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‘We know that Israel has no red line when it attacks us’: Civilians bear the brunt as Israel’s offensive on Gaza continues

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Palestinian children hide in a car trunk as they flee their family homes following heavy Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip July 23, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Palestinian children hide in a car trunk as they flee their family homes following heavy Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip July 23, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

As Israel continues it’s an all-out land, sea and air military assault on besieged Gaza for the 16th consecutive day, death toll keeps rising  rapidly.  Up to the preparation of this piece, the Gaza Health Ministry said that 672 have been killed and over 4,240 injured across the Gaza strip since the start of the aggression on 8th July.

After Shijaeyah was almost flattened by Israeli tank shelling and air strikes, now Khoza village is facing the same fate. Khoza village is situated in the eastern part of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip. Scores of people have been killed and injured as the village is now besieged by Israeli snipers. People are being fired upon as they flee the bombardment.

Gaza is a big prison, about 2 million people live in what is known the world’s largest air prison and the most densely populated in the world, there is absolutely no safe place. Israel’s stated goal is to restore calm and put an end to the rocket fire from Gaza and destroy subterranean tunnels along Gaza-Israel border fence, but so far civilians are the victims, air raids and tank shelling target residential areas.

The intensity of Israeli shelling around the Algerian Hospital in Abasan Alkabir shattered its windows, and led to its evacuation, leaving only the emergency department operational.

Amongst other targets shelled in recent days were Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital situated in Dair Al-Balah in the middle of the Gaza strip, killing 5 patients and injuring dozens, a state of panic prevailed as families of injured were present, patients had to be evacuated.

Six civil defense crews were among the wounded today when their vehicle came under fire.

Six worshipers were injured when a mosque was struck by a missile fired from an Israeli drone in the southern Gaza Strip. A church situated in Gaza City sustained damage in a separate air strike in the city. Graveyards and cemeteries have been targeted as well.

Since the assault started, over 3,000 homes throughout Gaza have been either totally or partially destroyed as a result of deliberate air raids or tank shelling.  Many residential homes and buildings were deliberately attacked without any pre-warning, in one incident 12 people were killed as an air raid targeted AL-Salam building in the Gaza City centre

As the attacks intensify, an Israeli rabbi has issued a ruling that allows the killing of innocent civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip. Dov Lior, an Israeli rabbi from the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank, said in the ruling that it is “okay” to kill innocent civilians and destroy Gaza. The ruling also says that it is not necessary to check if the people targeted are civilians or non-civilians.

Random tank shelling has become the norm in Gaza since the start of the ground invasion 3 days ago, and as a result about over 120,000 people have fled their homes in Shijaeyyah, Toffah and Shaaf neighbourhoods east of Gaza City. These three areas are empty from residents, huge and massive destruction could be seen everywhere, piles of debris fill and block the streets, some dead people still under the rubble of the destroyed homes.

Some of the UN-run schools were attacked by Israeli forces, in one incident, Israeli shelled a UN-run school in Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip. In another incident water tanker trucks came under Israeli gunfire on its way to a UN-run school in Beit Hanoun where Over 3,000 people have been trapped in Beit Hanoun school without water and food for 3 days, with many sick children without medication.

Um Naser, grandmother, 63 told me, “I lived here most of my life in my house here in Shijaeyyah quarter, seeing the huge destruction bleeds my heart, what Israel is doing in Gaza is criminal, why they destroy our homes? Why they kill our children? We were not firing rockets into Israel”

The internally displaced people are seeking shelter now at 50 UN-run schools  throughout the Gaza strip. Adnan Abu Hasna, a media advisor for UNRWA in Gaza said that 77 of its buildings, schools and facilities have been damaged.

As indiscriminate Israeli military attacks continue, families of the victims are outraged about the weak position of the International Committee of the Red Cross for not being able to use its role in reaching attacked areas to retrieve the dead bodies and rescue the wounded. However the ICRC spokesman in Gaza said that coordinating with the Israeli army is not easy and it takes long time to get an approval to send ambulances to the targeted areas.  “Our role is coordinating between the Israeli army and Palestinian Red Crescent Society who then send ambulances and rescue teams”  Naser Al-Najjar, ICRC spokesman said.

Abu Ali Khammash, 40, father of 5 said, “We know that Israel has no red line when it attacks us, we know that it does not respect international law but an organization like ICRC should do hold its responsibility, if they cannot fulfill their mission then they should leave, they are useless.”

In the past 15 days a number of ambulances, hospitals and civilian properties were targeted. A Palestinian journalist cameraman was killed as well as paramedic.

Health officials declared a state of emergency, warning from shortages of some types of medicines, medical disposables and supplies. “The Israeli occupation forces use internationally banned weapons, bodies torn to pieces, severe burns, we even found some chips of missiles in the bodies of victims,” explained Ashraf Al-Qedra, spokesman of the Gaza Health Ministry.

And as this offensive continues, public services have been badly affected, people have only 4 hours of electricity, many electricity lines were hit, tap and drinking water is hard to get. Shops are closed, streets are deserted, some people host relatives or neighbours who fled the border area.

Sirens of ambulances can be heard from time to time, buzzing drones fly over Gaza constantly. The echoing of heavy tank shelling just terrifying, people have almost been sleepless for almost 2 weeks.

A common question nowadays in the Western media outlets is what people think of Hamas and if they blame the resistance groups for what is happening in besieged Gaza? The majority will tell you that they support the resistance saying that Israel does not distinguish between resistance sites or fighters and civilians and civilian areas because most of the casualties are civilians.

Abu Awni, 38, from Gaza city, “We faced 2 Israeli wars before, but this one is the most bloodiest and most cruel, civilians are attacked in their homes. I’m against Hamas but when I say Israel is killing my family then I will join Hamas, the world must wake up and stop consuming Israeli propaganda, more than half of the population are not affiliated to Hamas, but we have been collectively punished for the past 7 years.”

Many meetings took place in the Egyptian capital of Cairo between Palestinian officials, as well as Israeli, American and others from Arab countries, in order to broker a ceasefire. So far all efforts have failed. Hamas has said it was not consulted during these negotiations and has laid out its own set of conditions for a ceasefire, mainly the lifting of the Israeli siege on Gaza among other things. Gaza has been under a land, air and sea blockade since 2006, a siege which many described as collective punishment. It has affected all aspects of life, with the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing shut most of the time for the past 7 years.

Ibrahim Bulul, 28, resident of east of Gaza City said, “I cannot understand how Egypt mediates a ceasefire when it closes the Rafah crossing! Of course we want an end to this war as soon as possible, we are abandoned by the Arab countries, we are left alone to face Israel’s war, but we are steadfast, they will not break out well. We support the resistance because you cannot expect us to blame Hamas while Israel is committing massacres and attacking our residential homes. Why is Israel allowed to defend itself and arm itself from the head to the toe but not us who have been living under military occupation and siege and humiliation polices?”

Since the start of ground invasion, resistance groups mainly Hamas and Islamic Jihad confronted the Israeli troops trying to advance to the eastern parts of Gaza, fierce clashes broke out from time to time.

And as the military attacks continue, the civilian population bear the brunt of this bloody aggression.

Yousef Alhelou

Yousef Alhelou is a freelance journalist based in Gaza City and a Reuters Journalist fellow at Oxford University. He is a Middle East correspondent for Real News Network and can be followed on Twitter at @YousefAlhelou.

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11 Responses

  1. just on July 23, 2014, 11:15 am

    I just saw another pitiable sight on MSNBC of a woman, barely alive, found under the rubble…her whole family was slaughtered by the Israelis.

    There are too many war crimes to even enumerate. Thanks for trying, Yousef, and for your comprehensive report. I pray for an end to the massacre, siege and Occupation.
    I hope that you are able to stay safe.

  2. HarryLaw on July 23, 2014, 11:23 am

    Abbas moves all his family to Amman, not you may think to protect them from Israel, but to protect them from incensed Palestinians who regard him as a traitor. It must be comforting for ordinary Palestinians to know all the members of their glorious leaders family are safe and they are left to try and survive. Some people call Abbas hapless, in truth he is a quisling of the highest order.http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Abbass-family-abandons-West-Bank-for-Jordan-368496

    • Justpassingby on July 23, 2014, 12:10 pm

      Hes a disgrace to humanity, what a despicable corrupt man!
      He want power in Gaza, can just imagine what he and Israel is doing/talking about covertly.

  3. just on July 23, 2014, 12:51 pm

    How can any human tolerate/condone this?

    “In an extreme sign of the anti-Muslim hatred and pro-Israel sentiment among France’s political elite, an elected official took to Twitter to ask mockingly if Palestinian children killed in Israel’s onslaught on Gaza were “halal meat.”

    Jacques Renaud, the deputy mayor of Montreuil-Juigné in western France, uses Twitter to post a constant stream of anti-Palestinian and pro-Israel propaganda.”

    http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/french-politician-asks-if-palestinian-children-killed-gaza-are-halal-meat

  4. HarryLaw on July 23, 2014, 2:05 pm

    The French Authorities are quick to prosecute BDS folks on the basis of boycotting Israeli goods, under the hate crime laws in France. It is an offence to use language which expresses racial or religious hatred, the courts also deem the law to include a victims national origins. Of course in this case antisemitism is clearly involved. Unless of course the courts rule only Israelis are Semites.

  5. seafoid on July 23, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Journalists Mohamed al-Masharawy and journalist Ahmed al-Shiyah found themselves caught up in the bombardment of the Gaza City district of Shejaiya on Monday.

    http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/this-video-gives-a-terrifying-glimpse-into-life-in-gaza-this-week–gk80oPgC-x

  6. Citizen on July 23, 2014, 3:29 pm

    It seems to be hopeless. First we have the US political campaign finance system, which determines he who has the most singularly focused donor money determines US foreign policy (special interests rule) –supported by SCOTUS, and then we have the conflation of Zionism with Jewishness, echoing back to the Shoah and the anti-semite card/charge. Barney Frank is a PEP, and he knows the score, sample is he just orchestrated Congress to keep auto dealers immune from the regulation of subprime car loan system enforced on banks, when they are actually partners with the banks. It’s even easier when there is no influential opposition, as in the case of giving a blank check to Israel.

  7. Bumblebye on July 23, 2014, 6:42 pm

    I did hear a couple of ‘good news’ stories on bbcR4 WorldTonight (10pm) – reporters on the ground said a few people had been found alive in the rubble of their homes in Shujaya, days after the bombing there. They also had a couple of good Palestinian spokesmen on – one of whom castigated the UK for abstaining at the UN vote! But the Israeli spox (not sure of name, seemed to have a south African accent) was terrible – all hasbara and ‘terror tunnels’. Sadly that last will be the oft repeated cr*p that sticks in peoples heads.
    There was also a prog on the ‘morality’ of the war on Gaza (Moral Maze: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04b1v8q ) in which Mad Mel Phillips got her panties in a serious wad over one speaker, Ted Honderich, who was solidly behind Hamas! Of course, Col Richard Kemp was on before him. Worth a listen. Except for the screwed up hasbaracentric ‘facts’.

  8. SQ Debris on July 24, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I got this published in the Columbus Dispatch today:
    http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/07/24/1-hayes-gq7tf2ja-9.html

    It’s a sign of changing times that this perspective has been allowed to appear in print.

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