no room for the dead, no room for the living

By Eva Bartlett

After finishing a shift with the PRCS yesterday morning, we went to the Fakoura school, to see and to listen to the voices.Prayers were happening in the street in front of the school.I’d seen prayers in open, outdoor places in Palestine, in Egypt.But these days, when I see a mass of people praying, in front of Shifa hospital, in the streets of Jabliya, I think of the mosques that have been bombed, the loss of lives and sanctuaries.And yesterday I thought of the loss of a safe-haven.

The grief was very evident, as was the indignation: “Where are we supposed to stay,” one man demanded.“How many deaths is enough? How many?”It’s the question that has resounded in my mind since the attacks on December 27th.

Across Fakoura street from the school, about 15 metres down a drive, a gaping hole in the Deeb house revealed what had been happening when it was hit by a shell.Rounds of bread dough lay where they’d been rolled out to bake.Amal Deeb was in her thirties, a surviving family member told us.When the missile struck, it killed her and 9 others in the extended-family house, including 2 boys and 3 girls.Another 4 were injured, one having both legs amputated.

Approaching the house, the stench of blood was still strong, and became evident, in patches and pools amid the rubble of the room. Later, in Jabalilya’s Kamal Adwan hospital, 19 year old Ahlam lay conscious but unsmiling, unresponsive.The woman at her side explained her injuries: shrapnel lacerations all over her body, and deeper shrapnel injuries in her stomach.Ahlam didn’t know 9 of the family were killed.

Returning to the street in front of the UN Fakoura school, mourners had gathered, ready to march, to carry the dead and their pieces to their overcrowded resting place. Flags of all colours mixed in this funeral march: no one party dominated, it was collective grief under collective punishment.

So many people had joined the procession through the narrow streets that the funeral split, taking different streets, to reach the cemetery.At the entrance to the cemetery, decorated cement slabs mark the older graves, laid at a time when cement and space were available.The latest bodies, instead, show in sandy humps, buried just low enough to be covered but not properly so.Cement blocks mark some graves, leaves and vines on others.And some were just barely visible, by the raise in earth.But it was too packed, too hard to estimate where a grave might be, no possibility of a respectfully-spaced arrangement.

“Watch where you step,” Mahmoud, a friend, had said, pointing to a barely-noticeable grave of a child.

The enormity of the deaths hit me.After 12 days of killing and psychological warfare, I’d become…less shocked at the sight of pieces of bodies, a little numb…like a doctor might, or a person subjected to this time and again.  I was and am horrified at the on-going slaughter, at the images of children’s bodies being pulled from the rubble astonished it could continue…but adapted to the fact that there would be bodies, maimed, lives ruined.Standing among sandy makeshift graves, watching men digging with their hands, others carrying corpses on any plank long enough –corrugated tin, scraps of wood, stretchers –to be hastily buried –the drones still fly overhead and tank shelling can be heard 100s of metres beyond, it all become too much again.I wept for all the dead and the wounded psyches of a people who know their blood flows freely and will continue to do so.

Hatem, the other day, told me to be strong, as Palestinians, for Palestinians.And I try, though each day brings assassinations no one could have imagined. Out of touch with all the other areas of Gaza, I read of the Samouni family and see photos of a baby girl pulled from the rubble of a house shelled by an Israeli warplane.  Mohammed, a photojournalist, has photographed many of house-bombings’s dead. And today Hatem crumbled, though he is strong. It’s all too much.


dead girl pulled out of the rubble of the shelled Daya family house  [photo:]

Nidal, a PRCS medic, told how he was at the Fakoura school when it was shelled.His aunt and uncle living nearby, he’d been visiting friends at the school.“I was there, talking with friends, only a little away from where 2 of the missiles hit.The people standing between me and the missiles were like a shield.They were shredded.About twenty of them,” he said.

Like many Palestinians I’ve met, Nidal has a prior history of loss, even before this phenomenal assault on civilians.Only twenty years old, Nidal has already had his father and brother killed, martyred it is said here, by sniper’s bullets.His right hand testifies his part in the story: “It was three years ago, the Israeli army had invaded our region (Jabaliya).One soldier threw a sound bomb at us and I picked it up to throw away.It went off in my hand before I could throw it away.” Sound bombs in prolific use in such non-violent demonstrations as Bil’in and Nalin, among others in the occupied West Bank, many youths learn at a young age how to chuck them away.But Nidal’s stubs of fingers show that he wasn’t so lucky.Luckier than his father and brother, though. And luckier than two of his cousins, his aunt’s sons, who were in the area where missiles were dropped at the UN school.They, 12 and 27 years old, were killed.

Osama gave his testimony as a medic at the scene after the multiple missile shelling.“When we arrived, I saw dead bodies everywhere.More than 30.Dead children, grandparents…Pieces of flesh all over.And blood.It was very crowded, and difficult to carry out the injured and martyred.There were also animals dead among the humans.I helped carry 15 dead. I had to change my clothes 3 times. These people thought they were safe in the UN school, but the Israeli army killed them, in cold blood,” he said.

Mohammed K., a volunteer with the PRCS, was elsewhere when the UN safe haven was shelled.“We were in Jabaliya, at the UN “G” school, to interview the displaced people sheltering there.We wanted to find out how many people were staying there, where they’d left from and why exactly, and how safe they felt in the school.While we were there, we heard the explosions, saw the smoke, and wondered where had been hit. It was Fakoura.”

51 thoughts on “no room for the dead, no room for the living

  1. How people can carry on treating people like this is hard to understand. Thank you for your courageous reporting. Good to know you’re OK.

  2. salam alaykom,

    i`m from Iran it`s really hard for me to see what happening in Gaza. We are trying to help you any way and want all palestinian to know we are with you. please stand for Islam. Allah helps are near…

  3. I too was worried about you.

    I found your blog on Jan. 2. It is hard to get such personalized first-hand news of the conditions in Gaza. The situation is disgusting.

    Good luck!

  4. assalaamu alaykum dear sister,
    I don’t have words to express my sorrow and shame for letting this happen. All Palestinians are in my du’a and I am doing what I can from here, the United States. But it is not enough.

  5. Thank you for the inside news from Gaza.
    I can’t imagine what it must be like to be there now.

    Good luck to you and all the palestinians!

  6. Thank you for informing us – the lucky people sipping red wine, safe in our comfy chair, children sleeping safely in warm beds. We are safe, and have sacrified nothing to deserve it. Still, even we, the people of Norway, are with the people of Gaza. Today, thousands of people in Norwegian cities and villages marched with torches burning for peace. Our thougths are with you, mad we urge our politicians to put pressure on Israel, USA and the UN to make this genocide stop.

  7. I heard you on cbc the other morning, and I’m glad to know that you are over there helping. Your photos make me weep. If they can call a cease-fire for three hours a day, why can they not just stop altogether? Take care.

  8. I am from vancouver,canada and i heard today that the canadian gov.gave some money as aid to Gaza.I considers it an insult to the people of Gaza.As most people knows canada was the first country in the world to cut of aid to Gaza when Hamas got elected.Besides that the canadian gov. is a strong supporter of Israel.The people of Gaza knows that the canadian no friend of the Palestinian people.The canadian gov. is taking hypocrisy to the extreme.It is very difficult for the Palestinian people to live in peace when besides having to deal with fascist Israeli gov. they got to listen to the hypocritical western govs.
    The South African people were in a similar situation when they were fighting against apartheid.They defeated apartheid despite the hindrance of the western govs.The Palestinian people will do the same.Victory to the heroic people of Gaza.

    Stan Squires

  9. I’ve been forwarding your blog to friends and family as well as posting links where ever I can.
    Please know that the thoughts and prayers of this Canadian family are with you and all of those around you.

  10. Victory for victimhood
    10 January 2009
    Simon Scott Plummer
    While Israel may see some small immediate benefit from its huge military action in Gaza, long-term it will be the loser, as the victim status of Gazans, including Hamas – like its fellow traveller in south Lebanon, Hezbollah – is reinforced throughout the world
    From the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip what can be salvaged? Repairing the physical damage, whether to the Palestinian exclave or Israeli towns across the border such as Beersheba and Sderot, will be relatively straightforward. Much harder will be rediscovering that spirit of compromise which had led to hopeful signs of rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world.
    Talks between Ehud Olmert’s Government and Fatah, which governs the West Bank under the moderate leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, had been going on since November 2007. The Egyptians were attempting mediation between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, and between Hamas and Fatah. The Turks had been doing the same for Jerusalem and Damascus. The Arab League had revived a peace plan initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2002. And greater engagement was expected from the new Democrat administration in Washington.
    But over the past two weeks this fragile, multi-faceted structure has been smashed. The task of re-assembling it is daunting. Take, first, Israeli-Palestinian relations. The assault on Gaza has weakened Hamas, in terms of leaders killed and buildings and arsenals destroyed. But, as Tim Butcher, The Daily Telegraph’s Middle East correspondent, wrote last week: “The Palestinian narrative is built around victimhood.” Hamas and the Gazan population as the targets first of economic strangulation, then of vastly superior firepower, will deepen their hatred of Israel and the hands of those who would drive it into the sea will be strengthened. That is already apparent on the West Bank, where Mr Abbas is accused of appeasement. In presidential and parliamentary elections to the Palestinian National Authority, due early in 2010 although they may be held sooner, the West’s and Israel’s interlocutor could lose ground to Hamas.
    One would have expected the Olmert Government to learn the lesson of Lebanon in 2006, which was that, while the enemy, in that case Hezbollah, can be physically weakened, the damage inflicted rebounds to the victim’s political credit. The northern border has since been quiet but the long-term threat to Israel’s security remains.
    The same applies to Hamas. The rocket and mortar fire may lessen following Operation Cast Lead but is unlikely to cease. The rejectionist movements within Gaza, which also include Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, will be keen to demonstrate that their power to retaliate, even if sporadically, has not been destroyed. The image of defiant little Gaza will damage Israel’s standing well beyond the confines of the Islamic world. That is a shame because Hamas, though a welcome provider of welfare services, is both bigoted and violently authoritarian.
    Why, then, did Mr Olmert and his ministers put their heads back into the noose? They argue that the rise in attacks from Gaza following the ending of a six-month truce was intolerable. Fair enough: every government has a primary duty to protect its citizens. But that begs the question as to why the opportunity to open a political dialogue with Hamas during the ceasefire was wasted. As Israel and its allies know, the Islamist movement is here to stay and will eventually have to be engaged in talks if there is to be peace. Northern Ireland provides an example of how seemingly irreconcilable differences between government and terrorists can be bridged.
    The problem for Israel lies in part with the nature of its democracy, an extreme form of proportional representation that results in fractious coalitions. Elections to the Knesset are due on 10 February and the centrist and left-wing parties have sought to use Operation Cast Lead as a means of bolstering their support against the hardline front-runner, Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud. Opinion polls suggest that their leaders, Tzipi Livni of Kadima, the Foreign Minister, and Ehud Barak of Labour, who holds the defence portfolio, are succeeding. The rise in their popularity reflects exasperation among voters at the persistence of pinpricks from Hamas. But, while it may carry candidates to victory next month, it will make all the harder reassembling the pieces once a new coalition has been formed.
    As recognised by the Olmert Government before the invasion of Gaza, the key to that process is reconciliation with Syria. Last May the two sides said they would resume negotiations, albeit indirectly, after an eight-year gap. The announcement followed separate talks by the Turks with Israeli and Syrian officials in Ankara. A land-for-peace deal would involve the return of the Golan Heights, occupied during the Six-Day War in 1967, in exchange for a commitment by Damascus to cease support for Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organisations.
    Speaking in Tel Aviv last month, Mr Olmert said that a peace treaty between the two neighbours would “lower the possibility of war, break the strategic ties between Damascus and Tehran, lead to the expulsion from Syria of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas headquarters and stop the cash flow to Hezbollah”. These are huge potential gains. Whichever coalition comes to power after the February elections is likely to pursue them, though Mr Netanyahu has said he favours retention of an Israeli presence on the Golan Heights.
    Given its importance in the Arab world and its proximity to the conflict, Egypt will continue to play a mediating role, despite Hosni Mubarak’s distaste for Hamas and his anxiety not to provoke Israel. Together with France, Egypt produced ceasefire proposals which Israel said on Wednesday it accepted “on the principles”. Hamas’ response was that there were “positive signs but no agreement yet”.
    Looking at the wider Middle East, the Arab League peace plan offers diplomatic recognition in exchange for evacuation of the Golan Heights and the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. It would be helpful if League members could set out some road markers, whereby every Israeli concession would be matched by one on the other side, thus creating a constituency for peace.
    But what of America’s role in all this? Recent events have thrust the Arab-Israeli conflict further up Barack Obama’s agenda than he would probably have liked. His declared foreign-policy priority has been Afghanistan. But without Washington’s sustained engagement, the chances of peace in the Middle East are slim.
    In considering what Mr Obama can do for the world’s trouble spots – Gaza-Israel, Iraq, Iran, India-Pakistan, North Korea – two things should be borne in mind. First, expectations arising from his message of change are far too high. Second, an incoming president is traditionally more concerned with domestic policy. In Mr Obama’s case, this means confronting an economic situation as dire as any since that faced by Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
    Ultimately, reconciliation between Arabs and Israelis will depend on courageous leadership by those who head their governments. The invasion of Gaza has been the easy way out for Knesset members about to face the electorate. Hamas has been checked but at the expense of Mr Abbas and Turkish mediation between Israel and Syria. However much the rocket attacks diminish, that is not the way to lasting peace.

  11. The Politicians are silent (except France and Norway) but People from many Cities worldwide keeps protesting about those criminal attacks.

    May God help you all.

  12. I am also a Canadian and have visited the West Bank three times, and always astounded bbyt the beauty, strength and generosity of the heart of all the Palestinian people that I have met. . Oppression always fails. It goes against the laws of the Spirit and is never rewarded in the long run. Many Canadians stand in support of Palestine. This oppression and occupation must end

  13. Allah i hafdkoum ya Akhi, Allah i ‘tikoum ssbare, hnaya ma’akoum bi amwalina, sawtna, dou’a ana, patienter Allah vous récompensera incha’Allah, Wallah ana youhiboukoum fiLLah !

  14. When will this genocide end…..we pray soon. Thank you so much for informing the world about the atrocities….people have to see what is really happening and act on it.
    Take care Eva, keep safe..

  15. Read your blog and the pictures.

    They are very emotional from here, so must be tens times that for you as you and those around you live it. Keep up the writing, telling it as it is. It is vital that the outside world here the voices from inside Gaza, from people of different backgrounds, different politics all saying the same thing, the Israelis are guilty of the worst atrocities in living memory, the are war criminals and should be outcast from civilised society.

    I wish you all the strength possible to continue the writing and the work you are doing in Gaza, and keep your head down.
    I have passed on the details of your blog to many others, hopefully they will read your blog and learn more about the daily life of Gazans at the moment.
    There have been events nearly every day here. Tomorrow Gerry Adams will speak in Dublin at the Irish Anti-war march and rally to Israeli Embassy. Other events throughout country as part of day of action. Tonight Amnesty had a vigil with some faith/development aid groups, Tuesday i spoke at Israeli Embassy before march went to US and then Egyptian Embassy. Next Thursday the European Affairs Committee of the Dáil has motion re suspension of EU/Israel trade agreement to discuss, Tuesday the Foreign Affairs Cttee has Palestinian high representative and also the Israeli Ambassador in front of them. Wednesday night I am addressing a public meeting in Bray County Wicklow and the following Monday in County Monaghan.

    Hopefully the pressure continues.

    In today’s Irish Times many TDs and Senators signed a letter calling for action, I was not 100% in agreement with it, so have written my own, which will hopefully appeared on Monday. The Israelis and their cheerleaders are getting airtime and column inches to try and defend the indefensible though, but they majority of people see through their propangda, though the state broadcaster and others, think they need ‘balance’.

    Stay safe and good luck

    Ádh mór


  16. Hi Eva – I heard your interview on CBC’s current and wanted to send you a message of solidarity and support (from one former Fergusite-gone-activist to another). Your work is so important in getting the message out to the international community and hopefully in putting an end to the violence in Gaza. Take good care and stay safe — in solidarity and struggle.

  17. I am thankful to CBC One for directing us to your blog site. Your interview was an eye opener for a lot of people in US who have relied on stories fed to them by the national media. They have chosen to downplay the human suffering and focus more on completely blaming Hamas for this fiasco. I sent the link to your blog to two of our Senators, so they can see for themselves the destruction caused by their best allies. What you are doing in Gaza is highly commendable. As I saw the pictures you posted today and read your account, I was literally in tears. We pray to Allah for your safety.

  18. I keep coming back to these photos Eva. I think it’s bizarre that for me, the bread dough breaks my heart. It speaks so loudly of what was going on in that home before the bombing. Family life torn asunder.

    You and those around you are in our hearts and prayers. I continue to spread the links to your stories to everyone I can think of.

  19. Dear friend,
    thinking of you
    every day
    Thinking of you!

    Be brave, listen to the love from my and others in the world. I think eyes are soon to be opened.

    Love You! Forever. Take care!

    Soulway/Silverstare from Sweden

  20. How the Palestinians can win

    Palestinians clearly have the moral advantage right now. The civilians of Gaza have been massacred.

    You can take advantage of it and win the war.

    How? Declare a non-violent struggle. Drop down all of your weapons, stop firing missiles at Israel (missiles that don’t do any real damage, but only give Israel an excuse to continue attacking you), put on cardboard signs that say “Israel – Shoot us – we are unarmed”, and go marching through Gaza. What can you lose? Israel is killing you anyway. By taking the non-violent route, you will force Israel into submission and become the true winners.

  21. Dear Eva , thankyou for doing what you and others are doing for the people in Gaza , the truth will not be hidden with brave people like you , please tell the Palestinians the world is with them , I,m hoping the worlds leaders will finally feel shamed by their lack of action
    the picture of the bread dough is so sad, the lady of the house must have been happy to have actually found flour to make bread for her children , may she and her family rest in peace,God bless you ,your parents must be proud of you …keep safe

  22. only hope i have is our muslim sister and brothers` duas and prayers. also, the judgemenet day will be bad for them. We might have nothing but inshallah Allah with us.

  23. Totally scandalized by the video of the IDF firing at a PRCS medic (12 January). Hope Hassan’s recovering and you’re safe. The “leave a comment” link is missing from today’s (12 January) posting, so can’t comment there. Something to be fixed?

  24. Salam Aleykom

    The world needs a new “human rights” lawbook, just like the one the french people did hundred years ago. The west, dont know a shit about human rights. Several days ago, and every day actually we hear propaganda in the radio and in the newspapers telling us that death-penalty are being more common in Iran. And we have to do something to that. That is ridicilous, this is one BIG lie. Where is the human rights now, that in 18 days around 1000 people are dead and more than 30% of them are kids. When the issues can harm the picture of Islam, the human-rights can jump in and act HEROES.

    But from now on, we shouldn’t care about those fake “human-rights” calls coming from the west.

    And lastly, thank you Israel for giving our people in gaza a free ticket to heaven and the coming generation a big dose of hate to fight against you year after year.


  25. Hello,
    My name is Fernanda. I´m a journalist in Brazil and I´m doing a report about the blogs that bring news from Gaza. This report is for TV BRASIL, our public TV station.
    I would like to exchange some information about this project with you.
    I hope you can help. Thanks for your work.
    Hoping to hear from you soon,

  26. I cannot express the awe I feel that you are staying in Gaza to assist. If we were allowed in I’d be there fighting. I want to help re-build once isra-hell stops the genocide. Stay safe, you are doing an incredible job. From Canada we are rallying and doing fundraisers and anything we can to get more people aware and active against israel. As an Irish Canadian with many Palestinian and Arab friends, and having lived in the middle east, this affects me personally, and we all do something small, it adds up to something incredible.
    Hang tough.
    Salam Aalekum

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