Naim Abed Saed Shamella, 48, explained how when the tanks’ shelling in their neighbourhood, near their house, had gotten intense he moved his family of 10 to one ground floor room. After the missile hit his house, going through the 2nd story roof, he’d gone upstairs to get his cell phone. He entered into a cloud of smoke, noxious and lung-tightening. Three days later, when we visited we found the house by the smear of black burn around the upper window, blown out, of course.
The room, blackened, incredibly still had a small fire burning. Three days later. Instead of breaking down when it was poked, the fire flamed up, the toxic smell still strong, a mix of burning rubber stink and unfamiliar chemicals. I tried to picture a roomful, and imagined I’d have more problems that the chest and lung ache Shamella suffers. When doused with water, the fire revived seconds later.
Down the lane from Naim Shamella’s house, 68 year old Adal Saed Shemella stood in front of his own bullet and tank shell-ridden home, refusing to evacuate. “My children and family have gone, but I’ll stay, with my wife,” he stated. His wife peered out a second story window, nodding agreement. “If we leave our house, they’ll destroy it. When it’s more dangerous, then we’ll move to the back side.” He invited us inside to see what he said was even worse damage. And like everyone else I’ve met, he has no power, no water, no gas, no working telephone lines.
Down further, the father of Mahmoud Ahmed Shamella sat expressionless outside the steps of his building. Mahmoud was a business student, 18, and was killed two days earlier, crushed by a wall which fell after the missile bored through the 2nd floor of his home. It was 2 am, just a few hours before the martyr was to die.
The family of Hayssam Ashaq Shamella, 20, detailed his sudden death. It was 5 am and although Hayssam had been asleep, when a missile struck outside the house, he’d gone out to see the damage. The second missile followed, as usual just minutes later, killing him metres from the house he’d just left. The yard behind the house held rows of vegetables, trees, a demolished chicken shed, and more evidence of shelling: beside one of the trees, a shell from tank fire that morning.
We left the home of the killed 20 year old’s back to the main road, passing the next building housing 15 people, all of whom were thankfully spared death from the shell which landed a few metres from the building. The entire wall of windows on the side of the shelling were shattered. “How are we supposed to live?” the father asked, pointing to where one of his children had been standing and was injured by flying broken glass.
The local grain silo is punctured, the shell piercing it and traveling on to an apartment building less than 100 metres away.
The grape vines and fig trees which had flourished lay uprooted and bulldozed on what locals said is the best agricultural land for the plants. And as we collected story after story, more terrorized residents fled, the shelling, the near-deaths, the deaths too much for them. They fled under the renewed buzz of drones for safer ground. I wondered where that would be.