Today was the first day that medics and journalists were able to reach areas occupied by the invading Israeli troops. Palestinians by this point, by weeks ago, were desperate for any semblance of a normal life, though normality here is far from normality anywhere else. They were desperate to return to their homes, survey the damage and if possible repair it, find displaced family members, or their corpses, as well as neighbours, friends.

Not everyone returned home to stay; many could be seen returning to where their homes were, or had stood, to retrieve anything worthwhile. Donkey carts and taxis were piled with blankets, clothes, cooking pots, cupboards, pieces of furniture, people…

I went straight to Ezbat Abed Rabbo, the area east of Jabaliya which had been cut off since day 1 of the ground invasion, over 2 weeks ago. The Red Crescent had been receiving calls to evacuate the injured and dead since day 1, and were prevented, at gunpoint, by gunfire, from reaching those needing evacuation. We heard the cries of those who managed to escape, their stories of being locked in homes at gunpoint, losing family members to point-blank assassinations or house-bombings.

And although the area was crammed with troubled, panicked, residents, many of them injured, without water, without food, with homes occupied by Israeli soldiers, I worried particularly about one man: the father of my friends.

We had no idea if he was alive, though we knew he’d stayed in the area. My panic was great, daily, I felt like I had said goodbye to a grandfather.

I bee-lined for his house, though had a hard time doing it since the streets and the land were turned upside-down, torn apart, filled with carcasses of houses and animals.

He was there, miraculously, noble in his traditional gown, long beard, hat. But he looked shattered.

“He cried for us,” his son told me. “He didn’t know if we were alive or dead.” So the confusion and desperation was both ways. Utterly cut off from one another, we were but mirror examples of families and loved ones all over the Gaza Strip. And we were luckier, because we are all alive. Except his wife, my friend’s mother, who was killed on the very first day of attacks. But now everything is relative and we cling desperately to the positive, for its all there is to cling to.

I have so much to tell, so many photos that don’t do justice to the suffering, heart-break, trauma, psychological damage, and despondency of people here. So many smells ingrained in my memory, that when sniffed will bring images of dead children, burned houses, chemical fires.

Slamming doors will forever remind of the missiles slamming the earth, the life below.

And just visiting the few areas I saw today, so many people, so desperate to tell their stories, tell of their anguish. For some the anguish is immense: pulverized homes, killed family members, corpses unretrieved, sanctimony and all that is sacred defiled. For others, the suffering is in the tragedy of shattered dreams, of every personal item destroyed or lost. It all matters, and they were all desperate to tell me. And I to listen. But quickly their words became a blur, a swirl of agony. My basic Arabic began to fail me as I wrote their ailments, their losses.

I will go back, to take careful inventory of the destruction, physical and emotional. Many of those who returned to where their homes were have to return to overcrowded schools with memories of slaughters even within school premises.

While the bombs may have stopped, for now, the terror remains. F-16s still flew low, terrifyingly low, today, so loud, so unpredictable. No one here has any reason to believe any words Israeli leaders proclaim. Only reason to believe in the worst. But out of necessity, we must hope for the best.


10 thoughts on “waiting

  1. For me, and doubtless for hundreds of others, your account of the last three weeks has been attitude-changing. Your posts, photos and video clips have made it impossible to just say “How awful” and carry on as before. Your raw reporting, not even pretending to be neutral, has put names and faces where there would have been statistics.
    It’s not over, of course. The long process of recovery has scarcely begin, and an absence of shooting is not the same as peace. But now that we can dare hope that things are cooling down, thank you for your reporting, your courage and your commitment.

  2. My new friend,
    I am so glad you made it safely – at least for now – and I pray that the safety of all Gazans will continue. Interestingly, the AP showed a Yahoo picture of a brilliant rainbow over Gaza today (I noticed, by contrast, that in the foreground all was dark on the Israeli side). I hope that it is a God-sign to all of those who endured so much pain and suffering in the last few weeks. May Allah watch over and protect all of my brothers and sisters in Gaza.
    Peace and blessings,

  3. I am not sure how the world just can be so calm about it. Israel is too protected by USA, it must be a change in that politics. I know 2 pshycians who’ve been working at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, what they had to tell was more than horrible. Please comment on my blog too, but one of them are written in norwegian, so that might be difficult. I do not think this is the end of the war. Israel is taking a break, Hamas or not Hamas, they need an enemy. I am really worried for the gazans, the people living there 😦

  4. Je pense à vous et à toutes les souffrances que votre nation vient d’endurer.La lutte ne cessera pas avant qu’on vous ait rendu justice.

    Amitiés et condoléances à toutes les familles de disparus.


  5. Your blog and several others have been so important as this terror waged on. I’ve sent so many people here and your posts and pictures helped them to understand in a way that my own words and explanations didn’t. I hope you know how many people have prayed and watched and witnessed

  6. Dear Eva,

    In future when you pan with the camera, please do so more slowly, so we can see more clearly. Thanks.

    James Wiegert

  7. I,m so glad the old man is still alive , I remember how you told us that he refused to move , as he,d been moved along so many times..
    Yes your blogs and the others coming out of Gaza are so important .I think the Israelis have tried their damndest to stop info getting out , even the news channels like BBC arn,t covering it properly. Get Al jazeerah in English(banned in the States)their web site has maps and up to the minute reporting because they are the only international news agency in Gaza, but I found you and Sharon were reporting things long before them !
    Now the Gazans deserve justice , all this misery shouldn,t be forgotten
    Keep safe and thankyou again and again !, Pamela

  8. Dear Eva,

    I pray you are well and safe. You have done a great job in getting accross what is happening in Gaza at the moment.

    If possible can I please contact you directly via email? My email address is bilalraja11@hotmail.com. I would like to come to Gaza and help out so any information you can provide me would be great. I also intend to take part in the traning course here in London later this month in preperation for this.



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