Gazans: ‘We are living a nightmare’

Palestinians from the Gaza Strip explain how the Israeli offensive is affecting them.

gaza voices/israeli voices
Palestinian women and children flee an area hit by an Israeli air strike [GALLO/GETTY]

As the death toll from Israel’s aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip continues to climb, Al Jazeera asked Gazans to describe the situation where they are and to explain how the offensive is affecting them.

Majed Badra, 23, Gaza City, cartoonist and student at the Islamic University

“Unfortunately the situation is very bad in Gaza city – the Israeli occupation is striking more and more organisations, more houses and the mosque, and my university was hit last night.

They focus on the civilians. It is easy for them.

Nothing is working in Gaza and we don’t do anything. We stay inside the house, my family and I. Every family in Gaza is doing the same.

We are used to hearing these airstrikes, everybody here is used to it and we don’t have any way to protect ourselves. We just stay inside the home, hearing the news, hearing where the Israeli [army] strikes, hearing the F16s and Apaches and waiting to see what will happen. 

We were not prepared for the war. They attack civilians and children and don’t care if we are armed or not.

“The world looks at unarmed Palestinian people as though they are a nation with an army, as though we are equal to the Israelis … but this is not true”

Majed, Gaza City

Yesterday, my sister’s house was damaged in a strike on a target nearby. Every room was damaged except for the kitchen, where she and the children were. Allah kept them alive. 

The world looks at unarmed Palestinian people as though they are a nation with an army, as though we are equal to the Israelis. They think we have real rockets that cause a lot of damage or have a big effect, but this is not true.

The reality is that we don’t have anything and they have struck everything in Gaza.

I have exams coming soon in my university and I want to study but I can’t in this situation. So they affect my future, the future of all students here.

Why does the Israeli army strike my university and mosques and houses? I don’t know the answer. You have to ask them.

The coming days will be very bad. There will be more and more deaths.”

Nida’ Aniss Abu al-Atta, 26, Gaza City, projects officer

“At first, the Israeli opening raid was unexpected for normal people. We were totally shocked and for the first minutes we didn’t realise it was new Israeli military aggression against Gaza. 

Children thought there would be new clashes between Hamas and Fatah supporters. They were afraid and started crying and running to their mothers.

I and my family were so angry, believing that no one made enough effort to avoid this. Israel planned for this and we show readiness to resist despite being powerless compared to the Israeli arsenal.

I feel angry with the Palestinian internal scene. They were unable to show themselves unified even before this tragedy.

I hate the way Hamas leaders try to reflect our people’s will by claiming that we can face this horrible military machine. Palestinian people are bleeding and shouting “enough”. Even our president [Mahmoud Abbas] was powerless to the extent that it makes me sick and makes me lose faith in anybody.

I expected nothing from the international community, the Arab world and Muslims. It is not adequate anyhow; they just shout and burn flags.

At the same time, I would say that I really value the world reaction in Europe and in France in particular. I call on the Arab community to be more effective and to practice its responsibility and power against governments, like the Lebanese did before in Beirut.

We all, the Palestinian people and leaders, are responsible for this crime. We execute the Israeli plans without thinking who would be the only ones benefitting from our division.

My French teacher keeps saying: “Nida’ you should not feel this normal, you have to keep saying it is horrible and feel angry. Don’t get used to this.”

Well, I feel normal. It is strange when there are no martyrs, no helicopters in the air or reconnaissance aircrafts in the Gaza sky.”

Hamoudi, Tal el Hawa

“More than three buildings have been brought to the ground in my area.

Two of my neighbours were killed on their way back from school – sixteen-year-old Yasmeen and her sister, 15-year-old Haneen. They were innocent girls.

In my household, where I live with my brothers, sisters and my sister’s eight-month-old baby, we have been sleeping far from the windows and living in darkness due to the lack of power.

But despite all of that we are still alive. Life is precious and worth fighting for.

All I seek in these moments is for the truth to get out there. Let it be known that in the 21st century this is happening while the whole world is watching but remains silent.

I wonder how cheap Palestinian blood is.”

Amin Asfour, Gaza City, doctor in a public hospital

“The situation here is very difficult. They are shooting at us from everywhere, at all targets – military or not.

Many have been killed and more injured, especially in the first two days.

They are using all sorts of bombs. They weigh up to 500kg and can take out a 15-storey building in a second, like an earthquake.

Everyone is living in fear. You never know who they are going to hit.

Obviously, there is anger. It’s our people dying – our kin, our relatives, not strangers. But people stick together. They live because they have to live.

We’re just waiting for the next bomb to fall and wondering whether it will hit us or the neighbours. We are not afraid of the bombs falling, just anxious about who they will fall on. It’s war.

In the hospital, we are short on medicine, but we work with what we have. We do miss many supplies and the equipment we work with is really old but our doctors are hardened – no situation will surprise them.”

Ghada Snunu, 30, Gaza City, human rights worker

“What is happening here is unbelievable, it’s shocking – a catastrophe. We’ve been living a nightmare for the past two days because of what’s happening around us.

I fear for myself, my family and the people I care about. In all my life, I’ve never had such a bad feeling.

The children, my nephew and niece, are so scared. They hide under the beds, terrified, and I can do nothing to help them, except to sing soothing words to them. But nothing can help them in this situation.

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed building of the Islamic University in Gaza City [AFP]

We need serious action to be taken right now to end this violence against our people. I am so angry with the world – we hear nothing but words and there is no action, no real change. Enough, we are sick of hearing just words even from the Arab countries. We are human beings living here in Gaza just like animals – although maybe animals live in better conditions. We don’t have medicine, food, cooking gas, fuel, power – we haven’t seen electricity for a week now. 

Every single person in Gaza is in a very bad psychological state – what is happening here is urging you to be unhappy, it is pushing you into despair. I feel depressed and sick and bored of everything around me – also because of the internal fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

I feel so bad for our people being separated from each other – we should unite in this bad situation. But while we are under siege and ongoing attacks, Hamas and Fatah are still fighting. This is the time for them to re-unite and work together and put an end to this deteriorating situation.

In the beginning I thought that Israel is targeting Hamas, but then I saw houses and other buildings and roads being destroyed, and innocent people being killed and injured. Now I think that Israel is targeting Gaza and not Hamas.

We never expected an attack of this scale and this number of people killed. It is a massacre. I didn’t believe my own eyes at first, because it is so disgusting to see such a thing.”

Hatem Shurrab, aid worker in Gaza

“The situation is getting worse day by day.

They’re targeting everything. We don’t know when or where they will strike next. They’re hitting hospitals, medical centres, universities, homes, security centres, police.

This morning five young sisters who lived near a mosque were killed. This is one story among hundreds.

We are trying to provide support for hospitals but they are not able to deal with the injured. They have no space, no equipment. People are being treated outside hospitals on the streets.

I’m homeless now after my home was destroyed.

My family is afraid. My little nephew starts crying every time he hears an explosion. My mother tries to not let me go to work.

The streets are almost empty. The only crowds are near bakeries. Lots of people are staying at home and trying to hide.”

Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA director in Gaza

“The problem is very complicated. Even before the bombing Gaza was in need of everything.

Hospitals lack everything – equipment, doctors. The world should help.

We hear that Israel opened the crossing today for materials etc. We’re welcoming this step but it is not enough. Israel should open it not just for a few hours or a few days.

The people feel very angry and abandoned. What they want before anything else is to stop the killing.

Education has been suspended, not allowing school children and teachers to go to school. Medical workers are not going to work because of the danger.

Eight of our students were killed by a rocket as they left their classrooms to get the bus home.”

Baha’ Enaya, Gaza, engineer

“At the beginning the targets were mainly stations of security forces, but later the operations expanded and targets also included police stations, societies, organisations and other infrastructure.

Those targets are just in the middle of residential areas because of the nature of the surface in Gaza and the high density of the population. Naturally, the casualties will mostly be civilian.

“… It is just an episode in a bigger project which aims to kill people’s will”

Baha’, Gaza

If we add to that other difficulties like the shortage of fuel supplies, food and electricity then you can imagine how the situation on the ground looks.

The bombing of the underground tunnels adds another hardship by cutting off fuel supplies. Many people used to obtain their fuel through those tunnels.

Surely the main blame goes to the Israeli occupation that uses this collective punishment policy. Palestinian factions have recently tried to commit to the ceasefire. Israel, however, did not fulfill its responsibilities. When the siege continues it is hard to ask the factions to maintain a one-sided truce.

The closure of the crossings is killing us slowly.

While the Israeli response has been beyond any expectations, it is just an episode in a bigger project which aims to kill people’s will and turn them into cattle whose top priority is not to resist the occupation but just to survive.”

Additional reporting by Oscar Ibrahim, Rachel Shabi and Mira Nabulsi

Please click here to read the accompanying article Voices from Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera