On January 13, a day which began with a visit to the bombed Jazeera hotel (and neighbouring hotel), and continued to the Sheik Rajleen area on Gaza’s coast, where residents terrified by days of Israeli shelling and missile attacks were fleeing in droves and where what could be phosphorous fires still burned, we continued on to an area east of Gaza city, Zaitoun, where more of what might be phosphorous fires burned in patches on the streets, and where an entire neighbourhood of houses had been demolished.
In one day, over 15 houses were demolished by shelling and by the massive bulldozers Israel long-ago acquired specifically for this task. Lemon, orange and olive trees were run over, uproots in masses. While the surrounding streets were barren of life -everyone having evacuated or cowering in their homes -in the patch of destroyed land, newly-homeless residents picked through what once were houses, salving whatever they could: blankets, cooking pots, clothing… Most was destroyed, much unidentifiable. And their work was hurried, hasty under that on-going buzz of drones, the same drones capable at any moment of dropping a targeted missile on any area. As we toured, photographed, breathed in the burn of destructive fires and destroyed lives, we also began to hurry. The sound and sight of two Apaches approaching, gunfire in the distance, was enough to speed our work.
Leaving the new wasteland, we came across bits of fires still burning. I’ve never seen a fire that doesn’t disintegrate and start to weaken when poked apart. White Phosphorous. We watched kids kick at a rubbery, chemical blob, watch as it tumbled across the street, spitting sparks and burning ever brightly. Chemical spots remained, orange, where the fire had been.
Ready to move on to another area, to survey recent damage, we were interrupted. A car sped past, people stuffed inside, panicking. Another missile strike, another body being rushed to hospital? Following a 2nd group to their home, we learned the bodies of two youths, around 10 years old, were being taken to the Shifa hospital morgue, dismembered like the others, while collecting wood for a fire, again. A tired story.