an air strike on Sunday night targeting the mosque. The walls of the house collapsed, killing five sisters, who were buried in a mass grave on Tuesday.

(See Eman Mohammed's article and photos about the Al-Balousha family tragedy.)

The Israeli violence in Gaza has meant utter destruction. The smell of blood mixed with gunpowder is omnipresent; limbs, dead bodies and injured people are lying in hospital hallways and in the streets because of the shortage of space in the morgues.

The disastrous humanitarian situation is casting its shadows on Gaza.

A mother and journalist in Gaza

This violence is reaching all Palestinians in Gaza; no one is being spared. Allow me to talk about my personal experience as a reporter and a mother in Gaza, with no gas and no electricity, without the basic human right of easily buying goods for my children.

Israel appears to be honest with its intention to bring Gaza back to the Stone Age, or at least to fifty years ago. Today, I searched for a gas stove, as did my grandmother in the 1950's and 1960's. There is no electricity and firewood is now non-existent.

The bigger problem I face is my inability to get money, even from the banks. But in Gaza right now, someone who has one dollar is in the same situation as someone who has millions of dollars—both are living in the face of oppression, death, fear, and scarcity of supplies and basic needs.

Concerning the scarcity of food supplies in Gaza, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesperson Adnan Abou Hasna told MENASSAT that even before the Israeli military attacks, the closing of the checkpoints made it difficult for UNRWA to perform its duties.

The organization was forced to suspend its operations of distributing food portions to 750,000 refugees, while 200,000 other refugees are counting on aid from the World Food Program.

"The Israeli embargo policy to allow only a few trucks into Gaza makes our mission almost impossible in the face of this vast destruction and great fear in Gaza."

Abou Hasna said that UNRWA is demanding an immediate ceasefire, in order for its crews to be able to deliver basic supplies to the population.

"The great number of civilian casualties and injuries go against the Israeli claims that they are bombing non-civilian targets. It raises concerns about the safety of the civilians and the ability to bring essential and vital supplies to them," Abou Hasna said.


Day 4: MENASSAT surveys Gaza media coverage
Posted on 30/12/2008 - 21:00
MENASSAT features a sampling of today's news coverage - a mixture of Op-Eds, blogrolls, and underreported items picked by the MENASSAT editorial team to highlight what is happening on day four of the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip. london gaza protest kid 

Gaza bodycount redux: Palestinians 370 – Israelis 4
Posted on 30/12/2008 - 16:15
Israel has rejected international attempts at a truce, as Israeli planes continued a fourth day of air strikes against the Gaza Strip. At least 370 people have been killed since the assault began on Saturday. Israeli officials said the military blitz against Hamas targets is just the "first of several stages" of military action. MENASSAT has this news roundup. gaza burial.jpg 

'Until the necessary change is achieved...'
Posted on 29/12/2008 - 20:27
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. em (20).jpg 

Natalie Abu Sha'ra: 'It makes sense for me to be in Gaza'
Posted on 29/12/2008 - 11:47
Just a week before Israel's latest assault against Gaza, a humanitarian aid ship was allowed through the Israeli blockade of the Strip. On board was Natalie Abu Sha'ra, a 21-year-old Christian from South Lebanon who defied her own country's travel ban to come to the aid of people in Gaza. She told her story to MENASSAT's Olfat Haddad.

Gaza's blackest day
Posted on 28/12/2008 - 19:30
MENASSAT's Gaza correspondent recounts the horrors of the single bloodiest day in Gaza history since the occupation began in 1967. gaza.jpg 

Gaza bodycount: Palestinians 271 – Israelis 1
Posted on 28/12/2008 - 14:45
Israeli jets have launched a second day of air strikes against the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Despite international condemnation over what is being called a disproportional response, Israel is not excluding a ground offensive. According to Palestinian officials, 271 Palestinians have been killed so far for only one victim in Israel. 358x283.jpg

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