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‘We’re Like Toys for Them’: Young Gazans speak about Operation Protective Edge

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City Monday, July 14, 2014.  (Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City Monday, July 14, 2014. (Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra)

Ali al-Halabi just wanted to focus on learning French. He graduated high school this fall, and dreams of one day seeing the Eifel Tower for himself, but on his first day of French lessons the bombing started. Ali, 17, is from Al-Zahraa in the Gaza Strip, and for the past week he hasn’t been able to leave his home, let alone attend French lessons. Leaving the besieged area alive feels more and more unlikely as each bomb is dropped.

For young people in Gaza, whom make up over 50 percent of the population, this latest military assault on the Gaza Strip is the third in their recent memories—but that does not make it any easier. 

Operation Protective Edge has already killed over 170 people in seven days, and the Israeli bombings remain relentless across the strip. Mondoweiss spoke to three young Gazans about their new daily reality.

Lara Abu Ramadan

Lara Abu Ramadan

Lara Abu Ramadan, 22, lives in the center of Gaza city. The last few days have been filled with a feeling of complete helplessness and terror, as she hopes an Israeli airstrike will avoid the houses of her family and friends.

“We don’t sleep well, we wake up suddenly because of huge bombings here and around the city, we see the smoke of bombings everywhere,” Lara told Mondoweiss. “We are scared not only because of the sounds but also because we’re afraid to lose our beloved ones from family and friends. Yesterday night Israeli warplanes bombed heavily in our area and it was so close and we were so close to death. We were laying on the ground and the sky was lightened as if we were in the middle of the day.”

Staying inside in the hope of staying safe has become routine for Gazans now. Dalia Zuhair Lababidi, 21, is also from Gaza City. Her room has become her safe place during the latest Israeli military aggression, although she is well aware that civilian houses are also under threat from Israeli air strikes, and that in reality her room isn’t so safe at all. 

“I’ve been sitting in my room since the beginning of the aggression,” Dalia said. “People here can hardly go to mosque during this holy month because they’re being targeted too. Everywhere you can expect a bomb so I prefer to stay at home hoping to not get harmed. I miss the smell of the streets.”

Ali al-Halabi with a younger relative.

Ali al-Halabi with a younger relative.

Ali also admits he is terrified of what could happen, aware that civilian areas such as houses and mosques have been targeted by Israel since the beginning of the military campaign.

“They are bombing civilian houses, farmlands, and people when they are together, mosques when people are praying in them, any civilian place. I am scared. It’s possible for a bomb to happen any time. I can’t sleep knowing I am might not stay alive for tomorrow.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with other Israeli officials have defended the practice of targeting civilian homes due to Hamas’ alleged practice of launching its homemade rockets from civilian areas. According to the United Nation’s OCHA, 77 percent of all deaths have been civilian. 

The belief that anyone could be killed at any point is a real one for Lara, Dalia and Ali, having lived through Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Their flirtation with death and destruction is well established. All three believe Israel is targeting all Palestinians in Gaza and punishing them, rather than targeting certain individuals.

“They bombed an NGO institute for the disabled and two women were killed, I don’t see how they can be seen [by Israel] as terrorists when they can’t move,” Lara said. “And 36 children were killed by bombing their houses and that doesn’t make sense. They bomb whatever they want, we’re like toys for them.”

Ali also believes Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza is due to ulterior political manoeuvrings, rather than protecting Israeli citizens. Like many Palestinians, Ali told Mondoweiss that he thinks Gaza is being bombed in order to but a wedge in the recently formed unity government between Hamas and Fatah. 

“They are hurting us because there was a plan that the West Bank and Gaza would combine again in a unity government.” Ali explained, “I guess Israel didn’t like this so they are bombing Gaza and trying to say that Gaza started this war, to make the world believe that we don’t want peace, but in fact we want it but Israel doesn’t.”

The fervour for war in political and social circles in Israel has not gone unnoticed in Gaza. Especially in the online sphere, where there have been a spate of Facebook pages set up advocating the death of Palestinians, and thousands of pictures and statuses calling for similar on individual pages—including the encouragement of a genocide of Palestinians on a Facebook status of an official in the Jewish Home party, part of the ruling coalition in the Knesset, which received 5000 ‘likes’.

“I saw many posts from Israeli people about wanting Israel to “Kill Arabs” who are living in Gaza,” Lara told Mondoweiss. “I think their government and military have the same principles. They see Gaza as a terrorist land. They don’t differentiate between civilians and militants. I feel sorry for saying this because I’ve never thought about Israeli civilians the way they think about us. I see that we’re all humans. But they seem to hate us.”

With Israel gearing up for a possible ground invasion, having called up 40,000 reservists, Ali fears that in the coming days things will only become more dangerous.

“I think it will get worse. It will be more mass destruction and massacres,” Ali said. “Maybe the soldiers will come in, I’m not sure but that would be so bloody and the war would get worse.”

These young Gazans are all part of the Internet generation. Like most young people their age, they follow what the world is saying about their country, they are aware of the news around the world, and they know whether people care about the images coming out of Gaza. Like any millennial would in their situation, Ali, Dalia and Lara watch from Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as people gather together around the globe to protest against the Israeli assault on Gaza, but as the death toll continues to rise, the frustration with the outside world, continues to build.

“As long as the whole world keeps watching and condemning without acting, nothing will be changed,” Dalia said. “It’s getting worse. Many people from different countries are standing with us and praying for Gaza. But I’m fed up with people and governments who watch and condemn what’s going on here without acting. Shame on everyone who has the power to change something and is still sitting silent, and who condemn what’s going on here without acting. Shame on everyone who has the power to change something and is still sitting silent. So I call on everyone, wherever you are in the world, it is time to mobilize for Gaza. Please do what your governments don’t do, please act, please boycott Israel.”

Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk. Matthew Vickery is an independent multimedia journalist based in the Middle East with a focus on the Levant and Iraq. Follow Matthew on Twitter: @MMVickery

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43 Responses

  1. Kay24 on July 14, 2014, 4:44 pm

    I agree with what Dalia says, enough of the condemnations and talk of support. Time Israel was treated like a pariah for these crimes. The US has tried brokering peace, bribing the Israelis with jet fighters, and who knows what else, and still they make every damn excuse they can to reject peace, and it looks like they prefer to keep stealing land for their stinking illegal settlements.
    There is nothing left to do. If the world really wants to help these long suffering people, and give them back their rights and freedom, they have to boycott, divest and sanction this rogue nation. There is nothing else anyone can do if the criminals are not interested in peace.

    • benedict on July 14, 2014, 5:20 pm


      Unfortunately that’s what happens when terrorist overtake a civilian area and turn it into a war zone. Things would have been a lot different without the extremist ideology of the Muslim brothers who prefer idiotic religious goals – such as “destroy israel” – over the welfare of there own people.

      As an Israeli I can telly ou simply: if you even THREATEN me and my family with rockets I will punch back with everything I have. No hamas rockets – no Israeli counter attacks.

      If the hamas chooses to behave irresponsibly perhaps Palestinians should replace them with better leadership. They definitely deserve better.

      • CDWard on July 14, 2014, 10:46 pm

        As the German High Commander in Warsaw I can tell you simply: If the Jews in the Ghetto even THREATEN me and my men I will punch back with everything I have.

      • justicewillprevail on July 15, 2014, 5:41 am

        Don’t you think Palestinians have the same right to ‘punch back’? Israeli terrorism is far worse, of a far greater magnitude and relentless. Apparently you have no qualms with the Likud aim to ‘destroy’ Palestine. Palestine deserves a much better Israel which doesn’t terrorise them, dispossess and murder them.

      • benedict on July 15, 2014, 9:24 am


        Gazans can do whatever they feel like doing. But actions have consequences. If you decide to use violence against me don’t play surprised when I hit you back as strong as I can. And if you realize that I am tougher, stronger, and more resilient then you, then perhaps opting for a different path then violence is a VERY good idea.

        The most pernicious and dangerous illusion spread by hamas is there idea of “free Palestine” under Islamic rule from the sea to the river. Won’t happen today. Won’t happen tomorrow. Instead of bashing your head against the wall, get rid of the useless idea (who in the world once hamas religious primitive rule anyway?). become practical and move forward.

        The idea of “Palestine ha’shlema” cost the Palestinians to much. Enough.

      • jenin on July 15, 2014, 8:32 pm

        It’s simply sad to see people lose their humanity to the extent Benedict had displayed. This is what happens when people dehumanize each other. Unfortunately Benedict is so far gone s/he can’t even consider the despair behind the voices of these three gazans. Or maybe s/he didn’t read the article and is just trolling

      • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 7:59 am

        Of course the world can see clearly how responsibly Israel is behaving.
        Despite the words Palestinians may say, looks like the one doing the destroying is Israel. How many dead now? That would be nearly 200 Palestinians, 77 percent being CIVILIANS, over a thousand injured.
        Responsible? How many Israeli deaths? NONE. That shows which side is behaving responsibly. If the IDF was among the Israeli civilians in their homes, would it be okay for Hamas to send in precision bombs into those homes that hold many civilians, or is that brutality only for the Palestinians to endure? Perhaps if not for those rockets, more Palestinians would have been killed. Give us a break here, it takes some chutzpah for apologists to come here and play the victim, and try to convince us that Israel is defending itself. What about the rights of the Palestinian people to defend themselves? Yeah, I guess goyim are not entitled to that eh? Answer this, do you think Israel does not provoke by blatantly stealing land and building illegal settlements? Have you taken a look at the shrinking map of Palestine? If someone stole my land, controlled my water, destroyed by orchards, collectively punished my people, killed my family, and held us under a brutal occupation, I would want to send them MORE than rockets. Israel is the bigger terrorist, it has the deadly weapons, power over the Palestinians, and kills more civilians, even babies. Get real.

      • American on July 15, 2014, 2:01 pm

        benedict says:

        ”As an Israeli I can telly ou simply: if you even THREATEN me and my family with rockets I will punch back with everything I have.”>>>

        The mouse roars.
        What if a real army threatens you?
        What have you got mouse?

  2. lysias on July 14, 2014, 4:54 pm

    Toys on which they conduct experiments: Is Gaza a testing ground for experimental weapons?:

    Concerns about Israel’s use of non-conventional and experimental weapons in the Gaza Strip are growing, with evasive comments from spokesmen and reluctance to allow independent journalists inside the tiny enclave only fueling speculation.

    The most prominent controversy is over the use of shells containing white phosphorus, which causes horrific burns when it comes into contact with skin. Under international law, phosphorus is allowed as a smokescreen to protect soldiers but treated as a chemical weapon when used against civilians.

    The Israeli army maintains that it is using only weapons authorized in international law, though human rights groups have severely criticized Israel for firing phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza.

    But there might be other unconventional weapons Israel is using out of sight of the watching world.

    One such munition may be DIME, or dense inert metal explosive, a weapon recently developed by the United States army to create a powerful and lethal blast over a small area.

    The munition is supposed to still be in the development stage and is not yet regulated. There are fears, however, that Israel may have received a green light from the US military to treat Gaza as a testing ground.

    “We have seen Gaza used as a laboratory for testing what I call weapons from hell,” said David Halpin, a retired British surgeon and trauma specialist who has visited Gaza on several occasions to investigate unusual injuries suffered by Gazans.

    “I fear the thinking in Israel is that it is in its interests to create as much mutilation as possible to terrorize the civilian population in the hope they will turn against Hamas.”

    Gaza’s doctors, including one of the few foreigners there, Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian specialist in emergency medicine working at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, report that many of the injuries they see are consistent with the use of DIME.

    Wounds from the weapon are said to be distinctive. Those exposed to the blast have severed or melted limbs, or internal ruptures, especially to soft tissue such as the abdomen, that often lead to death.

    This Dr. Gilbert was speaking about this use of DIME this morning on Democracy Now!.

    • justicewillprevail on July 14, 2014, 5:08 pm

      Sadly, it doesn’t take a genius to draw the obvious parallels with an earlier era of scientific experiments upon human beings who had no value to their captors.

      • lysias on July 15, 2014, 11:35 am

        Since I had just finished watching a five-hour documentary on Auschwitz, with detailed discussion of the deeds of Dr. Mengele, that was my thought exactly.

      • Justpassingby on July 15, 2014, 12:04 pm


        Whats the reason for watching a 5 hr documentary?

      • lysias on July 15, 2014, 5:46 pm

        I happen to be interested in history, and Auschwitz — Inside the Nazi State is a particularly well-done documentary.

    • Walid on July 14, 2014, 5:49 pm

      lysias, DIME was used in Gaza in 2006 and documented by an Italian team. It was also used in 2006 in the war on Lebanon. Palestinians and Lebanese have always been the guinea pigs for the testing of American and Israeli arms.

  3. Citizen on July 14, 2014, 6:48 pm

    US investors in war industry love it; Palestinians are the cheapest lab rats. The 1% around the world love Israel the same way they appreciate nimble Chinese, Paki Hindu digital poverty fingers and fruit-picking Mexicans illegally in USA.

  4. wes on July 14, 2014, 7:29 pm

    lara says

    ” They don’t differentiate between civilians and militants. I feel sorry for saying this because I’ve never thought about Israeli civilians the way they think about us. I see that we’re all humans. But they seem to hate us.””

    i swear goosebumps,i got goosebumps when i read this.just makes me wanna hug this poor little lamb.

  5. traintosiberia on July 14, 2014, 10:44 pm

    No not toys . You are according to the Zionist , animals,unclean,death worshipping ,future terrorists —
    ““A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently of the Palestinians. “They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”

    Ayelet Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, on her Facebook page June 30 posted an article written 12 years ago by the late Uri Elitzur, a leader in the settler movement and a onetime adviser to Netanyahu, saying the essay is as “relevant today as it was then.” The article said in part: “They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”Chris Hedges

    Then I read ” Judaism is a light of the nations”( Isa 42:6)

  6. Naftush on July 15, 2014, 2:02 am

    The authors claim that Israel targets civilian homes “due to Hamas’ alleged practice of launching its homemade rockets from civilian areas.” False. Israel targets specific homes because active belligerents operate from them, making them no longer civilian.

    • Basilio on July 15, 2014, 3:59 am

      Could you kindly explain how a cafe showing a World Cup was a place Hamas was operating from on a beach when it was bombed? We’re not that naive to accept that thousands of homes are all places Hamas has operated from? If you really believe that, then you might as well believe in Santa Claus.

      • MHughes976 on July 15, 2014, 4:13 am

        Think what you can conceal under a barrel of coffee, Basilio! There is no end to the sneakiness of some people.

      • seafoid on July 15, 2014, 4:17 am

        The world cup is a symbol of common humanity so it’s not acceptable to the IDF. Palestinians might get ideas.

      • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 11:53 am

        True, they are not worthy of watching the world cup. They do not deserve any happiness. They must be punished for indulging in this luxury, that only Israelis are entitled to.

    • justicewillprevail on July 15, 2014, 5:44 am

      Calling disabled people and geriatric hospital patients, not to mention young children, ‘active belligerents’ is a new triumph for Israel’s gormless PR hasbrats.

    • traintosiberia on July 15, 2014, 2:33 pm

      This war is not anything new that is being experienced by Gazan . Its a more or less daily experience for last 50 yrs. Palestininans are targeted while crossing check points,borders,while trying to fish,or even play soccer or go to beaches or try to harvest or plant or build homes on destroyed pieces of properties . During those situations, Palestinians walk away and don not offer physical resistances. War is won by Israel without firings shot. But it is still a war as was the war on Jews by Hitler.

  7. seafoid on July 15, 2014, 4:15 am

    110million shekels per day/$32m is what Israel is spending on the bombing.
    I wonder what the cost of the damage to palestinian infrastructure is. Israel always takes out stuff alongside the carnage and then asks why Gaza isn’t Singapore.

    • Daniel Rich on July 15, 2014, 5:41 am

      @ seafoid,

      Shooting down a purported Hamas UAV with a $1mil Patriot missile [courtesy of the US masses] can only be executed, because there shall and will be [courtesy of the US masses] ‘replacement.’

    • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 8:03 am

      Their attitude and arrogance stinks. I have seen many hasbarats, show contempt for the Palestinians, stating they are like animals and getting nowhere. Disgusting.
      The Palestinians live under such difficult conditions, in open prison, and are unable to even send their good out of the territories, nor able to move about freely, blockaded, and they expect them to flourish.

      • seafoid on July 15, 2014, 8:33 am

        Same as Nazis gawking at the ghettoes in Poland. Never look at the system, just the resulting poverty.

  8. ritzl on July 15, 2014, 4:34 am

    200 dead in Gaza is the equivalent of 30,000 dead in the US. That’s 10 WTCs/national tragedies or half the US combat dead in 13 years of Viet Nam. In ONE week!

    Israel has done this to Gaza THREE times in the last six years. You cannot visit that much death on helpless people and still claim to be human beings.

    Note to World: Time to try another way, and mean it.

    • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 8:04 am

      The problem is, they are not trying. Most probably the US blocks any effort by the international community, to change the status quo. When Israel barks, the US become lambs.

      • seafoid on July 15, 2014, 8:35 am

        Yes but where is it all going for Israel? They go through the motions with no idea of the end stage. They are as much trapped as their victims.

      • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 9:00 am

        Until they have got rid of the Galilee of Arabs, seafoid. Every hill top will be taken, or it will go to the Palestinians. Until then.

      • seafoid on July 15, 2014, 9:14 am

        They don’t have the luxury of time. Israel has this desperately clingy need to be understood, like a paedophile who is proud of his crimes but can’t get out of bed without 50 Facebook likes.

  9. Justpassingby on July 15, 2014, 8:09 am

    Turkey: Israel no better than the nazis in their war against Gaza

  10. Theo on July 15, 2014, 9:10 am

    Following the events in Israel/Palestine one gets the impression that neither side really wants peace. Israeli settlers, about 600,000 of them now, will never except a return of the west bank to a palestinian state, radical elements with the palestinians trive on a war like situation. Arabs shout: ” kill all jews”. jews shout and write on the walls: “kill all arabs”! How can the world expect that these two ever settle in peace, meanwhile millions on both side suffer, the ones without power to stop this madness.
    Netanyahu and his compatriots doesn´t want peace and do everything to sabotage any move that could lead to it. We still do not know for sure who killed the three young israelis, the Hamas denies it, however burning alive a young palestinian in revenge is more than barbaric. One should remember the Lavon affair in 1954 or the attack on the SS Liberty in 1967 to realize that Israel will attack and kill even its closest friends and allies if it furthers its aims.
    In my opinion the only way we will ever have peace in the ME is when the west stops all support for Israel, political, military and financial and forces it to return to its borders of 1967, taking all settlers with him. Hamas is a brainchild of Israel, they promoted it to split the palestinian defenses against the colonial occupation and surpression, an old trick, divide and conquer. This organisation, under other political situation, would be called freedomfighters, like the french, italian, soviet or yugoslav partisans who fought the nazi invaders.

  11. Citizen on July 15, 2014, 9:13 am

    Anybody else notice how many movie reviews of the new monkey film from Hollywood have used the Israel-Palestinian analogy? Reminds me of what M. Begin said about goys, i.e., they are made to serve Jews. And then, all that religious talk about high and low souls.

  12. aiman on July 15, 2014, 9:22 am

    Chris Hedges’ recent one on Israel:

    Notes the importance of BDS. Chomsky is irrelevant to the future of Palestinian rights, because effectively strategised BDS and arms embargo are the only thing that can prevent the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The time is running out, Israel is running without brakes in a genocidal direction.

    • jenin on July 15, 2014, 8:43 pm

      Thanks for pointing out that article, aiman. It’s fantastic, as of course is Chris hedges. I’ve read dozens of articles on the topic over the last few days; IMO this is the best one

  13. lysias on July 15, 2014, 10:59 am

    Somewhat OT, Norman Finkelstein on Democracy Now! this morning called for the UN to impose sanctions on Israel until it ends its illegal occupation.

  14. seafoid on July 15, 2014, 1:05 pm

    An Israeli with 10 jewish fingernails has been killed at erez. I wonder how many Palestinians will die in revenge.

  15. DICKERSON3870 on July 15, 2014, 8:24 pm

    RE: ‘We’re Like Toys for Them’: Young Gazans speak about Operation Protective Edge


    Please make a tax-deductible donation payable to The Gaza Mental Health Foundation Inc.

    Your gift will be sent to The Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which is providing vital mental health support to the traumatized families of the Gaza Strip.
    Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
    To donate, please print out brochure or send a check with your name, address, telephone number, and email address to:

    Gaza Mental Health Foundation
    PO Box 380273
    Cambridge MA 02238

    SOURCE: Gaza Mental Health Foundation –

    Bill Slaughter, President
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