Rasha N Abushaban: Tension has been escalating between Israel and the Gaza Strip following the murders of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank and a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem over the last two weeks. The state of Israel has since launched operation ‘Protective Edge’ against the Gaza Strip. Palestinian fighters have responded with rocket attacks against Israeli cities. This is the ‘Gaza War Diary’, a personal account from Rasha writing from Gaza as the violence unfolds.
Gaza, July 9, 2014: Today is officially the first day of war, which Israel has announced as the new operation the “Protective Edge”. Israel had been threatening a new war on Gaza since the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers, who were later found dead in the West Bank. Israel strongly believe Hamas is responsible for their deaths, although to date Hamas have neither confirmed or denied any responsibility. Immediately following their disappearance, Israeli forces destroyed the houses of Hamas members in the West Bank and arrested hundreds of Palestinians without charge. Last week a Palestinian teenager (and a Jerusalem citizen) was killed in Jerusalem by Israeli settlers; many have labelled this as a revenge attack for the earlier deaths of the three Israeli teens. While the people of Gaza were expecting Israel to respond to the escalating tensions, we the people of Gaza are at the same time shocked that the Israeli forces have been targeting civilians from the very first day of the offensive. However, that doesn’t change anything, the war has started and we have been losing souls and properties.
Our bodies are shaking and our hearts are pounding with every single airstrike or loud bomb. Now the war has started, and Israeli forces have been dropping hundreds of shells in an area with a landmass of 365 square kilometres and with a population of 1.7 million, the Gaza Strip. We started to make guesses as to how long the attacks would last this time, 23 days like the Cast Lead operation in 2008-2009, or 8 days like the Pillar of Defence operation in 2012? More or less? We are still in ‘Day One’.
Last night I could not sleep for even one hour. I stayed up all night because of the loud noises from the drones hoverning above, and the aeroplanes flying overhead. Since it is the holy month of Ramadhan, I had my meals before dawn to fast for the day ahead. The bombings started to be intense from the start of the night. I heard the news that Israeli forces were targeting military sites and the agricultural areas. I kept following the news until the morning came when I finally fell asleep. I slept for a couple of hours despite the sounds and noises. I swear it was only for a couple of hours, until i woke up to a series of bombings which shook my bed and the whole house like an earthquake. I felt my heart jumping out of my chest and I could not catch my breathe for a few moments.
I woke to the news that tens of Palestinian people were killed, wounded, had their houses destroyed and their mosques targeted. A number of the people killed, including children, were from the Abu Kawara’e family, who lived in the North of the Gaza Strip. The families of the household tried to make a human shield by gathering on the rooftop to prevent a hit, but we deal with an enemy who doesn’t care about any laws or humanity. The airplanes simply shelled the house with missiles causing a massacre. This house was destroyed over the heads of the women, children, elderly and everyday civilians. The photos were heartbreaking.
Then I heard on the radio that the Israeli army had intercepted local radio stations and were broadcasting pre-recorded messages asking us to evacuate our homes and flee to safety. Really? Flee to safety? How so given the warships lined up off the Gaza shores? The tightening of the borders and crossings that one can even come across? With the Israeli forces beefing up the ground invasion? With the aircrafts clouding our skies?
After this long day it was time to break our fast. Turning off the radio, we sought some moments ofis that possible? Can we turn off the hovering plans and the bombings outside? Instead we just gathered and waited for the Adhan call, raised our hands praying with tearful eyes and tired hearts, and thought of all who lost their beloved ones today, for all who lost their houses today, for all the painful images we passed today, the whole time thinking that today is still ‘Day One’, and we have no idea for how long this craziness is going to last for.
During the day we heard the news of Al-Qassam Brigades raiding a naval base in a Southern Israeli Town, and with locally made rockets were able to reach miles inside of Israel causing “horror” amounts the people there. This has given us hope. Hope that there are fighters over there who are not keeping silent about this injustice, while the international community hasn’t said a word. We know these rockets don’t cause Israel big losses, we know that Israel will respond with hundreds of shells in return. But we want to let Israel and the world know that we are resisting and not waiting for anyone from the Arab or Muslim world to fight for us. We believe that we are the right holders and we need to suffer and fight to get our rights and land back.
It is the end of the first 24 hours of ‘Day One’ of the war, 22 were killed and 125 were wounded so far; the casualty toll is increasing by the minute. For some people outside of Gaza, these are merely numbers, for us, the people of Gaza these are not statistics, they are our pain and anxiety for who is dying next, for what bombs will be dropped next. All we can do is pray for all of this to stop, and to ask God to give us strength and patience. We need to get some rest so we are prepared for another day of this war.
*Rasha N. AbuShaaban writes from Gaza in the Occupied Palestinian Territories . She holds a Masters Degree from the University of Aberdeen, UK. She has been working for many years with the civil society sector and in the management of humanitarian and developmental projects in Palestine. Currently she is working at an International NGO – the Campaign for the Children of Palestine. She believes that empowerment and ensuring rights for the Palestinian children , youth and women are key for building a civilized and peaceful Palestinian society.