stars and bombs: random israeli bombing a few hundred metres from home

Aug 5 2011

I’m watching the sky, sleeping on the roof to escape the heat. I flatter the clouds’ beauty and am watching sporadic shooting stars when the first F-16 appeared from the direction of the sea. No sound, just a blinking red light quite high up.  Three more follow. Their roar slowly becomes audible and they drop a couple of flares.

I trace their path, above, chilling.  The roar is normal, F-16s are normal, and reading in the news the next day that some part of Gaza was bombed is normal. They continue eastward and a bombing seems imminent.  It is. A thick cloud of black smoke blots the dim lights of houses in eastern Deir al Balah where the F-16s have struck.

Their roar doesn’t disappear yet.

They’re bombing Khan Younis. Not a hard guess, what else are they doing up there are nearly 2 am.

I keep sleepily tracing the sky, watching this time for their re-appearance not for shooting stars.

Two massive blasts, the house shakes. They’ve bombed somewhere near the sea, which is only a few hundred metres away.  I remember the shakes of the Ezbet Abed Rabbo house Leila and I were in when F-16s were flattening the area during the israeli war on Gaza in 2008-2009.  One directly behind that house, the walls ready to cave in; one across the lane some 30 metres away, leaving a massive crater.

The night sky is orange again, gone are the stars and romance.

A bit of confusion… to stay rooftop or run down to the ground. I remember when the Sharouk building with various media outlets was repeatedly hit by smaller missiles, not the one-ton F-16 crater-makers.  The building danced and it felt like the stairs had turned into one long slide, to take us from the 9th or 10th floor down light speed.

I go down to check on the others, thankfully asleep, hard of hearingness a relief this time. I go back up and the orange has gone, its grey and starless now.

“It’s raining”.  I’m confused, think he means the bombing triggered some weather reaction.  Concrete dust flutters down upon us, the dry kind of rain. The ambulance sirens wail, the Red Crescent or Ministry of Health ambulances will be racing for the site.  If they are late, the dead and injured will be piled into any car near the explosion that still moves.  There is a sustained honking in Gaza that everyone recognizes as make way, we’ve got another victim here.

Now 3 of his brothers are rooftop with us and going over the blasts.  For a strip that has seen so many Israeli terror bombings over the years, this latest –comparatively far away at a few hundred metres –has hit a nerve even with these men putting on bravado. They are brave, of course, and endure psychological war in addition to actual blasts.  Every time one of those fucking F-16s flies over us, it’s a reminder of the last war, or of previous attacks, or of random bombings, or of friends and family martyred in their sleep, cars, homes…

Every time those F-16s intentionally break the sound barrier to create a bomb-like sonic boom, everyone within range instinctively remembers their own personal horror at whichever Israeli war or attacks.

His brothers are talking about their children, how one child clinched up into a ball in his sleep, how hard is for all the children.  But their rapid banter betrays them: its hard for them as well.

In true Palestinian style they mask any fear they might be feeling—as any human should be feeling in these circumstances –with jokes and teasing.

Were you scared? they tease me.  Yes and no. Once again numb from the fear, as I was during the 23 days of Israeli bombing Gaza in winter 2008-2009, but that horror of what comes next always exists.  How many martyrs will there be?  Is this the start of the next Israeli slaughter of locked-in Palestinians or will that come tomorrow? What the hell will I do when I am not here… not like I can stop any of this, not like I can protect them. How can I possibly ever leave here, when that next massacre is always looming from those Israeli war machines above and around us?

The Zionist news tomorrow will blather on about a strategic strike against terror.  But rearrange their scripted words and you get the truth: it is a strategic terror against Palestinians, as always, and involved living, breathing, dreaming, working human beings below those terrorizing F-16s, breathing the dust of another bombed building.

2:30 am

Blast. Another one.  It’s louder inside, because of the echo.  Thankfully the windows are open; blasts like that shatter windows; I’d have a glass shard rain upon me this time.

His younger brother is coming back from work at his grocery shop, laden with yogurt and hummus for “suhoor”, the morning meal before fasting begins anew. His ears are ringing from the nearness of the bomb but he hides whatever anxiety he surely has with grins and chatter.

They re-play the same jokes made on the roof earlier. It’s for Ramadan, they’re giving us fire-works, they’re making a party.  They’re helping us wake up (we slept through suhoor yesterday, not even hearing the mild beating of the street drummers who circle waking people up for a meal and prayer).

His father is unplussed. He doesn’t feign bravado or joke, just sits a little sleepily and looks at his paper with the prayer times written down. He goes to the nearest mosque five times a day, including the early morning prayer. He’s lived a long, hard life, expelled from his farm land and village which is now buried under some Israeli name, reared a family in one of Palestine’s many, many, impossibly overcrowded refugee camps where families slept in tents for years until they improved to stifling concrete block homes with entire families in one single, dank room. He’s worked to educate his many sons and daughters. He’s lived through all the Zionist hell Israel dishes out, from his expulsion to the occupation and horrors that go with that to the sporadic bombings to the full-out invasions. He’s lost a son to cancer that couldn’t be treated properly because he couldn’t access the needed medical care outside of Gaza.

So when all of us are gibbering or teasing or mulling the last bomb blast, he is off somewhere in his head but his expression doesn’t betray it.  And I think he’s only really concerned about being on time for the next prayer. A life of repeated drama is enough to render bomb blasts somewhat insignificant.

It’s the same target as half hour ago, but this time surely there are casualties, people who waited some minutes before going to see the damage.  Israel, of course, knows this.  During the last war on Gaza, first israeli bombings would be followed just one or two minutes later, sometimes 5 minutes, by another bomb in the same place. Family and friends who’d come to help rescue bomb victims would themselves be torn apart by the second and third blasts. A technique guaranteed to get the bystander civilians who come to rescue, if not the medics.

30 thoughts on “stars and bombs: random israeli bombing a few hundred metres from home

  1. So frank and so tragic. I wish we could get this devastating testimony on the BBC.

    The double strike techniques described in the last paragraph have been well attested to elsewhere during Operation Cast Lead. (It is an old technique inevitably used by the British long before the Zionists.) This is clear evidence of deliberate targeting of civilians during that assault. Yet this is the accusation that Richard Goldstone retracted in his infamous u-turn, and the same point that Jessica Montell disputed and criticised at the time of the publication of the Goldstone Report.

    B’Tselem has done excellent work year in year out, but on this occasion their Executive-Director was being very, very naive, as well as wrong.

  2. Your article needs to be on the front page of every newspaper across the USA, so people here know what their tax dollars are funding.
    Please take care.

  3. Thank you for documenting this. The questions you raise are extremely important as well. Keep writing. Please keep writing.

  4. Reading this, I feel so very angry and helpless to do anything that will help change the situation. The last article on my blog was written in cold fury, and all it received was negative comments of people who say that the situation in Gaza is none of their concern and that I am anti-semitic. Because I protest at deliberate negligence of administrative details that cost the lives of sick people ? These terribly long very hot days of Ramadan epitomize everything the Palestinians, and especially those under the siege and continual attacks such as the ones you describe, endure in the face of the world’s cruel indifference. Just carrying on from day to day is a miracle. My thoughts and heart are with you all.

  5. […] There has been some speculation that Netnyahu and his cronies in government (Lieberman and Barak) may seek to distract attention from J14′s demands by launching a new military adventure. Already over recent days, Israeli warplanes have resumed their earlier patterns of terrorizing and bombing Gaza. (Read Eva Bartlett’s searing on-the-ground account of this, here.) […]

  6. […] Five minutes later another passes over, again north to south. Really normal now. Now for the expected sonic boom or real bomb blast…A minute later and the dissipated roar returns, circling perhaps. Five minutes later, another passing of the warplane’s roar, south to north. Apprehension, apprehension. In Gaza, when one hears a plane’s engines, it is never that of a passenger plane. What’s going to happen, and when? This time? Here again? I recall a year ago during Ramadan when, in the early hours of the morning, we watched rooftop as numerous IOF warplanes flew over us and on to bomb eastern Gaza, returning soon after to bomb the co…. […]

  7. […] I know very well of the terror of being near a site Israel has just bombed. And although I have many anecdotes from my three years of living in Gaza, one rather poignant incident involved me sleeplessly musing on the rooftop of the simple central Gazan home I lived in on a hot August 2011 night. I wrote: […]

  8. […] I know very well of the terror of being near a site Israel has just bombed. And although I have many anecdotes from my three years of living in Gaza, one rather poignant incident involved me sleeplessly musing on the rooftop of the simple central Gazan home I lived in on a hot August 2011 night. I wrote: […]

  9. […] Je connais très bien la terreur d’être à proximité d’un site qu’Israël vient de bombarder. Et bien que j’aie de nombreuses anecdotes sur mes trois années de vie à Gaza, un incident plutôt poignant m’a impliqué dans une rêverie sans sommeil sur le toit de la maison modeste du centre de Gaza dans laquelle j’ai vécu par une chaude nuit d’août 2011. J’ai écrit : […]

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