zondag 26 december 2010

Gaza, behind the scenes

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza-strip, the Union of Arab Students conducted an interview with two Palestinian students currently doing an exchange in a Belgian university.

Exactly two years ago, we witnessed the brutal attack of the Israeli army on Gaza and its citizens. We felt anger, pain, rage and sadness, yet all we saw was just a glimp of the real live in Gaza. To be better informed about the daily life of the Gazans, two Gazans, who were present during the attack, were willing to share their experiences with us. For privacy reasons, the names will not be published.
1) What were you doing during the attack?
S.N.: If you mean the first day of the attack, I was distributing the exam papers to the students. I worked as English Language teacher and it was the time of midterm exams. Of course you can imagine how hard was that time, since I had so many duties: to protect the students, to protect myself, to answer the calls on the mobile, to deal with the worried parents of the students and above all to understand what was going on!
M.H.: The first attack occurred when I was working in my office at Islamic University of Gaza. It was about 11:30 when I heard a very huge explosion; it was so close that we felt it in our room and directly I jumped to the window to see tens of bodies lying on the ground. It was the main police HQ and all the dead persons were policemen.
2) How did you feel knowing the war broke out and knowing your lives were in absolute danger?
M.H.: Me and my colleagues ran out of the buildings and gathered to know what was going on. When I heard that similar attacks happened simultaneously in different places, I realized that the war had just begun. Ambulances started to transport the injured people to the hospitals, while the voice of explosions still being heard. The streets were crowed with people, students, women, and men as well; nobody knew where to find a safe place. I was trying to call my family when I was walking to my home but there was no connection. Actually I didn’t take care about myself; all I wanted was to be with my kids those hard moments.
S.N.: Frankly, at the beginning I was thinking about the lives of the students more than my life. There was a police station exactly next to our school and you can imagine what could happen if the aircrafts bombed it before we leave the school! Actually, after the first week I began to feel indifferent,, I mean the smell of death was everywhere around you and at that point you lose the taste of life!
3) Did you see the invasion of the Israeli army happening?
M.H.: I didn’t see the troops because I was living in Shati Refugees Camp which is far from the city borders.

S.N.:  Yes, I did.

4) How did you protect yourselves from the phosphor-bombs?
M.H.: To feel safe, we, the whole family in the building consisting of about 25 persons for the whole war period gathered in the ground floor which was about 190 m2. It was not that safe, but just to be with each other and feel strong.

S.N.: I used to live at the second floor of my family’s house but since the war began I moved to the grand floor because it would be safer and we could see each other and try to reduce the fear and worry specially when the power was cut…
5)How did you manage to survive, without having gaz, electricity or food and water?
M.H.: Electricity was always used for heating, cooking, TV’s, fridges, laundry machines, etc. the heating solution was only to wear more clothes because the wood fire was almost enough for cooking and heating water for taking showers. Everything inside the fridges became damaged the first days, and we started to clean our clothes manually. No TV’s, the only news source was the FM radio stations.
S.N.:  We used to take some reserves when we feel that something is going to happen. But this last war was really surprising and we felt shocked. If you call back to the time of the first attack, it was almost at noon, the time of working, studying .. etc. Back to your question, honestly I don’t know how could we manage things. Maybe it is kind of being ready all the time because we are used to these situations!! By the way, our house was full of people; I mean some of my relatives came to live with us because their area was absolutely dangerous.
6) Describe the conditions you were living in during the attack.
M.H.: Mixed feelings and thoughts were inside, I was afraid about my kids, my wife, my brothers, and all my family. What is better? to protect myself or to protect them? At the same time I wanted to do something to end this war but not to give up. Hope was minimized to the basic things; I was planning to pursue my studies, and to enhance my job to build a better future for the kids, but then my biggest goal was only to keep them alive.
S.N.: I’ll try my best to describe what is indescribable! Power cut, aircrafts in the sky all the time, the sound of explosions was everywhere, from time to time you get the bad news of one of your relatives or friends was killed, you feel in deep stress all the time, children around you make things worse when you think about them, the phosphor bombs were the most dangerous thing in that war since it was the first time we see it,,,, a lot of things that you can imagine yourself!!

7) Do you have anything left to say about the attack or to the people who were following everything on the news?
S.N.: Yes indeed. I would like to tell all the people that “ On that land what deserves life” as the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish said. I know how cruel the war was but let’s think about the time after war. What we should do to help the people there? How many homes, hospitals, schools were destroyed? How many patient need to go out for treatment? How many students need to go out Gaza to pursue their education? What should we do to break the illegal siege imposed on Gaza for almost 5 years? Finally, I would like to thank all the free people all around the world for their support for the fair Palestinian case in my name and in the name of all the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank which is not much better than Gaza with the Apartheid Wall there and the increasing illegal Israeli settlements.

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