Every time I speak to them, my friends in Gaza tell me how scared they are. Most are trapped inside their own homes, though thousands of families across the Strip have had to be evacuated before the Israeli military literally blows their houses up on top of them. My friend Khalil and his family, including his bright-eyed eight-year-old son, Amir, and his cheeky teenage daughter, Yara, had been living in the Tal il Howa district of Gaza City, but after the building next door to them was blown up they fled, and now they're staying with relatives in a part of Gaza City they hope will be safer. Like everyone else who's been forced to take shelter elsewhere, they have no idea when they might be able to go back home. 'I can sometimes move around a little in the mornings and go to buy some food,' Khalil tells me, 'but every time I go out I know my life is not in my own hands.'
Another friend, Zekra, and her family, who live in Il Tufa in northeastern Gaza City, spent nights cowering on the staircase of their three-storey apartment block, because it was the only space they could find without windows, and windows are dangerous in Gaza now. Zekra's family have now fled to stay with relatives in central Gaza City, hoping they'll also be safer. Although it is the middle of winter in Gaza, and though most people have no electricity or heating, some families have resorted to taking all the glass out of their windows, because they're frightened of the glass shattering at high speed during air strikes, and killing or maiming them. Hospitals can longer cope with the scale of the carnage.
'One of my relatives was badly injured, and I took the risk of going to Al Shifa hospital [in Gaza City] to see him,' another friend, Hamdi, tells me. 'It is a terrible sight inside: there are hundreds of people lying across the hospital desperate to see a doctor.'
In the two weeks since Israeli unleashed 'Operation Cast Lead' women, men and children across the Gaza Strip have been shot, bombed, blown apart by rockets, had their limbs torn from their bodies, or been buried alive in the rubble of schools, houses and civilian facilities. At least six medical personnel have been killed in these two weeks, and paramedics say they are being targeted by the Israeli military even as they are trying to evacuate dead and injured civilians. This morning, 9 January, medical personnel dragged another 50 dead bodies from the rubble, bringing the official death toll to 774. No-one will ever know how many of these 50 people were alive when they were buried beneath the rubble. At about 4am this morning, six members of the Salha family were killed when their house was bombarded while they were asleep inside, in Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip. United Nations staff have also been targeted. After Israeli troops shot at a UN convoy, killing one of the drivers, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) temporarily announced it was suspending all operations inside the Gaza Strip: 'Because the situation has become very dangerous, and Israel has committed brutalities in the Gaza Strip.'
But, despite its brutality, and its utter military supremacy, Israel cannot win this self-declared 'war' against the people of Gaza. The bloodshed inside Gaza will continue because the Israeli Government is shortsighted and arrogant enough to believe its own propaganda, that Hamas can be militarily defeated and that Israel can impose its own agenda on the entire Gazan population. But, as I've said before, there is no military solution to the carnage inside Gaza. Despite the mass killing, the fear, the destruction and the relentless air, land and sea strikes, Palestinian militants inside Gaza are still firing rockets towards Israel, even as 1.5 million Gazan civilians cower inside their homes or temporary shelters. The militants will not be cowed by Israel, and are totally prepared to die in defiance. No-one knows how many of the dead in Gaza are civilians killed by Israeli tanks, rockets or snipers but all the civilian deaths - many of which constitute war crimes - have been in vain. Israel will eventually have to cease killing in the name of its national security, and start negotiating towards it.
For those of us on the outside looking in, it is impossible to know how life feels inside Gaza right now. But my Gazan friends tell me on the phone that they are going through hell. 'Tell me what is happening, what are people doing to help us,' my friend Mohammed asks me when I finally get through to him in Gaza City. 'I have no water or electricity, at home, and no way of hearing the news. Tell me something is being done. Tell me, please God, tell me this is going to end soon.'