New Internationalist

No place to hide

'Just after I spoke to you on the phone the other day, we had to leave,' says Mohammed. 'The Israelis were shelling all around us, and so many of the local people fled. We left too, but we had nowhere else to go but the school down the street.'  

 Mohammed Al Majdawali lives in Jabaliya refugee camp. He’s a filmmaker and also volunteers for the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which works with children across Gaza. I called him a few days ago to see if he was OK under these horrific circumstances. 'I can send you photos from Gaza,' he told me earnestly down the crackly phone. 'If you tell me who you want to speak to, I can go and find them. Anything you need to help you document this holocaust, just ask me.'

 But by the time he called me back later the same day, Mohammed and his family were sheltering in a local Jabaliya school which has been transformed into a UN shelter for internally displaced Gazans. He and his family are now in Al Fakhoura school, where 40 civilians were killed last week after the Israeli military fired four artillery shells towards the school. After the carnage at Al Fakhoura who the hell would choose to shelter there? But Mohammed and his family, like the hundreds of other civilians who fled the same neighbourhood, have nowhere else to hide.

 The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the biggest UN agency working in Gaza, is doing its utmost to assist the people of Jabaliya, but conditions at Al Fakhoura school are rough. 'There are more than 50 people in each classroom.' says Mohammed. 'Some have no electricity, and we have nothing to sleep on but the floor.' He says most of the new occupants at the school are women and children, but some distraught parents have been out on the streets, searching for their kids who went missing amidst the chaos and mass panic of people fleeing for their lives.

Thousands of people across the Gaza Strip are now fleeing for their lives. UNRWA, which has turned schools into shelters for the internally displaced across Gaza, estimates more than 35,500 people are now taking refuge in these shelters, and other UN agencies working in Gaza say 'growing pockets' of the civilian population are trapped in their homes. One of the most frightening reports of civilians being trapped in their homes has come from the Gaza City-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which has continued to report on the human rights situation every day throughout this blood bath. On 13 January, PCHR reported its staff had received many phone calls from villagers trapped inside Khza'a village, east of Khan Younis, pleading for help. The villagers said local families were being detained inside their homes by the Israeli military, and Israeli troops were demolishing houses while families were trapped inside them, and firing towards them if they tried to escape.   

The death toll inside Gaza is now around 1,054, and more than 4,000 people have been maimed and injured. PCHR estimates that 85 per cent of the dead are civilians, and 35 per cent of them are children. Last night Hamas finally formally accepted a proposal from Egypt for an immediate ceasefire. The proposal calls for the Israeli military to withdraw immediately from the Gaza Strip, and for the opening of Gaza’s borders - but Israel has said its 'operation' inside Gaza will continue nonetheless.

As I write this blog, Israeli troops have now advanced well into Gaza City. Staff at the Al Aqsa Hospital in Gaza City report the hospital is now surrounded by Israeli troops, and the hospital has received more 150 phone calls from local people, including civilians who’ve been injured and are now trapped in the area. The horrific death toll in Gaza is going to rise as the Israeli military launches its final massive assaults. This is not a war against the people of Gaza, it is a massacre.

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  1. #1 Ludwig 16 Jan 09

    Time is finally running out for Israelis, they will only have less then 100 hours to complete their mission before the inauguration of the new US President. I cannot see this continuing after this point of time for a various number of reasons. This Israeli military adventure would not have been partaken if Washington had not sanctioned it. Against all the Israeli and US expectations and projections, Hamas discipline has held out well and has remarkably withstood the Israeli onslaught. This has agitated the Israeli military command, by upsetting its military timetable by a week or two so far.

    The battle for Gaza may transpire much to the resemblance or on a parallel to the past battle of Stalingrad, where in early days of this battle the German military tried to gain the military initiative by pouring in large amounts military equipment, soldiers and firepower into the fray. Von Paulus had a superb highly trained disciplined army under his command, of which the world will never see again - thank goodness. The widespread destruction of Stalingrad's buildings produced massive mounds of rubble, making it ideal for rat warfare conditions, resulting in tenacious Soviet mass assaults, ambushes and sniper attacks, which completely demoralized the German 6th Armee weeks before the Soviets launched on November 11 1942, ’Operation Uranus’; resulting in the encircling of 270,000 German troops. Von Paulus must have a premonition of defeat only weeks before the encirclement, when he committed his irreplaceable panzer tanker men into the fray as infantrymen. Similar to the situation in Gaza, Stalingrad's Soviet authorities refused to move the civilian population, giving impetus to their troops in defending a live city, and being totality cutoff by the Volga River at their backs leaving no opportunity of a backdoor escape. As a result this means that the battle for Gaza will be lengthy; the Israelis will do everything in their power to shorten it, and they will not be squeamish like bombing hospitals, killing innocence's and no respect of the United Nations supply units and personnel. Just like in Stalingrad nobody in Gaza will be safe, since there will be no safe place to hide in the ensuring struggle.

    Unlike the Pope who has no limits, the Israeli government has limits, and this war is costing the Israeli Treasury well over a $100 million dollars a day and more for each day it continues. Therefore, Israel is unable to sustain a continuous military campaign for more then a few weeks. This means that Dzipi embarrassingly will have to go cap in hand, and ask some ’uppity nigger* in the White House for financial assistance and aid, requiring billion dollar loans and more. *as perceived by the Israelis in derogatory generalization terms - used to describe non-Jewish people like arabs, blacks, colored and gentiles. I do not at all support these remarks. I have no doubts that the futuristic President Barack Obama requiring Trillions to bail out the ailing United States economy, will be advised by the men behind the curtains, in telling Dzipi in polite terms, ’Go find, and get the money off your own people. The Israeli government will be horror stricken by the turnabout enface, especially when only days earlier Barack and Hilary gave them the impression that they fully supported Israel. This is going put economic pressure on Israel to find hard currency, meaning governmental trimming of the social services, and raising taxes. The Israeli jingoisms and the carnival mood supporting the war will disappear overnight when economic reality sets in.

    There are two ways to skin a cat, perhaps if the Israeli government gave the Hamas officials a Chevrolet each, as well as a generous salary to act as boss men in keeping control and preventing missile firing, and then by removing border sanctions making life tolerable in Gaza, the war may be over quickly. You can forget about all that democracy talk amongst that bunch of cutthroats, always threatening bloodletting curses to cutoff the heads of the Israelis.


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The Gaza Blog

The Gaza blog is a weekly dispatch from the Gaza Strip. Louisa Waugh lives and works in Gaza, and her blogs capture the complexities and challenges of daily life under siege, amidst the aftermath of Israel’s devastating recent offensive.

The Gaza Blog