Gaza: Hungry and Shell-Shocked
- It was never easy being a Gaza resident. But now it is a nightmare.
From: Fred Bush - fredericbush @ cox.net
Home again, still somewhat jet-lagged after leading a Pilgrimage to
the Holy Land for Palm Sunday and Easter. We spent 11 days celebrating
Holy Week with our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank
and learning much about the extreme cost of the Israeli occupation to
their lives and their hopes for a normal existence. After that, I
spent four days in the Gaza Strip, visiting the small Protestant
Christian community there, which is led by Dr. Hanna Massad, a former
student of mine and the Pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church.
When I stepped out of the taxi at the Erez border crossing to Gaza, I
was shocked and startled by a loud explosion. I asked the driver,
"What was that?" And he said, "Oh, it's just the Israeli's shelling
northern Gaza; it goes on all the time. It's the Israeli response to
the occasional Kassam rocket fired from the area."
During the following four days in central Gaza City, which is some 10
to 12 miles from the northern Gaza area, the sound of the shelling
from tanks, loud enough to rattle the window panes of whatever
building we were in, went on almost incessantly. Gazans showed no
reaction whatsoever; they were quite apparently used to the constant
I was a bit un-nerved at first, but after two days I found myself
paying little attention. But then, checking my email messages, I found
the following report. On April 10, at 5:30 PM, an Israeli tank shell
hit the home of Muhammad Ghaban in Beit Lahiya, killing his 8-year old
daughter Hadeel instantly, and wounding several other siblings and his
And when I arrived at the Tel Aviv airport on my way home last Friday,
I bought a copy of that day's Ha'aretz and found the article below,
written by Amira Hass, which put the sounds I was hearing in their
proper context. (I have edited it somewhat for length; for the full
article go to: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/707941.html)
It was all really nothing new, just another example of Israeli
collective punishment. Except for the Palestinians who live in Bet
Lahiya and its neighboring villages. There it is a nightmare.
Hungry and shell-shocked
By Amira Hass,
Friday, April 21 2006
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/707941.html [entire article]
GAZA - Where will the next blow land? That is the question. Not if it
will come, but rather when, and on whom will it land, and what kind
will it be?
Five-year-old L. believes the solution is to sleep every night in his
parents' bed, and in that way to be protected from the shelling. But
even there he is not able to fall asleep because he is so worried and
afraid. In the kindergarten in the yard outside the house, the
children speak all the time about the "booms" that fill their day.
Booms from the sea and booms from the land. Day and night. Sometimes
three per minute, sometimes three per hour. Sometimes simultaneously
from the land and from the sea. The air quivers, a flock of birds
takes off in fear, and for a minute the silence of terror reigns. Are
there casualties? Who, where, how many? If the parents succeed in
hiding from their children pictures of the other children who have
been killed or wounded by the shells, the older children fill in the
gory details from what they saw on TV or read in the papers. They
strengthen each other's fears.
In an agricultural neighborhood near the border in the northern Gaza
Strip, north of Beit Lahiyeh, the fears are made concrete by the
shrapnel that has fallen countless times on the asbestos roofs. The
parents have sent the children to relatives in Gaza city, so they may
go to school far away from the shells. "In our neighborhood, people
have not yet been killed," Z. says cynically. But the shells have
taken their toll: two donkeys, a few sheep and a handful of chickens.
In the northern Gaza Strip, thousands of farming families are due to
return to work their lands which were destroyed by Israeli army
bulldozers over the past five years. Immediately after the Israeli
army pulled out of the Gaza Strip, government and non-government
bodies joined forces to rehabilitate the scorched earth. They howed
and they plowed and they distributed seeds and saplings. But the
farmers are afraid to go out to their lands.
Z. spent many years in jail, as did his brother. Another brother was a
wanted man until he was killed in an assassination. Z. says he has
several times prevented armed groups from firing rockets from their
area. Because of his family history, he was able to stand in front of
them and say that they have "had enough of destruction and bloodshed,
we are not afraid of you. No benefit comes from fighting the
occupation with the homemade rockets you are firing."
In places where large and strong families live, such as Beit Hanoun,
they have succeeded several times in chasing away those who fire the
rockets. They move to more open spaces or to areas where the families
are less strong, such as Beit Lahiyeh.
During a meeting of pupils, angry voices were heard saying, two weeks
ago: "Let them fire the rockets from where they are, in [the refugee
neighborhood of] Sheikh Radwan." But people do not vent their anger in
public against those who fire the rockets. "Anyway, whether there are
rockets or not, the Israelis fire shells," is the unequivocal
conclusion in Gaza. Z. says: "There are no rockets in our area now,
only Israeli shellings. I act as a guard protecting the Israelis,
preventing rockets from being fired here by armed groups, but
nevertheless the shells fall in our area."
"There is a law in Israel that every soldier must fire a shell every
hour," says B. He lives in a new housing development in the northern
Gaza Strip, in which mainly Palestinian policemen who returned home
from abroad reside. Three shells have already fallen on this
development but by some miracle no one has been killed. One time, a
shell fell on an iron banister, another time in the yard, and another
time it did not explode. They are so close to the Erez checkpoint, to
the border, that they can hear when the shells are fired; they hear
them whistling above and landing and exploding. This Wednesday morning
was strange, he said. By nine o'clock there had been no shells.
B.'s wife gave birth two weeks ago and is staying with her parents in
Gaza city. But she is due to return home today (Friday). "Where will
we go? We are like all those who live in Gaza. If there is no shell
from the sea or land, we will be hit by a missile from a plane or
drone. In the beginning, the children who fired the rockets from among
us would move around next to us. As a policeman, I have instructions
to prevent firing. We chased them away several times. But I too, as a
policeman, have become a target for the shelling. With or without
rockets, you shell us. Everyone here is walking around dazed, without
sleep, because of fear of the booming noises. We sit in our homes,
waiting to see who will die first."
The disaster of the shelling near his home has made the disaster of
the economic situation seem easier for B. As a policeman, he has not
received a salary, like the other workers in the public and security
sectors of the Palestinian Administration. Israel does not transfer to
the Palestinian Authority the money which comes from collecting taxes
on goods imported via its ports. The United States and Europe have
cancelled their assistance to the PA. The salaries of 140,000 families
in the West Bank and Gaza, amounting to some NIS 1,000 - NIS 2,000 per
month per family, are already three weeks overdue.
"My situation is good. My wages did not get to the bank but I can buy
from the shop on credit," says B. "What can the unemployed do? No one
sells them anything, even on credit."
L's father is currently unemployed. He is an engineer and was promised
a new job in one of the infrastructure projects being supported by
DIASU, an American aid fund. But now the fund has cancelled its
donations to the projects that were due to be carried out through the
PA and its government offices. The contractors he knows do not even
answer the tenders that are published in the newspapers. What is the
point, one of them says, we can't take on any commitments - we don't
know when the raw materials will arrive, when Israel will open and
close the checkpoints. We have no estimate when the work will be
finished because this depends on the raw materials. I can't make an
obligation to pay the workers because I don't know when those ordering
the work will be able to pay me. Even the shopkeepers are unemployed:
There are no buyers, no goods, there is no point in keeping them or in
paying for them from an income that does not exist.
The supermarket in the teachers' neighborhood in Tel el-Hawa in Gaza
was closed for two days and its workers sent home on forced leave.
There were no shoppers in the el-Kishawi supermarket in the Rimal
quarter on Wednesday afternoon and its shelves were half empty.
Worried parents said: We won't be able to pay registration for the
universities next month.
The roads are also empty: The center of Gaza city is no longer blocked
with traffic as it used to be. The emptiness is particularly felt
after 2.30 in the afternoon when the school children and clerks go
home. The roads are empty because people are saving: They do not shop,
they do not want to pay for transportation, they do not want to pay
for gas. Although vegetables are very cheap, even the markets are
empty. The vegetables cannot be marketed in the West Bank and they
have flooded Gaza and Rafah. A suggestion was even made that they be
distributed free, through some non-governmental agencies. The roads
are empty, also, from fear - fear that a shell or missile could
explode at any moment.
"I am not surprised that Israel is shelling us like that," says H., a
Hamas activist. "That is its nature; that is what it has always done.
I am surprised at those of us who are doing everything to trip up the
government." In the streets, people do not point an accusatory finger
at the Palestinian rocket launchers "because everyone is busy with the
missing salaries, with trying to save money, with being afraid of the
shells Israel is firing, and with anxiety about the future," says M.
who is opposed to firing the rockets. S. who is also opposed,
complains that people are stuck in a mentality of "reaction and
revenge" and therefore they approve of the firing.
. . .
There are two opposing points of view among the population. There are
those who complain that the Hamas movement should have taken the
Israeli and international response into account when it ran in
elections for a parliament with limited authority and when it agreed
to set up a government that was limited in advance. In other words, it
should have taken different decisions in accordance with its political
ability - not to form a government, or to agree to Abu Mazen's terms
and to have a platform that would not make it possible for the entire
world to boycott the Palestinian people and impose another economic
and political sanction. Every day another country announces that it is
canceling the economic aid that over the past five years has become
the Palestinian nation's oxygen. The latest one, for the time being,
was Japan. Israeli banks do not transfer money to Palestinian banks.
The Arab Bank is not prepared to give the government loans. Even if
Iran and Qatar send money to the PA, how will it reach them? It has to
go through Israel's central bank which, of course, will refuse.
The other school of thought represents people like Z., who does not
support Hamas. He is convinced that the pressure will have the
opposite effect: It will merely serve to strengthen the public's
support for the government.
Palestinians recall day of catastrophe
By Jonathan Cook in Umm al-Zinat, near Haifa
Thursday 04 May 2006, 0:13 Makka Time, 21:13 GMT
[Children hold names of razed villages, Photo/Jonathan Cook]
About 2000 Palestinian demonstrators gathered on the slopes of the
Carmel mountain near Haifa while most Israelis celebrated their 58th
Independence Day with open-air barbecues and parties.
The Palestinian refugee families were joined by 150 Israeli Jews in an
annual procession to commemorate the mirror event of Israel's
independence called the Nakba (Catastrophe), that drew the
overwhelming majority of Palestinians from their homes and out of the
new Jewish state.
This year, the families marched to Umm al-Zinat, a Palestinian farming
village whose 1500 inhabitants were forced out by advancing Israeli
soldiers on May 15, 1948, a few hours after Israel issued its
declaration of independence.
Along with more than 400 other Palestinian villages, Umm al-Zinat was
demolished by the Israeli army to prevent the refugees from returning.
Children held aloft coloured placards bearing the names of all the
destroyed villages, while others waved Palestinian flags, an act of
defiance that could land them in jail.
Millions of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza and in the
camps in neighbouring Arab states will officially commemorate the
Nakba on May 15; but the smaller number of refugees inside Israel have
traditionally staged their own event to coincide with Israel's
Independence Day, the date of which varies according to the Hebrew
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