Israeli Air Strikes on Gaza

This is a particularly confronting account of a Palestinian living in Gaza.  You will hear more from me on this topic – and importantly from the Israeli perspective – in the coming week.

Gaza Rubble (Gulf News)

Gaza Rubble (Gulf News)

Blood, death and destruction: Safa Joudeh, a Gaza resident, recounts her experience of living through Israeli air strikes

Safa Joudeh
Published: December 28, 2008, 15:05

It was just before noon when I heard the first explosion. I rushed to my window; barely did I get there when I was pushed back by the force and the pressure of another explosion.

For a few moments I didn’t understand, and then I realized that Israeli promises of a wide-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip had materialized.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzpi Livni’s statements following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had not been empty threats after all.

What followed seems pretty much surreal at this point. Never had we imagined anything like this. It all happened so fast, but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I’m in the middle of it.

Six locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza City. The images are probably not broadcasted on US news channels. There were piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you looked at them you could see that a few of the young men are still alive, someone lifts a hand here, and another raise his head there. They probably died within moments because their bodies are burned, most have lost limbs, some have their guts hanging out and they’re all lying in pools of blood.

Outside my home, which is close to the second largest university in Gaza, a missile fell on a large group of young men, university students. They had been warned not to stand in groups, which make them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses.  Seven were killed, four students and three of our neighbour’s children: young men who were from the same family, Rayes and I were best friends.

As I’m writing this I can hear a funeral procession go by. I looked out of the window a moment ago and it was the three Rayes boys. They spent all their time together when they were alive, they died together and now they are sharing a funeral. Nothing could stop my 14-year-old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends lying in the street. He hasn’t spoken a word since.

What did Ehud Olmert (Israeli prime minister) mean when he stated that we the people of Gaza weren’t the enemy, that it was Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who were being targeted?  Was that statement made to infuriate us out of out state of shock, to pacify any feelings of rage and revenge or to mock us?

Were the scores of children on their way home from school and who are now among the dead Hamas militants? A little further down my street, about half an hour after the first strike three schoolgirls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a missile struck the Preventative Security Headquarters building, tearing into pieces the girls’ bodies.

People are checking the dead bodies, terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The streets are strewn with bodies, arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren’t working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.

And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It’s truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine. The floor is filled with blood; the injured are propped up against the walls or laid down on the floor side-by-side with the dead. Doctors are working frantically and people with injuries that aren’t life threatening are sent home. A relative of mine was injured by a flying piece of glass from her living room window, she had deep cut right down the middle of her face. She was sent home; too many people need medical attention more urgently. Her husband, a dentist, took her to his clinic and sewed up her face using local anesthesia.

More than 200 people died in the air strikes.  That means more than 200 funeral processions, a few on Sunday, most of them on Monday probably. To think that on Saturday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity. At this point, I think they – actually all of us – would gladly have Hamas sign off every last basic right we’ve been calling for the last few months forever if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.

The bombing was very close to my home.  Most of my extended family lives in the area. My family is okay, but two of my uncles’ homes were damaged.

We can rest easy, Gazans can mourn tonight. Israel is said to have promised not to wage any more air raids for now. People suspect that the next step will be targeted killings, which inevitably means scores more innocent bystanders’ fate has already been sealed.

This doesn’t even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head.


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