-by Eva Bartlett
Life as normal resumes, as normal as it can be in Gaza under increasingly choking Israeli closures for years (back to the nineties even), bombed relentlessly over the yeas—with major Zionist assaults in 2006, early 2008, 2008/2009, 2012—and “minor” attacks sporadically, continuously.
With the cessation of Israeli bombings come small graces, like schools re-opening, shops re-opening, being able to walk and drive on the streets with far less fear of being bombed (though the lethally real possibility still exists), stocking up on market goods, getting a new supply of drinking water brought in.
The last two days of the November 2012 Israeli attacks, we like many were without drinking water. The trucks which deliver the drinking water (because Gaza’s tap water is 95% undrinkable, according to WHO standards, thanks to years of Israeli attacks on the water lines, Israeli-prevention of repairing and expanding water and sewage infrastructures, the up to 80 million litres a day of sewage pumped into the sea [for want of adequate storage space or treatment], polluting Gaza’s groundwater via the over-tapped aquifer…far too many reasons why Palestinians in Gaza have virtually no access to clean drinking water save the reverse-osmosis water trucks which deliver from their tanks to individual homes’ smaller black plastic containers.) were too afraid to deliver during the last attacks.
With good reason: in addition to the numerous cases of civilians walking, in cars, on motorbikes, outside their homes, and elsewhere being targeted by Israeli drone and warplane bombings, on the afternoon of Nov. 18, Suhail Hamad, 42 and his son Ashour, 10, in Beit Lahia, were targeted in their drinking water truck, the bombing blasting the two out of existence.
“During Israel’s 8-day war on Gaza, which ended with a ceasefire Wednesday, the water networks in Khan Younis and Rafah were damaged and maintenance staff were unable to access the area for repairs. Israeli airstrikes also destroyed a water reservoir under construction which was intended to serve 150,000 people. Israel’s blockade of Gaza gas prevented the rehabilitation of Gaza’s sole source of fresh water, the coastal aquifer, which the UN says may become unusable by 2016.” (source)
So we have drinking water now, we can close our windows (you keep them open during Israeli bombings or else they will shatter) and keep somewhat warm in our unheated apartment (most homes in Gaza don’t have heating, the open windows during Israeli bombings and damp air this time of year make it all the colder), can get on with life.
I and my house are among the far luckier ones: no one directly related to us was murdered in these last Zionist attacks.
At least 162 Palestinians were killed by the latest Israeli bombings (tens killed in months before by Israeli bombings and shootings, like Ahmed Abu Daqqa, the 13 year old boy killed on Nov. 8, days before Israel began its latest 8 day massacre), the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians not related to resistance activities (enshrined in international law which says the occupied have the right to resist the occupier). Among the recently martyred, 42 were children, 11 were women, with another 1222 Palestinians injured, many of the inflicted with multiple injuries (brain trauma, bone fractures, amputations, shrapnel injuries…).
The first day after the cease-fire, we go north, to Gaza, to see some of the vast destruction of infrastructure and inevitably of civilian homes, places, businesses. We’ve heard via the news that the main bridge on the coastal road has been bombed. The south is now dependent on the sole remaining north-south road, Salah el Din, to reach Gaza City and beyond.
Traffic is thick, jammed, chaotic, with the cars which normally would’ve taken the western sea-side road now adding to the congestion of the normal traffic. To the west, the old train bridge-come-traffic bridge between el Mugrada and Nusseirat is again broken in half, again bombed as it was 4 years ago, adding more traffic to the mess of cars, trucks, donkey carts and motor cycles clogging Salah el Din.
Shells of homes line Salah el Din. Some kids play on top of a newly-wrecked, multi-story home, optimistically flashing victory signs at the camera. The house’s roof has slid sideways forming the Dali-esque rendition of homes that are F-16ed homes. Cheap plastic chairs, tables, a balcony…all evidence the home that was.
In the Tel el Howa district of Gaza, across from the oft-bombed, rolling cement wreckage of Ministry buildings (flattened, as Gilad Sharon, son of former Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, reportedly called for Gaza to be: “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.”), two schools were heavily damaged, one a newly-built UN school, the other a government-supplied school. Walls in the former are puckered with bomb blast holes, and in the latter are fully blown-out. A four-level building housing six apartments, a storage room and a machine shop was completely gutted, the frame still standing, a floral-patterned sofa and toppled pink lamp poking out of one battered window, testament to the civilians who had lived inside—30 in total, women, children and men. The side opposite the central stairwell was also heavily damaged, three out of the four apartments completely destroyed, as well as the two ground level storage rooms, one of which had a car blasted into it, now a shell.
An elderly man from a building 20 metres away which also sustained heavy damage, narrates the events and the collective indignation, frustration, and confusion of Palestinians in a Strip bombed when the whim—for whatever political gain—occurs to Israeli leaders.
He picks up a couple of the countless papers strewn throughout the wreckage, asking what kind of threat papers were. One of the Ministry buildings was in charge of issuing huwiyyas (ID cards) and passports, birth certificates…
His indignation is rightful, as is that of any traumatized child or civilian here. His is also layered, being old enough to have survived the 1948 Zionist campaign of ethnic cleansing (which continues), and those that followed, as well as the military and settler occupation of the Gaza Strip, and all of the horrors of occupation.
Leaving the site of destruction, a group of Palestinians from the same area flag us down, anxious to share their story, their loss, anxious to let the world know what the Zionist state does to Palestinian civilians. It is also, in a way, therapeutic venting in a society with so many crimes and atrocities inflicted upon themselves, with no one to vent to because everyone shares the same sordid miseries.
I remember walking around Ezbet Abed Rabbo, east of Jabaliya, after the end of the last major Israeli assault on Gaza four years ago, recall one woman in particular picking up her children’s schoolbooks, trashed by Israeli bombing and by the occupying army which took over her house for the duration of the land invasion. It was not merely the vast and efficient destruction of her neighbourhood and the great number of killed there, it was the interruption of their daily lives, her children’s ability to go to school, study, live like normal kids.
Charred palm tree leaves droop above a blasted-out wall opposite the Saraya complex, multiple times bombed. The former British prison complex, later an Israeli prison, was extensively bombed during the 2008-2009 Israeli assault on Gaza. Aside from cleaning up the rubble, the complex was largely unused since four years ago. Yet it was again hit hard, and the surrounding civilian areas were again hit hard, “collateral damage”. The destroyed wall opposite the Saraya encircled a home, one of Gaza’s older, finer homes, its walls also charred, windows blown out, olive tree branches felled. The deep crater opposite the home, in the Saraya complex, is evidence to the force of the blast which blew out the home’s wall. The rest of the Saraya complex is a sea of sand moguls, old debris and rubble re-arranged by the latest bombings.
Beyond the Saraya, across Omar Mukthar street and a window-shattered mosque, the Abu Khadara complex, a series of Ministry buildings I have visited on various occasions (Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, among them) still smokes from the at least 7 F-16 bombs rained down on it on Nov 20, a police officer tells me. “They were all fired at once,” he says.
Somehow, the felled palm tree is depressing, in spite of the countless human tragedies of the whole series of Israeli bombings.
The police officer points beyond the ministry complex, towards Sayara but along Omar Mukthar street where a series of offices and businesses sustained serious damage. “There are specialty medical clinics in that building, a dentist office, businesses…”
These are just some of the observations from the day after the cease-fire.