December 30, 2008 at 7:50 am
Amira Hass / Uncertainty and bombing keep Gazans awake and fearful of who will be next
Abu Salah’s family lives in Gaza’s Nasser neighborhood – close enough to hear the bombings targeting the home next to that of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Shati refugee camp, and close enough to hear the attacks on Haniyeh’s office, which also hit the UN building.
“Salah wants to leave the house, but I didn’t let him,” Abu Salah said. “Who knows what will happen outside? On the other hand, who knows what will happen at home?”
He knew what he was talking about Monday morning, following what he called “the hardest night we’ve had until now. Even harder than Saturday. From 12 at night until 7 we couldn’t sleep – bombings, explosions and ambulances the whole time.”
At 1 o’clock that same night, on the other side of the Strip in Rafah’s Yibna refugee camp, a missile was fired at the home of Riad al-Attar, a senior commander in the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Attar had already vacated the building along with his family.
Shortly afterwards, another missile was fired, this one hitting a building full of occupants, 300 meters from al-Attar’s home. The home, little more than concrete and asbestos, belongs to the Abbasi family. The father, Ziad, is a building contractor. Three of his children were killed in the strike and remained buried under the rubble: Sadki, age 3; Ahmed, age 12 and Mohammed, age 14. The parents and three other children were wounded.
On Monday at 5 P.M. a house was bombed in Beit Lahia, and according to initial reports seven family members were killed.
“Every parent understands the home isn’t safe, as the streets aren’t safe,” says Umm Basel.
“Maybe next door lives someone from Iz al-Din al-Qassam, I don’t know, or on your side they think he lives there, and that you’re allowed to fire a missile on us. He is not in his home, we are.”
Everyone sees the images on television of young children being rescued from the wreckage.
“When I turn on the generator and for a moment don’t pay attention to them, the kids run to the TV to see the girls of the Balousha family,” she said, referring to the Jabalya family which lost five girls and in which four siblings and the parents were injured.
“Yafa noticed that one of the girls whispered, ‘Where is my mother?’” she said, adding that no one in her family slept that night. “We’re always jumping out of bed because of the bombings.”
All of the windows in the home are open so that the explosions don’t shatter the glass and wound the people inside – at least, that is the case in homes in which the window panes remain whole.
Glass panes are impossible to come by in the Strip, and instead people cover the windows with plastic sheets. Such sheets, like window panes, are not among the products Israel has allowed into the territory over the past two years, and they can only be transferred via underground tunnels.
Now, with the tunnels’ closure, a shortage of sheets is expected. On top of everything else, Gazans must now deal with the bitter cold in their homes, lacking electricity most of the time, as well as diesel fuel and gas.
On Monday and the day before, Rafah residents living close to the Egyptian border were told to leave their homes.
On Saturday night, Egyptian authorities gave members of the Palestinian National Guard a message from Israel to move 300 meters from the border because shelling was about to begin. Hundreds of people went to stay with relatives in the center of Rafah, gathering their belongings and leaving for the hundredth time in their lives.