Smoke seen from the Gaza strip, after the Israeli air force attacked the area near the Israeli border, November 15, 2012. (Photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills)
Indeed no one cares about Gaza. Since Hamas rockets launched into the Southern Tel Aviv region earlier this evening, Israel has hit and taken out 80 targets in Gaza. While the martyred, the dead of the coastal Mediterranean Strip, are carried into al Shifa hospital and mourned with the blares of gunshots busting into the air, mere kilometers away Israeli life continues.
“I want to live quietly,” said Ariel Siegal, 33, from a kibbutz just outside of Sderot, Hamas’s bulls eye zone. Siegal continued by expressing a palpable lack of concern for Palestinians in Gaza, “I don’t know what’s going on with them. I suppose what they cook they will eat.” Siegal is like many Israelis in the Southern region who live with continuous warning of rockets, yet still carry on normal life. On Thursday November 15 Siegal went to work at a computer store in Kiyrat Gan, while his wife and child left for the north. The night before, when the sirens alarmed of incoming rockets, he jumped into the protective bomb shelter that comprises one room of his home. “I am not afraid,” he said, “but my wife is.”
Siegal is lucky. He has a protective shelter. Yet the town of Sderot, where the fear of rockets hitting is a reminder of past events, the central bomb shelter also functions as a concrete floor urinal. It is dingy gift from the Israeli authorities and does not come furnished with lights, without lights. While there, just before sundown on Thursday the town was empty expect for a few blocks of commercial businesses where Mizrahi Israelis and migrant workers gathered to watch the rockets pass over on a television screen.
During the past month, Siegal has been alerted of an impending war through SMS alerts on his cell phone. Before today, in the past three weeks he has received four different updates from the Israeli authorities informing him to take cover. In Gaza, the indicators of a bombardment on Gaza, a follow-up to 2008-09’s Operation Cast Lead which left over 400 children dead, came from the hums of surveillance drones and F16s. According to Andres Miguel Espana, 32, from Los Angeles, California drones and F16s could be heard daily over the past week in Gaza. Likewise, in Ramallah, where I live, for the past two weeks I wake up or fall asleep to the lullaby of military aircrafts.
On Sunday, November 11 rockets from Gaza started exploding into Israel. The Iron Dome system, Israel’s prized anti-missile system, kicked into high gear. The defensive shield is a marvel, effectively preventing Israeli casualties, or at least impact in Israel. Earlier this afternoon Phil Weiss, Scott Roth, 972’s Mya Guarnieri and myself experienced it first hand while driving 1.2 kilometers from the militarized border with Gaza. The Iron Dome, high in the sky but directly over our yellow-plated rental car, intercepted three rockets fired by Hamas. The rockets move at an unbelievable speed and I did not see them until they were bursting over our heads.
Yet in Gaza, there is no government funded superhero fighting to save lives against the indiscriminate fire that come from air strikes. Espana, who left Gaza around the same time that Weiss, Roth, Guarnieri and I departed from Sderot, said that when Israeli fire hits, it shakes the ground. Speaking to me in the early hours of Friday morning in Jerusalem, Espana moved his hand to signal the motion of a wave. “There are two types of bombs that hit,” he said. “The bombs that are close to you and you hear the explosion and hear the earth shake,” and the bombs where only the “wave” of trembling earth is felt. While from the relative safety of the Israeli side of the border with Gaza, bombs into the besieged strip look like giant black mushroom clouds, on the ground they are targeted hits. Walls, cars and fields are all fair playing fields in this game. When Ahmad al-Jabari was killed on Wednesday, the first major Israeli strike in what is now dubbed Operation Pillar of Cloud, it was his car that was targeted. The targets are specific and they are constant. And unlike Israel, there is no escape.
Four years ago when Israel went to war with the people of Gaza the outcome was a protracted siege and clear impunity from the international community for war crimes. Even well documented infractions such as white phosphorus dumped onto a United Nations school never received any sort of meaningful accountability. Now, with 80 percent of Gaza’s population subsiding off of humanitarian aid and the UN’s announcement that by 2020 the Gaza Strip will be “uninhabitable,” what will be the outcome of the war that comes after Operation Cast Lead?