Mohammed Omer - A Report From Gaza Under Siege
Gaza City—Casualties mount as the Israeli military continues to bomb the Gaza Strip. On Sunday Gaza’s health minister, Dr. Mofeed Makhlalati, said the death toll had risen to seventy-five killed and more than 680 injured. So far three Israelis have been killed as result of Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza.
Medical sources at Shifa Hospital say that 90 percent of the casualties are civilian. “We are human. We like life, and we would like to live life like other people,” Dr. Makhlalati said at Shifa on Sunday evening. Behind him, more bodies were being moved into the morgue.
In Gaza City, Israeli fighter jets fired four missiles at a sports stadium. In Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip on the Egyptian border, F-16s and unmanned drones fired nineteen guided missiles at the tunnel complexes, which are used to smuggle everything from petrol and bicycles to food and medicine. The tunnels have been the lifeline of the besieged Strip ever since Israel imposed its blockade in 2006, soon after Hamas won democratic elections in Palestine.
Another missile fell further north, claiming three members of the Fujo family, two of whom are children. Israel’s highly sophisticated missiles have taken out the electrical towers that provide power to Rafah from Egypt. One by one, vital supplies and services to the population are being destroyed. Commercial activity has all but ceased. Gas stations no longer have fuel. Other civilian targets have been bombed, including the office of the prime minister as well as several mosques and the police headquarters.
Sunday morning Israeli fighters targeted the media, bombing two well-known office buildings, Shawwa Hosari and Shorouq, which house most of the international media outlets, including Germany’s ARD, Britain’s Sky News, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, the Associated Press, Reuters, NBC, CNN and the Lebanon-based Al Quds TV. Eight journalists were injured; one cameraman lost his leg.
On Sunday as well, Israeli military penetrated Palestinian radio frequencies, using the public airwaves to broadcast warnings to the population of Gaza. The broadcasts provide Israel with a measure of deniability but are of little use to civilians. Gaza does not have bomb shelters, and with the borders closed, the shoreline blockaded and many of the tunnels destroyed, no one can leave. The Palestinian education ministry and the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have shut all schools in this coastal enclave. Mosques and churches are not safe. The stadium is not safe. Media offices are not safe. Government buildings are not safe. Homes are not safe.
There is nowhere to go.
“I was at the window of our house, watching pillars of smoke coming from a building nearby. Suddenly a massive explosion erupted when an F-16 missile hit the house of our neighbor,” said 13-year-old Munir Ahmed, weeping as he recalled the bomb that knocked him unconscious and landed him in Kamal Adwan Hospital in Jabalya refugee camp, north of Gaza City.
The teenager is critically injured, his body riddled with shrapnel. In addition to his physical injury, Munir has Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD), a common affliction in Gaza because of years of Israeli attacks by air, land and sea. Under emergency triage conditions, Munir’s CTSD and shrapnel wounds are not enough to keep him in the hospital. As the bombing raids continue, casualties increase. There are not enough beds or medicine, and doctors are forced to release wounded patients to make room for new arrivals.
The bombing has been eerily random. Shrapnel from F-16 missiles targeting Jabalya killed 4-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah. The child was playing on the stoop of his home, well away from the main street. With emergency services strained, in a panic the young boy’s mother scooped him up and ran through the smoke-enshrouded streets, dodging dust and flames, screaming hysterically for help as blood poured out of Mahmoud’s head. A group of young men ran to her rescue, taking the boy to Kamal Adwan Hospital. Mahmoud was immediately transferred to Shifa Hospital, but it was too late—he was pronounced dead on arrival. His father, Raed, a vegetable vendor at the local market, fainted upon hearing the news. Mahmoud was his only living son; two others had died previously of illness. Wracked in grief, Raed cried out, “The world is responsible for killing my child, Mahmoud!”
Mahmoud’s family house was targeted despite being located in a densely populated residential area. Also injured by the same missile were his cousin, 12-year-old Fares Sadallah, and his uncle’s wife and four other children. Killed along with Mahmoud was his next-door neighbor, 20-year-old Ayman Abu Warda.
Sunday evening an Israeli fighter jet fired missiles into the four-story home of the al-Dalou family, killing twelve, including six women and four children under the age of 5. An additional thirty people were injured, as rescue teams continued searching the rubble for bodies.
Meanwhile, Hamas and other Palestinian factions continue to fire retaliatory rockets at Israel, as they have ever since Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari last Wednesday. Al-Jabari, the senior leader of the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, was instrumental in brokering the deal last year releasing captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of a prisoner exchange. Al-Jabari seems to have had the most influence in convincing the other armed Palestinian resistance groups, such as the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad, to end military clashes. He was killed within three hours of receiving the draft of a truce agreement with Israel. The draft included detailed mechanisms for maintaining a ceasefire.
Sunday’s attack was Israel’s most aggressive in the past five days. Just across the border, the Israeli army is massing its forces and appears to be preparing for a large-scale ground invasion.