Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Letter From a War Zone.

I'm re-posting an email sent from a person living in Gaza explaining the horrors of the Israeli Assault. Thank you Olivia for providing this!

Friday 16 January 2009

Today is number 21 of the Israeli offensive on Gaza. In Tel el-Hawa neighborhood I live. Last night witnessed the third ground offensive on the area. Air surveillance by reconnaissance has never halted for 24 hours. Because of the buzzing sound and ezzzing of those airplanes people call it Zanaana! The attack helicopters and F16s are in action at any moment. They raid and raid at different times, day and night! Each moment there is a blast somewhere, sometimes near where I am and some other times, it is a little bit far or in the distance! Anyways, managing to survive under unusual circumstances, not knowing exactly what is going on around me except from static transmission of a transistor radio. News from local radio stations lacks accuracy. It could be because their correspondents cannot move around and do not have other facilities! We heard shelling and bombing approaching to our building, and exchange of machine guns fire; more explosions! No electricity or water in the neighborhood. We took to the floor in one inside room that seemed protected to us.

The battle went on from 10:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Then, tanks pulled back and there was dreadful quietness in the whole place! It was almost half an hour when huge blasts began again; shooting by various machine guns and blast heard from almost everywhere in the neighborhood! At 7:00 a.m. we heard rumble of tanks and bulldozers moving into the residential area in Tel el-Hawa! I began to prepare my wife and children for horrible scenarios to come. They included attacking the building or the apartment, explosions and searching of the whole place with rudeness of soldiers, and worse than that. It was a night of anxiety, fear and anticipation by all means. For the whole day we were stuck in one room hearing explosions and bombings! One of my daughters was so frightened because she felt that each explosion is inside our building! On my part, with each blast, I opposed my daughters as saying, this far away from us, can you hear that! I tried to keep control over their worries and fear. With the sunset, fear and silence became the title of the night. Sky is lighted with explosions and white phosphorus bombs! With all courage and life experience, I could not convince my daughters and youngest son that this is how war goes on and we will come out of it safe and sound. Every moment was an hour in our night! My children were scared; they screamed, wept and shrunk together like a ball of flesh. It stopped for minutes, then, an explosion shook the whole building like an earthquake. It was the most horrible moments of the whole night! Later we knew that a sound bomb was thrown in a room in the fifth floor; it was the same room over the room in which we were sitting.

At 10:15 p.m. we heard knocks at our door! My children screamed for fear that it is Israeli soldiers at the door! I opened the door! It was the upstairs neighbor. He told me that in the next block, across the street from Barcelona garden (Public garden and playground constructed by the Spanish Barcelona's municipality) the Israeli soldiers explode the outside doors of the buildings and order whoever is still in his place to open the door of their apartment and light a candle, then to stay and wait inside the apartment! If there is no lighted candle at the open door, the soldiers blow up the door with explosives, then they attack the apartment, shooting and destroying everything inside! The apartment turns to a useless place for living! We prepared a candle for that moment! We also knew that the soldiers order the male tenants who hold IDs (16 years of age and above) to strip off their clothes except their under wear! They fold their eyes and manacle their hands with a plastic wire behind their backs before they pull them off to a yard outside the building. Those horrible news were from SMS and phone calls from wives and daughters in homes searched and searched by the Israeli soldiers! I started another psychological treatment of the situation. I talked to my children again saying that it will be a moment of relief when the soldiers come in and know me as a university professor so that they will not misbehave! My children were so anxious and nervous and I was did not believe my words however they remained silent without a comment or objection to what I say! Then, as we know the buildings that were searched by the soldiers, I thought that it would be four or five hours before they reach us! But who really believed me! Moment of fear as always long! Of course, no one believed ... Everyone was panic-stricken! Once more, I tried to convince my children to sleep until the army arrives, but who could! While I was thinking, I found nothing to do. ... Only one scenario remained in my mind; it was a miracle from God and pulls off the whole area by some kind of a military command for a reason or another! I was so unusually fatigued and sleepless, but the safety of my wife and children was my only concern.

There was no way to recharge the batteries of our mobile phones. Thus, all our five mobiles went off plus that mobile lines were so bad. We could hardly send off SMS! I do not know how I slept! It was 7:00 a.m.. when I opened my eyes again! It was day light again! I heard sound of generators coming from nearby buildings! I thought to myself: Was it a dream? But I heard people talking Arabic! I dared to open the balcony's door and look! There was a dead body under the balcony! I sent my son to the upstairs neighbor to ask them about the situation! They said that tanks and bulldozers pulled back at 5:00 a.m. and that they came and knocked at our door but we did not reply! I went out to see what was there! It was a more horrible scene in the street. Asphalts have been destroyed by the Israeli army bulldozers; some tenants could not come down from their apartment buildings because the army bulldozers have destroyed the outside steps of the buildings, and tenant have to climb up to go inside or jump down a 2.5 meters to come out to the street! They also destroyed side walks, electric posts, and any other thing they reached.

They destroyed two ambulances and dragged it and used it as a barricade together a large rubbish dumpster! They also destroyed a third ambulance and blocked a side road with it! They burnt a nearby medical drug store of the ministry of health. At night, our noses were stuffed by abnormally suffocating smell of the burning drugs and medicines. However, our fear was more from the white phosphorous bombs that aircrafts used against targets in the same street. Also, the army evacuated one of the three buildings of Al-Quds hospitals next block to the east from me; they ordered the patients to instantaneously leave and walk off on foot for almost one kilometer when they burnt the whole five floor building! One of the patients was a woman who gave birth to three babies the same night! They also burnt the hospital's Emergency Room! They shoot two tank shells at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (P.R.C.S.) which is located just across the street from my apartment building! P.R.C.S. building inflected damages from inside! The Ambulance Center of P.R.C.S. which is in the same building inflected damages as well. Now, I will tell you about where I live! By then, it became clearer to me why my daughters were so scared to death! In last nights bombing, tanks shot nine shells at our building destroying and burning all the seven apartments that overlook the main street and P.R.C.S.! Luckily, my apartment was in the back! I felt how lucky I was! Thank you Almighty God, all of us, my family and I are still alive!

Six of the apartments have been totally destroyed on its furniture and turned to war zone! Everything inside the apartments became useless! One of the seven apartments was totally burnt; blaze was due phototonus bomb or more. The apartment was owned by Dr. Sami el-Deeb; he holds PhD from a German University and an assistant professor of pharmaceuticals at Al-Azhar University of Gaza. The other apartments belong to other teaching staff from Al-Azhar University of Gaza which is known as loyal to Fatah. It was obvious for everyone that no one from Hamas or its supporters lives in the bombed building! It was also obvious that Israel targeted the Palestinian people and life. Among other civil society's institution targeted was the Palestinian Universities Teachers Society. They also targeted and destroyed headquarters of the Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). Neither of the two institutions belongs to Hamas at all! At 9:30 a.m. two P.R.C.S. ambulances arrived at the scene; paramedics evacuated 23 dead bodies from the neighborhood.

After all that threat, suffering, pressure, intimidation and horrific scenes, I decided to leave my apartment to save the lives of my wife and children. I am in a safer place now, but I do not have access to the internet except occasionally!

Sunday 18 January 2009 (Day 22 invasion time!)

Today is 22 invasion time! I can see destruction and brutality everywhere! The Israeli air force executed 70 raids on Gaza Strip. They bombed everywhere including an UNRWA school populated by displaced Palestinians under protection of UNRWA. Early reports mention death and other casualties in the school. It's the third UNRWA school that F16 Israeli American-made tanks targeted! The precincts of UNRWA were never safe!

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) is a non-profit organization concerned with agricultural matters, farmers and faming. No one in PARC is a Hamas member or sympathizer! It's a highly professional NGO with strong relations with Europe NGOs working in the filed of agriculture! PARC's headquarters and main offices in Gaza have been targeted and totally demolished!

Palestinian Universities Teachers' Society in Tel el-Hawa is a social institution. The whole two storey building was destroyed by Israeli warships! The society hosts university professors from Al-Azhar and Al-Aqsa universities which are known as loyal to Fatah. The society was like a social club where university staffs meet to talk, watch TV.

Israel declared one sided ceasefire, but fire from Israeli army did not stop; reconnaissance planes and helicopter are in the sky; between now and then F16s fly overheads. Last nigh, the Israeli army exploded the house of Hussein Al-Aiedy, and the other homes of his two brothers, to the east of Gaza city though house was evacuated in day 15 of the attack! They were evacuated with sincere humanitarian efforts of NGOs. They left everything behind in their homes. Now, its all rubbish!

More than 40 UNRWA schools have been occupied by thousands of displaces people. The whole scene is really miserable and life turned to be inhumane for those unlucky people! Hundreds of homes demolished or burnt or became within the Israeli tanks control and activities, thus they were ordered by the Israelis to leave their places!

This morning, search under rubble of demolished homes found more than 50 dead bodies. Search is still underway. They still cannot reach where the Israeli tanks stop. I believe that there are hundreds of other bodies to be taken out and buried. Upon their arrival back home, the Norwegian medical team (Two surgeons) mentioned that what they witnessed in Gaza is more savage than what they saw in the civil war in Rwanda - Africa!

Its tremendously horrendous time before ceasefire and the irony is that shooting is still going on; air raid on somewhere in Khan Younis town minutes ago killed three people!

To the east of Gaza city only, more than 10 square kilometers of agricultural fields, productive trees; olives, fruits and others have been destroyed by Israeli army bulldozers, tanks, artillery, vehicles, and military roads were constructed on those fields. Moreover 50% of the cultivable land is now under the control of the Israeli military! All farmers were humiliated and kicked off their simple homes. Now, they are homeless living in UNRWA schools and elsewhere. Many families sought refuge in the Lawyer's Syndicate but they are unsafe at all as they could be targeted at any moment!

Gaza medical authorities announced a death toll of 1255, including 418 child and 118 woman, 118 elderly, plus 5500 injured. Let alone the traumatized, and panicked by the Israeli invasion. Let alone those who have not been saved or rescued and died under rubble or in the green fields! Medical doctors mentioned that hundreds of the injured will never recover and return to normal life! Hundreds will live as physically handicapped.

I have just received a phone call from a friend. He is Safwat Mushtaha. He is a businessman. He told me that his tile and road brick's factory has been totally destroyed. He bought the machines for the factory from Turkey and Germany two years ago. It is worth (a lot of money). He sadly said to me: Dr., I tell you! It's all gone! I am shocked! Other businesses were destroyed including a cooking gas station, iron casting factory, and others! Every Palestinian in Gaza Strip is a target! This is the reality! Every business in Gaza was a target! Every minute brings about more nightmares, bad news, destruction, and death. It was annihilation! It was a Holocaust!

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