*bombed truck, with shelled house behind, Jabaliya
2:20 pm, Tuesday, Shifa hospital, waiting for 1st aid training (decided that having some basic first aid skills could be helpful). An explosion nearby, not far from the hospital. An Apache was flying over, and now a drone buzzes loudly as it surveys the streets (the damage?). Dr. Khaled tells us that last night the Shifa hospital director received a bomb threat. “Some one called, saying he was an Israeli army officer, and told us we had to evacuate Shifa hospital immediately as it would be targeted.” With over 600 patients in Shifa, this was more than impractical, let alone unethical. The director refused, Shifa wasn’t bombed. But threats like this are made by phone calls, some followed by later bombing [like that of the home next to Jaber Wishah, among others], some just pyschological terror.
Later: Dr. Khaled Hadoura has just taken us through the basics of CPR, tying a tourniquet and inserting a cannula (I.V. used for drips or blood transfusions).
Tuesday, 10:30 am
I’ve just returned from Jabaliya, in Gaza’s north, where I and another woman, Sharon from Australia, spent the night again with our friends. They, the wives, sisters and relatives of my two male friends, spend their days and nights without their husbands and brothers, afraid, hiding in their basement where they’ve been since Saturday. Their basement is by no means a bomb shelter, simply the ground level floor of the house and with the smallest windows, so when the windows shatter from the bombing, there is a bit less chance they will be injured by glass. But if a bomb hits their house, they’re dead. The house is like most, not made of re-enforced cement, crumbling easily under bulldozer blades or missile impacts.
The men stay away from the house, waiting for the expected ground invasion. They believe from past experiences (March 2008 -when their house was occupied by Israeli soldiers for three days, the family kept at gunpoint in one room -and earlier invasions), that if they stay, they will certainly be subjected to beating, possible arrest, possibly worse -because they are men in their 20s and 30s -they have experienced it before.
Just after 8 am
We leave the house, in a lull of relative silence -although the drones still circle above. But although the actual ride back takes just 20 minutes, we stop numerous times to document the shelling of the previous three days.
We photograph the ruins of a truck and home near Dwar Zimmo, on Sikka street, at a metal shop, where scrap metals are collected and re-used. The house next to the shop had been shelled at 4 pm yesterday (December 29). The missile came from an F-16 Israeli fighter plane which, according to Israel, was targeting a “weapons storage”. Yet the house next to the shop was leveled instead.
One hour later, Jihad Samour (approx. 55 years old), had arrived with 6 sons and one other youth, 15 year old Wassim Eid, to drop off scrap metal, the proceeds of which he was to use to buy food. A missile from a drone overhead hit the group, tearing them to pieces and exploding into an even larger blast than usual due to the oxygen tanks at the shop. One of the men ran panicking, crying for help as he burned alive, engulfed in flames from the explosion. Only one son, 23 year old Mohammed Samour, escaped the massacre, without an arm and a leg, and in critical condition. A next-door neighbour describes the dead: “the missile made the people into pieces. No arms. No legs. And burned.”
*the metal workshop sits next to civilian homes; a neighbour in the home recounted his children’s terror during the strikes.
Moving on from the wrecked shop, there is a loud blast, followed by a rising cloud of dark smoke. It comes from the area we’d left only half an hour before: Fatema’s house. Through some frantic phone calls, we learn the shelling didn’t hit the house, the family is skaken but alive. Fatema’s phone is busy, and when I finally reach her, her normally strong voice is a mess of sobbing and trembling. She’s terrified, again.
We can’t go back to her, the drones are still circling, and returning, even in daylight, would be inviting a missile.
En route back to Gaza City, we pass a bombed out building which had held a small carpentry shop on one side and an empty shop on the other, with a house in the back half of the building. Two rockets pierced the roof, destroying the front shops and the back house, and crumbling neighbouring walls on both sides of the targeted building.
Seven of Akram el Ganoo’s ten children were injured in the explosions, with two children still in hospital. The paint thinner and carpentry chemicals in the shop fed a fire which took 13 hours to put out, using sand as there was no water. Sunlight through the missile’s holes illuminate the blackened remains of stairs, interior structures, shop goods lying scattered amidst the sand, and the stench of the fire’s remains is pungent.
Eid Said Eid and Abdu Hakim Eid, the two neighbouring families on just one side of the building, both had children injured as a result of the targeted strikes: a 4 month old baby, 4 year old and 6 year old children were wounded in the blasts which tore holes into their walls. Mahmoud el Najjar, el Ganoo’s neighbour on the other side of the building, pointed to the charred pieces of furniture and interior decorations that were his furniture shop.
A man urges us to visit his chicken farm, where 11,000 young chickens have expired, the pressure from the blasts around the area too much for them. The stench of their two-day old corpses is horrid. They lie where they’ve fallen, a mass of feathers, and the remaining 1,000 or so birds peck around the shelter, looking for non-existant food: even before this campaign of attacks began animal feed was already scarce, non-existent except for those who had stored enough. The remaining birds stand to join the others soon.
The farmer, shows us more dead birds, gathered into bags for disposal.
He’s disgusted and dismayed, and has lost his source of revenue and a source of food.
As H takes us around the bombed and affected areas, he fields calls from friends. They’ve all heard on the radio about the latest shelling in his area. “Next door, next door,” he answers to their questions about his house being hit. His stress and sadness are immense: in the last 4 days, his mother has been killed, many of his friends who were policemen were killed, he has not had time to even mourn any their deaths nor to hold a funeral for his mother, and he is living -as is everyone in Gaza -under constant bombardment.
“I could tell you many stories about my friends who were killed at the Jawazzat (police training academy). But I can’t tell you now, I can’t think about it right now. If I think about it, I don’t know how I’ll continue,” he tells me, smiling sadly.
We continue up a dirt road littered with chunks of rubble from the recently-exploded wall lining the road. A massive crater collects water from the broken water pipes.
“We haven’t had water since Sunday night,” Jamil Abudullah tells us. He cradles his 2 year old son, his 5 year old standing carefully by. They bombed here at 8:30 pm exactly, Sunday night, he tells us. His house sits 50 m behind, without drinking water, electricity or phone lines. “We can’t talk with anyone, we can’t cook,” he say adds. Invasions in the past have severed the water lines, neighbours say. This isn’t the first time.
Back on the road, still in Jabaliya we pass further bombed buildings, but there are really so many there’s not time now to get every story.
We continue going down Massoud street, we pass a wooded area where on Monday, 3 teenagers had been collecting wood to burn.
It was between 11 am and noon when a drone flying above dropped a missile on the youths, killing one, 14, from the Abu Khater family, and seriously injured the other two, Mohammed Abu Nabil, 19, and Majd Migbel, 13. The large white flour sack they’d been carrying to collect wood in lay among the trees.
Back in Gaza, at the bombed mosque across from Shifa, we leave my friend H knowing he, very worried about his wife, baby, sisters and the many children, might try to return to his home. We’ve by now learned that the bomb landed 30 metres away, in the same area which had been shelled early Sunday morning, rocking us from our stupor. That shelling left a crater amidst the olive trees.
*missile crater, 30 m from Fatema’s house, Sunday Dec. 28