Gaza Voices: Where next?

Palestinians fear the worst from the current internal clashes.

Taghreed El-Khodary is a journalist
Taghreed El-Khodary is a journalist

Taghreed El-Khodary 36, journalist


As a journalist, I covered the second intifada; I covered the Israeli withdrawal; and then suddenly I found myself covering intensive fighting between Palestinians. It is very shocking to have seen them fighting the Israeli occupation together and suddenly to see them fighting each other.


The saddest part is when they are fighting and the people, the civilians, are caught in between.


And then you hear the stories from civilians, who lost their loved ones, or whose loved ones got injured; and it’s the same as what Israelis did to them, but this time it’s Palestinians bullets; and then you cover the frustration, the depression that people are feeling. 


For example, a woman called Hoda, 60-years old, who was very afraid to mention her last name, afraid she will be killed by either Fatah or Hamas, said to me: “When Israel attacks, we can deal with it. Israel is our enemy. Therefore, we have the will and it’s a challenge. But when Palestinians are clashing, its very frustrating and depressing, psychologically speaking.”


Someone else, a Fatah member whose brother was injured in the clashes, said: “What’s happening between Palestinians is due to the embargo imposed by the international community. Once you starve people they become vulnerable and easily manipulated by both parties to serve their personal interests.”


For the first time in my life I’ve been stopped by masked men, asking me where I’m heading in Gaza City; I’ve been seeing for the first time Palestinian security forces stopping people because they have a beard, asking them for IDs.


For the first time I see people afraid to move around. That used to happen during the first intifada. But it was Israelis stopping Palestinians. Suddenly I’m seeing checkpoints in Gaza imposed by Palestinians. So there is now a self-imposed curfew. It’s very sad to see how Gaza is turning into nightmare. 


On the other hand, I’m afraid while in the car with the driver that Israel might miss its target and the rocket will shred my car to pieces. 


There is this fear while you are working, while you are in your car, while you are moving. There is this fear of death that keeps haunting you, but you have to learn how to keep it aside and keep moving and focusing on conveying the story of Gaza.


I’m an optimist when it comes to people. I believe change will come from the people themselves. At this time, once can feel that the silent majority is sick, is frustrated at both Hamas and Fatah and I do believe that they are both realising that if they continue the internal fighting they will lose the popular support. Definitely it’s time for an alternative. 


But sadly there is no alternative.


The international community, Fatah, Hamas, and Israel must understand that all parties must be employed to achieve a political settlement.


Hadeel Abo Dayya, 17 , high school student


We’ve witnessed a lot, but we’ve never experienced something like this.  They’ve lost their sense of humanity.


My four siblings, my parents, and myself stayed holed up in the basement of our high-rise tower with 35 other residents – some on wheelchairs, some of them elderly, for over six hours without food or water as gunmen took over the building and others on the outside began to attack and exchange fire with them. 


Members of the Hamas Executive Force were in our building, and so Fatah security forces on the outside, in another building, were firing at them, with machine guns and RPGs, and mortars.  


A few of the RPGs landed in some of the apartments; they hit the curtains, which lit on fire, and eventually entire apartments burned to the floor.


Fatah doesn’t care about Hamas and Hamas doesn’t care about Fatah, they both only care about who wins. Who is in control became more important than the lives of human beings. Both sides lost their sense of humanity and understanding. 


Hadeel Abo Dayya was trapped
in a basement for hours

We went down after four mortars and RPGs landed in the rooms. We didn’t all want to die – we were trying to think strategically at that point.   


There were bullets literally flying over our heads. Then more RPGs hit the curtains and they began to burn. We risked our lives and fled under fire. We’re now staying in a hotel until we can find a new apartment.


Where is the president? Where is the prime minister? Where are they?  They are all looking out for their own interests.


We know that the president’s office can stop this, but he prefers not to. We were asking for just 30 minutes ceasefire to allow us and the other trapped bystanders to evacuate, but they wouldn’t even give us that. 


Now, after this happened, after I thought I was going to die, after I saw that even ambulances weren’t allowed to reach us, I thought: what is this nation, these people, that I am working so hard to build?


I am crushed. But then I thought; how will the outside world help me? I have to stay strong and persevere. What I learned is that the world is like a pencil. Your memory, your life, everything you know or think you know, can be erased in an instant. My passport, our ID cars, everything is gone now in that fire.


Khalil Yaziji, 26, shopkeeper/banker


I closed when I found two bodies that had been executed by Fatah forces disposed of on the sidewalk outside my supermarket. There was blood everywhere. 


Honestly, the situation is miserable and depressing.


We feel we are working for nothing. A life where you are working just to be able to feed yourself is no life at all. 


I honestly feel that it’s possible that at any moment, someone can come in and shoot me. 


That’s how dire the situation is.


I mean I’m newly married and I haven’t even been able to take my wife out yet anywhere. The situation is too dangerous, too unpredictable.


We opened the shop today but the situation is still tense and there is still an overall fear that things can go horribly wrong at any moment.


But people need to buy goods and my produce will go bad if I just remain closed forever. 


Still, customers will come in and quickly get what they want, and leave.  Many people have stocked up on goods in days past. On Wednesday we couldn’t even leave the house. There was a real fear that anyone could abduct you or execute you on the spot for your appearances, for example if you had a beard.


There is simply no security at all. They could come in at any moment.  They could even steal my money.


Our only way out is for Israel to keep bombing us until we die. At least that way it’s more honourable.


Khalil Yaziji found two bodies outside his shop

I mean we are talking about wanton crimes… executions that were taking place. The man whose body we found outside was forced to bow down to the Fatah gunmen or be killed. 


The situation provided common criminals with a chance to do what they want. They took advantage of the situation to take out their personal grievances and vendettas. It wasn’t even a matter of Hamas vs Fatah any more. 


The big leaders on either side are responsible. All of these gunmen answer to someone, don’t they?


But they didn’t want to come out and see how we’re dying on the streets. 


What brought this all to fruition was the global and Israeli sieges on Gaza, and the resulting unemployment and lack of wages.


That, in addition to the US’s military and financial support of Fatah militias – this has an enormous role.


We want them to lift the siege.  We want them to begin speaking with our government, Hamas included.


And locally speaking, we need a single leader in charge of security.


Mohammad Salim, 45, unemployed/part-time custodial worker


The infighting affects us all. It affects our families and our children psychologically. The economic situation is non-existent. 


When I sent my kids off to school this morning, I didn’t even have enough to give them for their daily allowance. 


The youngest, Mahmud, is nine-years old. Over the past few days, he seemed depressed. So I asked him: “What’s wrong.” He said “I’m just bored. I can’t find anyone to play with.”


And I began to cry because of how helpless I felt. Because I realised it’s not just us grown-ups, it’s the children, they are really depressed. So I gave him a shekel. I thought maybe I can trick him for a little while. He is just so sad. 


These killings, they are not in our benefit. We don’t know where we are headed any more. I want to ask Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniya:  Where are we headed?


Mohammad Salim will be out of
work again in two weeks’ time

This is all in Israel’s benefit.


We simply ask God Almighty to relieve us from this madness and these dark days. 


Honestly, I am not optimistic. Not one bit. 


The first reason behind this all is the siege and the lack of work and lack of money. If there is money and work, people won’t have time for this nonsense, and likewise parents can prevent their kids from going out and fighting. Sometimes I feel the young boys, they are bored and looking for something to do, so they go out and fight.


Why won’t Israel just let us work, just let us live?


There won’t be any problems in Gaza then. Not a single person would allow his children to work in the Palestinian Authority security forces or tanzim then. For a measly 1,200 shekels they destroy everything.


If they lift the siege, people can begin to feel more of a sense of safety and security. 


On top of that, 450 of the presidential guards were trained in Egypt with US and Israeli funding – this is good for no one. 


In days past, they forced women with niqab [face covering] and men with beards to the ground. They executed three men. This has never happened before. 


Four or five men in my neighbourhood who have beards shaved them off for fear of being targeted. I stopped going to the mosque in recent days. Who will take care of my kids if some crazy gunman shoots me?


We are human beings and we just want to live like the rest of the world. 


My son, he sometimes watches television stations like Abu Dhabi or Dubai; he sees playgrounds and parks with green grass. And I feel so sad and helpless for him.


This occupation has turned us into beggars. Every last one of us – from Abu Mazen down to street cleaners like me, on top of all this infighting. 


I’m embarrassed to be sweeping the streets, I really am. But what can I do? I have 13 mouths to feed. And debts are piling up. And even then, it’s a temporary work relief programme. In two weeks, I’ll be out of a job again.

Source : Al Jazeera

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