The AbuKhadra governmental buildings after they were targeted in operation Pillar of Cloud Nov 21, 2012 (Photo:Rawan Yaghi)
With F16s, it’s a scary roar like someone is mocking sounds in a water well. It also depends on the altitude of the plane, sometimes a high pitched roar, others a low distant one. F16s are harder to spot than drones or Apaches because they are always ahead of their roar. And since you never know where the plane is going and since buildings in Gaza are crammed into Gaza, you rarely get to see the metal falcon. I saw the plane once, of course Israel has many of them but I guess they all look the same. I think the sound of F16s flying by is quite similar to normal passenger planes when taking off, not that many people in Gaza know how a passenger plane sounds when taking off. However, in Gaza people know something is wrong and that the pilot is practicing for future preys. Now the sound of the jet flying by is no problem as long as it doesn’t drop anything.
I don’t remember many raids done using F16s from my childhood, but my recent years as a teenager, and while still calling myself child, were full of them. At first, as I remember, they used to conduct a lot of mock raids. A mock raid is far more scary than any sudden sound you’ve been startled with. Out of nowhere, a sudden blast jumps in, leaving your ears almost pierced and your heart running as quickly as it can. You’d think it’s a real raid nearby, so you run for cover. Fortunately, your racing heartbeats and your pale face are your only injuries. In 2005, four people were reported dead because of these mock raids and panicking because of other raids on the Gaza Strip. The four had chronic diseases; heart conditions, blood pressure, diabetes. Other people were brought to hospitals when their ears started bleeding as a result of the sound pressure. In addition, hundreds of children and women were carried to hospitals as panic injuries. Mock raids are fine, as long as the plane doesn’t drop anything!
When F16s drop something, which happens more often than mock raids and sometimes more than just passing by, the damage is shattering. Let me recall some of the attacks conducted by F16s, those that I remember. I was fourteen when the AbuSelmeyyas’ house was attacked by an F16 air strike. My body shivers as I write this. The attack killed the father and mother and seven of their children, Nasrallah 4, Aya 7, Yahya 9, Eman 12, Huda 14 who was my classmate in primary school and who had the most angelic voice I’ve ever heard, Sumayya 16, and Basma 17, leaving Awad, 19 at that time, injured and alone. Fourteen others were injured in that attack, since the house was located in a heavily populated neighborhood, not very far from where I live. The attack attempted to assassinate leaders of militant groups. However it failed. In October last year, The Israeli court in Jaffa refused to give any compensations to the relatives of the family and the only member if the family left, saying the house was targeted during a “combat operation”. I wasn’t allowed to see any news about the attack. I only heard some news about it. And I learned about Huda in the morning. I heard from my brother that day that the bomb was directly dropped on the room where the mother and the children were. I also heard about their body parts being found in the buildings next to their house. I was only fourteen. What did I know.
Gaza Massacre 08-09
Another attack, which is more recent, is the attack of the AlDalous’ house. An F16 targeted the house while it was full of children and women. I had no electricity that day, and I was listening to the radio trying to figure out what the last huge explosion was. The attack took the lives of four siblings, Sarah 7, Yousef 4, Jamal 6, and Ibrahim who was nearly a year old, in addition to their grandmother Suhaila 73 and their mother and aunts, Samah 27, Raneem 22, and Tahani 52. Two neighbors of the family were also killed, grandmother and grandson, Ameena AlMzannar, 81, and Abdallah Al Mzannar, 18. Four days after the attack and after digging in the rubble of the three story house which was dug to a hole in the ground by the attack, two other bodies were found. One belonged to Mohammed Al Dalou, 29, and the other was his sister Yara, 17. This house is also located in Al Sheikh Radwan area not very far from the first one I mentioned and not very far from where I live. The explosion was very huge that so many people in that neighborhood couldn’t breathe when the smoke sneaked into their houses and nine were injured. The houses around the Al Dalou house were also damaged.
F16s are usually used to destroy targets that are very important for Israel. During the latest attacks, Israel used them to destroy civilian houses and to target empty farm lands. They were used to destroy a Palestine playground, two extremely important governmental buildings with more than five rockets each in addition to other police stations. Many houses were warned by drone rockets 5 minutes before F16s practically blew them to pieces. Residents of these houses may get injured on the way out or in the street while running away from the house. Many families weren’t warned. The house would be targeted while civilians are still inside. And the attack would end up killing half or all of the family members, as in the Hijazi family when an attack killed the father and his children, with their mother left severely injured.
The damage caused by F16 explosives is incomprehensible. The house targeted is completely destroyed and turned to rubble. Sometimes, if the plane dropped more than one bomb, like the AlRayyan family attack in Operation Cast Lead, a whole block would be destroyed. Houses around would be partially damaged, losing front walls and having bricks falling on their residents . The glass of the windows of the houses in a range of 50 meters around the house breaks and injures people inside. If the target is an empty lot, a huge hole is left after the attack, leaving houses around with broken windows and dirt all over their walls. Sometimes, houses around are not that strong. When they don’t have concrete roofs, and have tin roofs, they collapse or at the least the roof flies away, even if the target was empty land. If the target is farm land, trees die. The land becomes unfit for cultivation for several years.
The psychological effect the planes leave is also devastating. Like I said, the explosions are sudden and very loud. During the latest offensive, we couldn’t hear the planes before they dropped their bombs. The impacts cause earthquake like effects. The houses start shaking back and forth, the windows and mirrors shiver, and sometimes you hear your bed moving too. Sometimes, we would hear the whoosh of the bomb while it’s falling and wait for the explosion to rock the ground. Other times we heard nothing. Only the ground shook. Since at times the ground shakes before the explosion, the sound is never as loud as you expect it to be. It’s always louder. And you blink or jump from your seat no matter how many times a minute an F16 drops a bomb. After a number of days of incessant loud explosions and air pressure pressing on your ears and making sure you’re still alive every five minutes, you start cursing Israel, the US government, your political leaders and everyone participating in the daily act of terrorizing you.