Gaza civilians waiting 'for the slaughterhouse'
T., a Palestinian woman from Gaza, tells her children to stay in one room before the Israeli strikes - that way, if a missile comes, they will all die together, and none will stay alone.
“On Thursday afternoon a building in the neighborhood was bombed. With a missile. All the air filled up with light, a sort of big ball of fire we only started seeing during this attack,” a woman I will call T. related at noon on Friday. Like all Gazans, they didn’t sleep at night and fell asleep only at around 8 A.M. Later on, A. said the target was presumably a Hamas institution located in the building, in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, but the missile missed and killed Dr. Anas Rizaq Abu al-Kas, 33, in his clinic. He was one of 114 Palestinians killed by the Israel Defense Forces, as of Saturday morning, including 26 children and 18 women. (By Saturday night the death toll had already reached at least 151).
The physician’s “father and mother were also killed, also in error, during Operation Pillar of Defense, in 2012,” A. added.
T., in an uncharacteristically weak voice, continued. “At night we wait for day. In the day we wait for night. Waiting for our turn in the slaughterhouse. We heard just this morning how the entire Ghanam family, from Rafah, died. Another family that was killed,” T. says.
A. tells me that one member of the Ghanam family was an Islamic Jihad member. In its daily report issued late Friday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights wrote that early Friday morning: “Israeli warplanes launched 3 missiles without a prior warning at a house belonging to ‘Abdul Raziq Hassan al-Ghannam, 58. As a result, he, his wife, his son, his daughter and his relative were killed: 1) ‘Abdul Raziq Hassan al-Ghannam, 58; 2) Ghalia Deeb al-Ghannam, 57; 3) Mahmoud ‘Abdul Raziq al-Ghannam, 28; 4) Wissam ‘Abdul Raziq al-Ghannam, 31; and 5) Kifah Shaker al-Ghannam, 33, who is deaf. The owner’s son, Hussam, 20, survived the attack although he was wounded. Seven neighbors were also wounded.”
Less than an hour earlier, at approximately 4:35 A.M. Friday, an Israeli warplane fired a missile at tunnels in the Sha’ath neighborhood of Rafah. Nour Marwan al-Nijdi, 10, was killed by shrapnel; her brother Abdul Rahman, 15, and her mother, Salwa Ahmed al-Nijdi, 49, were wounded. They were in their home at the time.
“You can never know which window the missile will come through. I told the children and S. [her husband]: ‘We should always remain together, in one room. If a missile comes, we’ll all be killed, so none of us is left alive, alone,’” related T. “Our youngest daughters are afraid to shower, fearing that a missile will come and kill everyone else just then. I told them: ‘We shower so as to be clean when we die.’ The children are stronger than I. They tell me, stop being afraid. Either we’ll die or we’ll live.’”
T. ponders, “Where are the Arabs, where are the Europeans, where is the West Bank? The intellectuals write poetry. They’re afraid of Mahmoud Abbas, not of the Jews, only of Abbas. It’s our fate, operated by a remote control of the Israeli army.”
F., a woman from Rafah, also sees the ball of fire after every air strike. “The whole house shakes,” even when the explosion is far away, she says. Everyone experiences it: An explosion in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, that cannot even be heard in Gaza City, rocks homes in the Shabura refugee camp. Everyone relates that there are bombers whose approach cannot be heard. Only the explosion itself can be heard, and then the plane as it returns to Israel. In previous rounds, they say, the planes were audible in both directions. The pilotless drones, meanwhile, never stop buzzing.
“Since yesterday we haven’t slept, 24 hours have gone by and we don’t sleep,” F. says. “We don’t see our daughters and our siblings who live in other parts of the city. No one leaves their home. And now there’s no electricity, either (because Rafah is dependent on Egypt for its power), and the house is so hot,” F. says.
L., also from Rafah, discusses a family on her street that was informed by phone that its home was about to be destroyed. “The neighbors immediately told everyone to leave, because when they bomb one house the houses nearby are damaged, too, and you can be killed by shrapnel or injured by flying glass,” says L. “We woke my father-in-law, who is 88. He was so scared he was shaking. The poor guy was afraid he wouldn’t be able to cross the street. After about an hour the explosion came. We opened the windows ahead of time, and they didn’t shatter. But at my brother’s place, in the Tel al-Sultan refugee camp, all the windows shattered from an explosion that was nearby, and he came with his family to live with us. My 8-year-old daughter asked, ‘Why are they bombing during Ramadan?’”