From Mondoweiss, November 16, 2012

A View on a street and surrounding buildings devastated by an Israeli military airstrike which occurred on 14 November in the neighborhood of Tal el Hawa, city of Gaza, seen on
November 16, 2012. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills

I’m writing this from near the Gaza seaport from where I can see smoke rising around me from the bombs that fall down on the Gaza Strip from the Israeli planes above. Words fail me. Despite the limits to life from Israel’s five-year siege on Gaza some kind of normality is attempted in Gaza. How could it be any other way when the majority of the population are children? Do families have any other option?

Yet this civilian population, most now holed out in the dense, tight refugee camp buildings and urban centres of Gaza are facing the wrath of some of the most powerful aerial warfare available to humankind. As I write the constant bombardments consume my senses and shake the entirety of my surroundings. For the over 300 people injured or killed so far by the Israeli F16s, drones and gunboat shellings the loss for them and their families will never relent.

I can barely write a sentence and more news — “six injuries from a bombing in Sheikh Radwan, children among them, including a 4-year old child who was playing in the street,” “Elderly man just killed in Zaytoun neighbourhood, with 4 injuries.” Friends have received text messages from the Israeli Occupation Forces saying in arabic, “Stay away from Hamas the second phase is coming.”

Twelve-year-old Abdullah Samouni, who I teach English to in Zeitoun camp called me a little while ago. “We’re really scared”, he said. “We moved to get away to Zeitoun and went to our grandmother’s house. Take care of yourself, there are so many bombs.” Abdullah lost his father, and his four-year-old brother was shot, when Israeli soldiers entered their house in the land offensive of Israel’s Cast Lead attacks on Gaza over the new year of 2009. In three days, Abdullah was injured and lost 29 members of his extended family. His mother Zeinat has moved her seven remaining children to a town further north, but bombs are raining down all over the Gaza Strip.

“We moved everyone out but bombing is so bad here. All of the kids are screaming. Whenever an attack happens they come and hold me. The children remembered what happened before, they think only the worst.” said Zeinat who like so many has had to put aside her own fears and tragedy to show strength for her children.

Seeing Western media continue to distort the picture of what is happening here, just as they did during the massacres that took place during Israel’s Cast Lead attacks, and any other offensive described as “retaliation” made my call with Abdullah all the more angry. This year from January 1st until November 6th this year 71 Palestinians were killed and 291 injured in Gaza, while no Israelis were killed and 19 were injured according to the United Nations. How many Western media outlets offer proportionate time to Palestinian victims as to Israeli victims? [1]

Just as the Israeli forces initiated the pretence for the Cast Lead attacks, this time the Israeli army’s initial attack took place on Thursday November 8th with an Israeli incursion into Gaza, in Abassan village. They opened fire indiscriminately and leveled areas of Palestinian land. The shooting from Israeli military vehicles seriously wounded 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa while he was playing football with friends, and he died the next day of his injuries.

On the 10th November, Palestinian resistance fighters attacked an Israeli army jeep patrolling the border with Gaza, injuring 4 Israeli occupation soldiers.

Israeli forces then targeted civilian areas, killing two more teenagers playing football, then bombed the gathering that was mourning their deaths, killing two more. Five civilians were killed and two resistance fighters, including three children. Fifty-two others, including six women and twelve children were wounded. For Gaza to be under such attack, could anyone doubt that resistance forces would fire back? Once Israeli forces had carried out further bombardments, one of which was the extra-judicial killing of the Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, the circle was complete. [2]

Since then during the last three days 29 Palestinians have been killed and three Israelis. The majority of Palestinian victims were civilians of which six were children. More than 270 have been injured of whom 134 are children and women. The vast majority are civilians. The number is rapidly rising.

Even this comparison is detached from the context that Gaza is under Israeli military occupation, illegal according to United Nations Resolutions and a five-year blockade, deemed collective punishment by all major human rights organisations, violating article 33 of the Geneva Conventions. The right to resist enforced military occupation by a foreign force is also enshrined in international law, a right that should be self-evident.

Which explained the jubilance from Palestinians in Gaza when rumours spread that one of the rockets which usually hit open land, this time brought down an Israeli F16 fighter jet, the likes of which had carried out over 600 airstrikes all over the Gaza Strip these last three days.

Indeed, our visits to hospitals didn’t take long to convince us that these Israeli aerial attacks and shelling from gunships have hit many civilian areas.

At the main Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza City, every ten minutes more people arrived in ambulances; an elderly man, a young man, a child, two more children. Once leaving the injured, the stretcher gets a new towel and is sprinted back out for the courageous paramedics of the Palestinian Red Crescent to go back out into the danger zones, to find the latest victims of attacks.

There weren’t many beds free in the intensive care unit where some had brain injuries from embedded shrapnel. While we were there, rushing in came a tiny child, ten month old girl, Haneen Tafesh. She had very little colour or life in her and was rolled on to the hospital bed. She had suffered a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull. Later that evening we learned that she hadn’t survived.

Talking to the Director General of Al-Shifa, Dr Mithad Abbas he asked, “We know Israel has the most precision and advanced weaponry. So why are all these children coming in?” He stated that if casualties increased there would be a severe lack basic medicines and supplies, such as antibiotics, IV fluid, anaesthesia, gloves, catheters, external fixators, Heparin, sutures, detergents and spare parts for medical equipment. What’s more electricity blackouts would hit hard, without enough finance for suitable fuel for generators.

Once again as I write five huge blasts from nearby shake our building and our senses. The bombings have progressively escalated, especially once night falls. Jabaliya refugee camp, Shejaiya, Rafah and Meghazi I learned had been under a continuous barrage. One blast came down during an interview with a Canadian radio station which helped the audience to understand more than I could.

A 13-year-old girl, Duaa Hejazi was hit in Sabra neighbourhood as she walked back home with family. Shrapnel was embedded all over her upper body. “I say, we are children. There is nothing that is our fault to have to face this.” She told us. “They are occupying us and I will say, as Abu Omar said, ‘If you’re a mountain, the wind won’t shake you.’ We’re not afraid, we’ll stay strong.”

And so the night goes on. The near future of Gaza is uncertain. The fates of everyone here is uncertain. Which people now preparing to go to their beds, will have their lives turned upside down by the loss of a loved one these next few days. I know some of the warmest people here that I feel strongly attached to, that you would instantly care for if you met them. The complete madness of this violence makes me wonder what we have done to ourselves, how do we allow humanity to manifest itself in this way.

Outside you can make a difference. I’m asking you, because the Israeli army will not empathise with the people they are looking down on through their cockpit windows. Nor will their politicians. But you can empathise and you can act. The normal ways but multiplied by ten. Small and big efforts to create massive international mobilisation are the only way to reduce the extent of the horror and loss facing the Palestinians of Gaza.

The Israeli cabinet has approved the call-up of 75,000 reservists compared to the 10,000 reservists called up for the massacres during Israel’s air and land offensive in Cast Lead. There is not much time.

For further information from Gaza, please contact:

Adie Mormech (British)

[1] link to unispal.un.orgNSF/0/8F184E577967FC7285257AB40057A012

[2] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/how-israel-shattered-gaza-truce-leading-escalating-death-and-tragedy-timeline

By Adie Mormech, Gaza City
Tuesday 7th August
Thousands of Palestinians gathered for evening prayer in front of the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City Monday evening, in memory of the 16 Egyptian soldiers killed the previous night. The gunmen remain unidentified, although Western media have been quick to point fingers at Salafi groups linked to Gaza.
Banners read, “Condolences to the martyred Egyptian soldiers” and “warmest greetings to the Egyptian army.”
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh led the prayer and “Taraweeh”,  asserting, “The national security of Egypt and the national security of Palestine are one and the same. Our government is fully prepared to cooperate with the Egyptian security forces to uncover the circumstances behind this incident”.
Whatever “the circumstances”, the attacks have already ensured the Egyptian government’s closure of the Rafah border, sealing 1.6 million Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip despite recent overtures from the newly elected Mursi government.
However, while new approaches to security in the Sinai and through the Gaza tunnels will doubtless occur, the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood left a statement on their website that for once spared Gazans the blame:
This crime can be attributed to the Mossad, which has been seeking to abort the revolution since its inception and the proof of this is that it gave instructions to its zionist citizens in Sinai to depart immediately a few days ago.” [1]
While by no means untypical of the Arab street to assume that all attacks lead to Mossad, the mere possibility is almost never suggested in Western mainstream media. For Gaza filmmaker and youth activist Mohammed Fares Majdalawi, the West’s swallowing of the Israeli mantra, “blame Gaza”, is just as frustrating as the assumption that the much vaunted Israeli secret services never carry out black ops. 
“Evidently there is no gain whatsoever for Palestinians to kill 16 Egyptians just when relations seemed to be warming with Egypt. People should be aware of Israel’s history of undercover operations in Egypt and the fact that they need to keep Egypt and Palestinians divided, the same way they have divided our own political factions. These should be seen as normal tactics for such a militarised and paranoid state with so much investment in its intelligence networks.”
Certainly Palestinians have a right to be cynical about attacks in the Sinai. In August of 2011 an attack on a bus that killed 7 Israelis was immediately pinned on a Gaza group the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), who denied any involvement.
“This is not speculation, not conjecture, not joining the dots. They are sure these terrorists left Gaza”, said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev at the time.
Israel immediately sent in devastating raid after raid throughout Gaza, causing huge destruction to government and NGO offices, water and sewage pumps and a psychotherapy clinic. In total 27 Palestinians were killed including PRC official Khaled Shath and his two year old son Malek.
Following the bombardment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “We have killed the heads of the organization that sent the terrorists.” [2]
As the attacks unfolded Colonel Avital Leibovitz then denied that Israel blamed the PRC for the Eilat attack and suggested the Gaza evidence was based on “some of the findings that were from the bodies of the terrorists, and they are using, for example, Kalashnikov bullets and Kalashnikov rifles which are very common in Gaza.”[3] (Kalashnikovs are the most popular guns in the world, with more than 75 million produced since the Second World War.)
Two months later Yediot’s Alex Fishman published the leaked main findings of an IDF investigation into the incident. They explicitly state under the headline of “mistaken enemy”, that all of the attackers lived in Sinai and members of a group the Israeli security apparatus referred to as “Sinawis”, not from Gaza. [4]
Israeli intelligence was just speculation, it was just conjecture, it was just joining the dots.
Egyptians too may also have cause for scepticism, for Israel hasn’t been shy in the past from meddling in Egypt’s affairs for political gain over the Palestinians.
Operation Susannah was an Israeli covert operation in 1954 uncovered by Egyptian intelligence in what went on to be known as “the Lavon Affair”, named after the Israeli Defence Minister deemed responsible Pinhas Lavon. According to historian Shabtai Teveth, the assignment was “To undermine Western confidence in the existing [Egyptian] regime by generating public insecurity and actions to bring about arrests, demonstrations, and acts of revenge, while totally concealing the Israeli factor. The team was accordingly urged to avoid detection, so that suspicion would fall on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communists, ‘unspecified malcontents’ or ‘local nationalists.’” [5]
In July 1954 the terrorist cell  that was formed firebombed a post office in Alexandria, bombed the libraries of the U.S. Information Agency in Alexandria and Cairo and a British-owned theatre. Although the plan was exposed when the eleven agents of Egyptian Jewish origin were arrested, the attempt helped to provoke mistrust of the previously settled Jewish community in Egypt which encouraged more emigration to Israel.
Egyptian journalist and analyst with Egyptian daily Ahram Online Salma Shukrallah said that the attacks certainly played into Israel and its allies’ hands. “If it is true that Mursi was attempting to have better relations with Gaza, his attempt would probably be fought by the SCAF as well as Israel of course and the attack’s timing would then have been “perfect” for them as well… I think that even if Mossad is not behind these acts directly, I share the view that Israel is the only beneficiary and thus had at least let it happen.”
Salma expects Egypt to follow media pressure in Egypt and revise the Camp David treaty to bring more security to the Sinai, but never held out much hope in suggestions that Mursi would open up the Rafah border or normalise relations with Gaza. “Even though the brotherhood claim Mursi was actually going to take steps to better relations with Gaza before the attack changed his plans, I do not believe that. At the moment I just fear that relations with Gaza may worsen unless political movements shift the discourse.”
Mohammed is like most Gazans, facing yet again the prospect of more restrictions and more Egyptian involvement in the five-year blockade.
When I first heard, my feeling was that I was very sad, like many here. Then you get a resigned feeling that we Palestinians would suffer the consequences, that the finger of blame would as usual be pointed at us, our entire population”, said Mohammed.
“I hope to travel out of Gaza soon for only the second time in my life. After the news I went immediately to register because I now expect lots of the usual delays. I was told they were not even accepting registrations today. Now like so many here I may have my dreams of travelling broken by the siege, made worse by events totally beyond my control.”
This dismal prophecy was re-affirmed by Salma Shukrallah’s understanding of Egyptian sentiment:
“People are in shock. Anti-Palestinian sentiments are rapidly on the increase unfortunately and now the state is better able to justify the border closure and the state’s failure to end the siege as many have been demanding here.
“Others in Egypt are trying to shift the discourse from anti-Palestinian to anti-Israeli, but somehow the two in Egypt can go hand in hand (people can hate Israel but also fear the Palestinians).”
Israel‘s foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, denied the involvement of any Israeli agency, saying, “Even the person who says this when he looks at himself in the mirror does not believe the nonsense he is uttering.”
But can Israel have it both ways? The Mossad is famous for its secret operations, but when the benefits of some very well coordinated major operations are so great, for how long can it expect the world to assume that it isn’t carrying any out?
For Gazans a lot of the whodunnits are meaningless. Soon murders will be announced by the Israeli perpetrators. F16s or Drones will be in the sky, bombs will fall again, the screams, the dust, the sirens, the missile fragment with “Made in America” on it.  Expectations of justice are not high in these parts.
[5] Ben-Gurion’s Spy, Columbia University Press, 1996, p. 81

From Adie in Gaza:

Happy New Year from Gaza, on the second anniversary of ‘Operation Cast Lead’. Still so few internationals here who aren’t in their UN armoured vehicles or ICRC cars, for some more independent voices especially with the English language and cultural understanding. There’s a lot of work to do and there’s forever talk of a new war happening, during which times people on the ground reporting out will be important. I don’t think this will happen in the next month or so but come over here if you can.
Been working a lot with the International Solidarity Movement and the regular buffer-zone demonstrations,boycott divestment and sanctions with Gaza youth groups, teaching in the camps and some general reporting. We’re looking to make more video conferences between student groups here and University and solidarity groups in the UK and beyond.

The strength of everyone here is still inspiring, things are at a low point after so many years of holding firm regardless of the isolation, occupation and continuing atrocities. The more you stay here, the more you realise how real is the yearning for people to return to their place of origin. Over two thirds of the people in Gaza are UN registered refugees, with explicit narratives of how they were forced out of their 531 villages and 10 urban neighbourhoods bulldozed or emptied by the nascent Israeli army which made way for the Israeli State in 1948. The families of each house, each village, each town contained real people, with real memories and continuing grievances, exacerbated by decades of further loss and recently the 4 year Israeli siege (cooking gas shortage at the moment, still hardly any cement), ‘Operation Cast Lead’ that killed over 1400 and over 350 of their kids, shootings from the borders, power shortages (no electricity till 7pm today) not to mention some worrying signs with the internal situation at the moment.

I urge you to join the growing boycott divestment and sanction movement in an attempt to hold the Israeli regime to account, all these past crimes so far described, detailed and documented, but with no action taken whatsoever, and so the crimes will continue. If they think there will be no consequences and the carte blanche continues, people’s fears here of another massive attack on the Gaza population will doubtless come to fruition and the collective punishment of all Palestinians will continue.

I’d love to offer a happier note at New Year, but new year here is synonymous the 2 year anniversary of the bombings of Gaza so I’m giving you a couple of stories from here about children.

Adie x

Below is a recent account of a demo we were on a few days ago during which we learned more about the Hamdan family to whom tragedy struck 2 years  and 2 days ago.

And here is the story of what hit the Samouni family 2 years ago on the 3rd of January, and some of the hopes they have, (was in Red Pepper a couple of months ago). Amal Samouni who I saw today is still struggling with the shrapnel lodged in her skull from being buried in rubble for 3 days, she continues with worrying headaches and nosebleeds – the last her mother was telling me hit 4 days ago. But here is Amal, Nour, Mona Samouni who lost 29 members of their extended family out at the beach in happier times

The Story of Lama, Ismail, Haia, as Beit Hanoun Demonstration Commemorates 2 years since the Gaza attacks

30th December, 2010

A demonstration commemorating the beginning of “Operation Cast Lead” was held Tuesday in the Gazan city of Beit Hanoun. Families of victims were in attendance, as were 5 International Solidarity Movement activists. Two years have passed since the Israeli attacks on Gaza, which killed over 1400 people in just 23 days. The vast majority of victims were civilians, including 350 children, according to the United Nations and other major human rights organizations.

The Local Initiative demonstration began at the railway street in Beit Hanoun, near some of the most horrendous attacks which occurred during the land, air and sea bombardment of Gaza. The group of around 40 continued into the ‘buffer zone’ to within 100m of the Israeli border, holding flags and photos of children killed two years ago. During the 23-day attack, none of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants (including 800,000 children) were safe.

Beit Hanoun was not spared this horror, and stories from the attacks continue to haunt survivors. Abed Hamdan carried a banner with pictures of his youngest brother and two youngest sisters, Ismail (9), Haia (12) and Lama (4). While marching towards the border, demonstrators stopped at a crossroads with al-Seka Street. At approximately 7:45am on 30 December 2008, Haia, Ismail and Lama were taking rubbish to this intersection when they were hit by two missiles launched from an F16 fighter jet. According to the children’s uncle, their bodies were found in three different locations, each about 50 meters away from where the missiles hit. Relatives ran with Lama and Haias’ bodies to Beit Hanoun Hospital, but the girls had died at the scene. Ismail sustained shrapnel wounds to his abdomen and chest, and had several broken bones. He died the following day in Al Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City. According to witnesses, the Hamdan children had been directly targeted by the Israeli, US-made F16 jet.

The demonstration proceeded past another collapsed building, where a father there described how he was the lone survivor of his family after the building was bombed. The group continued to march into the buffer-zone[1],the area of land near to the Israeli border where attacks have continued, injuring and killing countless farm-workers and rock-collectors since and the threat depriving many of their livelihoods. They gathered under watch from the Erez crossing control towers from where Israel snipers have frequently shot at the demonstrators and Local Initiative coordinator, Saber Al Zaaneen spoke about the devastation still felt by the Israeli army’s attacks 2 years before.

The demonstration passed a collapsed building, where a father described being the lone survivor from his family after the building was bombed. The group then proceeded into the ‘buffer zone’, the strip of land along the Israeli border where attacks continue, injuring and killing countless farmers and rubble-collectors and depriving many of their livelihoods. Demonstrators gathered in the ‘zone’ for speeches, under surveillance from the Erez Crossing watchtowers where Israeli snipers frequently shoot at demonstrators.

Local Initiative coordinator Saber Al Zaaneen spoke about the devastation still felt two years after the Israeli military’s attacks. “We’re here to reject the Israeli-imposed ‘buffer-zone’ that takes away so much of our farmland, and in defiance of the 23-day Zionist aggression 2 years ago, horrors once again visited upon us the Palestinians of Gaza, told to the world by the United Nations Goldstone Report.[2] The burning and bleeding under the rubble of the killing from the air, land and sea will never beat us. Long live Palestine, our steadfastness is strengthened by the memory or our loved ones, the hundreds of children murdered while the world watched on their television screens. We emphasize our legitimate right to resist occupation, and use all methods of struggle and fight until the end of Israel’s inhuman siege and bring our eventual liberation.”

International Solidarity Movement activist Adie Mormech expressed the urgency required for the international community and solidarity movements to act.

“The world is now aware of these well-documented crimes against humanity, the massacres, occupation, ethnic cleansing and siege of the Palestinian territories – all collective punishment[3] and serious violations of the 4th Geneva Convention. We cannot stand for this. We cannot allow Lama, Ismail and Haia to die with no justice to them or their family, or the families of the 1400 others massacred in the Israeli attacks. So where is the action? Where is the compensation? Where are the peacekeepers? Where are the sanctions on Israel? How many will they kill the next time, perhaps soon, if nothing is done about the 4 year medieval siege of Gaza or the murder of hundreds of Palestinian children? It is up to international civil society to do all they can and to boycott, divest and sanction from the Israeli Apartheid regime.”

The demonstrators returned to Beit Hanoun, with talk of more violence ahead and the prospects of another impending Israeli assault on the Gaza. Israel’s blockade of Gaza continues unabated, despite being denounced by the European Union, The Red Cross and all major human rights groups as collective punishment, illegal according to article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.

On 2nd December 2010, 22 international organizations including Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Medical Aid for Palestinians produced the report Dashed Hopes, Continuation of the Gaza Blockade[4] stating that there had been no material change to the devastating effects of the siege, and calling for international pressure on Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade.

The Hamdan family remains in ruins from the loss of their 3 youngest children. When their father, Talal Hamdan, spoke of their deaths in his home, there was still a quiet disbelief in his voice at what had happened to them. The family’s sorrow is unending.

“We’re just a simple Palestinian family”, Talal said, sitting in the garden of his home which is two kilometers from the ‘buffer zone’. Before the war, he and his wife spent their evenings watching the children playing in the garden, in the spot where he sat. “There is no life anymore. The children are now usually nervous, argue a lot, my eldest son has given up work and my other son Abed has stopped bodybuilding for which he used to train for competitions.” The family finds it impossible to deal with the terrible loss. “Haja was such a smart girl,” her father remembers. “She was the first in her class, danced dabka, and was able to read the whole Qur’an.” For his remaining four daughters and two sons, a small sum of money initially came from the Palestinian government. One of his daughters received psychological help from Doctors without Borders. The help only lasted two months however, and only reached on of an entire community stricken with grief.

Talal and his wife continue to sit in front of their house in the evening, watching their garden. However their world is now very different, like many others in Palestine. When asked if he had a message for the world, Talal shook his head. “I just want people to know that they were innocent children being killed, who never did anything wrong in their lives”.


[1] http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_special_focus_2010_08_19_english.pdf

[2] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/12session/A-HRC-12-48.pdf

[3] http://gisha.org/UserFiles/File/publications/GazaClosureDefinedEng.pdf

[4] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_21083.pdf

For more information, or further contacts based in Gaza, contact Adie Mormech 00972 (0) 597717696

18 August 2010 | ISM Gaza

On Tuesday morning a demonstration in Gaza by Palestinian activists from Local Initiative Beit Hanoun, with four International Solidarity Movement volunteers and other international activists and journalists was met with live ammunition fired by the Israeli army.

Soldiers opened fire on protestors in the buffer zone in Beit Hanoun, near to the Erez crossing but the demonstration succeeded in moving a section of the barbed wire fence dividing land on the Gazan side of the border.

Saber Al Za’anin lead the chanting against the occupation, siege and attacks on Palestinian farmers in Beit Hanoun, accompanied by about thirty Palestinians, nine international activists and a press team.  The crowd marched towards the wall around the Erez crossing and one of the watch towers was open, evidently monitoring as the group approached the wall at about 100 metres.  The barren waste land all around was a result of forced neglect – the place has rendered out-of-bounds to Palestinian farmers due to the threat of Israeli snipers and shelling.

The buffer-zone is 300 metres wide and stretches along the entire border fence on the frontier with Israel. Violent attacks by the Israeli military on anyone in the area have recurred consistently – and frequently live ammunition has been used against peaceful demonstrators and even farmers harvesting crops. According to the Palestine Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) the violence of the ‘buffer zone’ enforcement makes over 30% of Gaza’s agricultural land cannot be worked without severe personal risk, causing the loss of livelihoods.

“This was the first time anyone has entered this area of Palestinian land since the beginning of the siege. Farmers had long ago given up working on it because of the dangers”, Saber told us. Ssoon after an attempt was made to remove the twisted barbed wire fence positioned by the Israel army to divide two Palestinian fields.

Israeli sniper on a control tower next to Erez crossing fired live rounds near to the protest

A sniper was stood on top of one of the checkpoint towers and once protestors started to move the fence, live bullets were fired within 5 – 10 metres of the demonstrators. Two further attempts were made to move the fence and the firing increased, dust clouds rising from the ground where bullets bounced around people’s feet.  The men and women on the demonstration returned for cover, fortunately without casualties except for some minor scratches from dragging the fence.

History of Attacks

In recent years the land around the Erez border has seen frequent attacks.

Kamel Iswalim’s family and extended family have had everything taken away by Israeli incursions in the 'buffer-zone'

Kamel Iswalim’s family and brothers’ families lived just 500 metres from the border, right next to where the demonstration began. There had always been regular incursions and every six month the families were corralled by the IDF and shut into one room for hours. In 2006, his brother’s small two-room house was demolished by bulldozers. In 2007, the whole area was shot at by tanks, and Kamel was hit in the leg. On 5th January 2009 during the bombardment and ground assault on Gaza that left over 1400 Palestinians dead, Kamel’s house was targeted.

Soldiers came to the front of the house at night, yelling in Hebrew that the family must leave the house within five minutes. They got shot at while coming out of their house, and they had no time to grab their belongings. Then they watched it being bulldozed, together with their five water wells and all of their trees. “Go to Gaza City and never come back again”, they were told by the soldiers. Kamel’s family lost everything they had and shortly after his father died from a heart attack from the ordeal.  In total, there were ten houses destroyed in that area along with Gaza’s sole agricultural college. They are unable to farm any of the 13 dunums of land they lost – they cannot even enter it anymore, let alone rebuild their house despite it being further than 300 metres from the Israeli border.

“I have five sons and five daughters”, Kamel said. “I can’t offer them anything. I have two sons in college, and don’t know where to get the money from to enable them to finish their studies.” The whole family is now living in a hut on land which is one kilometer from the border, and it doesn’t belong to them. But farming this land gives them a salary of 50 dollars per month – 50 dollars for a family of twelve. “When we were last shot at?” Kamel laughs sadly. “We are shot at pretty much every day, even here, one kilometer from the border.”  His neighbour Ab Dir Kadel Rahmed tried his luck and spent four years rebuilding his house, after it was destroyed in 2006. It lasted six months before the Israeli military demolished it again.

“I call the western governments to stand up and stop what’s going on here. It’s enough”, Kamel says. “Enough lives were destroyed, enough people were killed. It’s just enough.”

Palestinians moved the fence by themselves in the Israeli imposed buffer-zone, while the world does nothing to stop the illegal land expropriation

The Bomb

A derelict armoured vehicle was sent 20 metres through the air by the force of Friday night's 1.5 ton bomb

The bomb that hit the former Arafat Compound near the Gaza Beach road was said to be the biggest to hit Gaza City since the onslaught of ‘Cast Lead’: the 3 week Israeli bombing and ground attack of the Gaza Strip during the new year of 2009. In our visit to the bomb site yesterday, a graveyard for vehicles from previous bombardments, we saw the blast had blown an armoured car 20 metres from its original spot, sandwiching another car nearby.  Like most people, such as those sitting at my table at the beachside café about 800m away from the strike, I had not experienced a bomb before, least of all one that weighed about one and a half tons, leaving behind it a crater the size of a small house.

The crater left by the bomb around 4 metres deep and 5m accross

It’s important to know what it’s like beneath the bombs..  the ferocious sound of the impact, all your senses consumed by a shattering force – what had previously always been solid around you shuddering to the point of falling and crashing. The immediate reaction was that our café was under intensive attack and I think anyone within 2 km would have thought the same about the building they were inside. Under no circumstances do you expect anything of such phenomenal power to shake the entirety of your surroundings – some of the clientele near the beachside of the cafe jumped under the tables, having previously been sipping arabic coffee of smoking shisha. My instinct was to sprint out towards the exit, but then I backtracked to get my laptop! Other people were displaying similarly frantic illogical activity around the table.

It became clearer the hit was further down the beach and we looked out to see swarms of people heading in from the many tables by the sea. The electricity went out, and over the next 10 minutes most people had left the building. As the lights flickered to come on again, another round of facial panic circled our table, your body and thoughts on edge, no controlling the quickening heart beat and unsteady movement. While I could never completely empathise with 3 weeks of bombing and the effect such devastation would have on me or the Gazans who endured it in 2009, certain things I could understand a lot more:

Why children were so traumatized from the ordeal, the total lack of security to absolutely everything that had all your life been so secure, the moment of impact’s deafening noise and vibration, what bombing and bombs really mean beyond the banal warspeak headline, beyond the sober statistics, beyond words that could never convey the feeling of the impact, the feeling of the injured, the families of the dead. This is Gaza. This is Iraq. This is Afghanistan. It really isn’t about the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Insurgents, Hamas, Police Colleges, Training areas. It’s about the people under these bombs, under this military occupation, under this seige.

A woman, clearly confused comes looking for a family member at the El Shifa hospital on Friday night

Some things I don’t fully understand. How can such a destructive force be made on mass production and as Robert Fisk recently pointed out be so readily provided to this Israeli government? How can such investment around the world be made in devices so dedicated to the kind of mass murder that is incomprehensible until you feel one hitting the ground around you? Why Gaza, where people already live under a hermetic and suffocating siege, with no movement, very little hope for an independent livelihood, arable farmland made useless or unreachable by the regular Israeli shootings at the buffer-zone all along the Israel border, a population of mostly refugees, in refugee camp ghettos for 40 or 60 years yearning for a return to the land from where they were violently ejected by the nascent Israeli army, all those years passing and still no justice. They get these bombs too?

At least 17 injured by Friday night’s bomb, one ‘Hamas commander’ killed in Deir el Balah, like his wife and five children were killed during the ‘Cast Lead’ bombings over the new year of 2009. Those children like over 400 other children who perished under the bombs during those 3 weeks, and 3 more injured by last week’s bombing. The next day we saw a youth on a life support machine in the intensive care unit of Al Shifa hospital, shot with two others collecting scrap metals by Israeli occupation force snipers near the border early Saturday morning. Justice has no meaning for anyone near to what the Israeli judge, jury and executioner has in store.

We’re expecting more, noises of an escalation, Israeli F-16s are currently flying overhead.

Above – Flashback: Norwegian Doctor Mads Gilbert describing civilian casualties from Al Shifa hospital during Israel’s operation ‘Cast Lead’

One of the victims of the huge bomb dropped on Gaza City

30th July 2010, 11:30pm

Major bomb attack in central Gaza City

At around 11:30pm Friday night, ‘The Arafat Compound’ Police College was bombed by Israeli F-16s, in the area of ‘Al Montada’ injuring 17 people, 3 seriously. 3 children were also among the injured. We felt the enormous impact of the bomb in a nearby café, the massive explosion shaking buildings and smashing windows.

The edge of the scene later in the night from where the bomb had struck

 The power of the bomb was described by a Gazan resident as a rocket of over a ton in weight, the likes of which had not been seen frequently since the horrific three week bombing over the new year of 2009. As well as reports of other bombings near the Gaza City port there were also rocket attacks on Deir el Belah and Rafah.

Those first at the scene described building debris and burned out cars, one man had been severely injured to the eyes and head by shrapnel from the bomb.  

Another injured man is brought from an arriving ambulance at Al-Shifa Hospital

When we arrived at Shifa hospital there were scenes of chaos as loved ones were not allowed inside to visit while the patients were being treated, intermittently more of the injured arrived amidst a flood of waiting media. Others had arrived at the hospital with psychological trauma caused by the enormous impact of the bomb, some were confused such that they couldn’t describe whether they had an injury or not. Many had been reminded of the attacks during operation Cast Lead when 300 F-16 bomb attacks took place during the first 2 minutes of the campaign, the operations sent terror through the Gaza Strip and killed over 1400 people, including over 400 children.

Israel’s  attack late Friday night followed a rocket that landed in Askelon, Southern Israel that caused no injuries, suspected of being fired by small militant factions in Gaza.

As one such farmer Abu Thaima we work with told us, whose ethos we share: “It is not possible to leave our land. This land was full of orange and olive trees, and greenhouses – my house was here. This is our land, even if I’m killed, we will stay here forever.”

In the same way, you can rest assured that the growing international support for justice for Palestine will never leave Gaza, and will always be ready to help out with any action concerned with what is rightfully Palestinian.

July 29th 2010
Nahal Oz demonstration Wed. 28th July (Photo: TILDE DE WANDEL)

29 July 2010 | ISM Gaza  

Five International Solidarity Movement volunteers participated in a demonstration against the bufferzone near Nahal Oz border crossing, east of Gaza City on Wednesday (July 28th).

The march had a big turn out of over 200 people and was organised by the Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone, an umbrella group which includes organisations representing farmers and local people living near the border. Members of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), a grass-roots organisation heavily involved in the protests against the buffer-zone, waved prominent large white flags.

An Israeli army jeep and a large armoured Israeli vehicle were already in position as the demonstrators approached a ridge 150 metres from the fence, where they stood, waving flags and chanting well inside the ‘no go area’ or ‘buffer-zone’ unilaterally imposed by Israel, covering land 300m from the border fence along the entire frontier with Israel. Violent attacks by the Israeli military on anyone in the area have been a consistent occurrence – frequently live ammunition has been used against peaceful demonstrators and even farmers harvesting crops. According to the Palestine Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) the ‘buffer zone‘ contains over 30% of Gaza’s most useful arable land.

As the demonstration progressed three more jeeps and two tanks arrived. Five soldiers in firing positions were visible outside the vehicles.

Nahal Oz demonstration Wed. 28th July (Photo: TILDE DE WANDEL)

In the beginning of the demonstration the majority of participants marched to about 300 metres to the border where the speeches were made, with demonstrators that included a large group of women, carrying banners condemning the occupation and the siege.

Although in the previous demonstration in Nahal Oz the protesters there were heavily fired upon, this time the watching Israeli snipers did not fire. Some youths advanced to within 100m of the border fence, near to where 21 year old Ahmed Deeb was shot and killed by an explode-on-impact bullet or ‘dum dum’, at a Nahal Oz demonstration on the 28th April this year. That demonstration was non-violent as was Wednesday’s but the continuous use of live ammunition by the Israeli Occupation Forces has caused frequent deaths and numerous injuries for farmers and their families, scrap collectors and demonstrators.

Abu Walid Mahmoud Al-Zaq of the Popular Struggle Front and coordinator of the Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone was pleased with the turn-out and helped re-group the crowd when the demonstration had finished, fortunately without injuries.

He explained the importance of continuing to demonstrate despite the risk of live fire: “We will support the farmers who have to work their own land in the buffer-zone in spite of the regular violent attacks on them and their families – we will refuse to let the access to our land be controlled by the brutal policies of the Israeli Occupation Forces.” He also said he invites anyone who can to join a buffer-zone demonstration.

Nahal Oz demonstration Wed. 28th July (Photo: TILDE DE WANDEL)

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) report that the fertile farmland located around the buffer zone was in recent times the source of half of the food needs of Gaza’s population. Purely due to Israel’s siege of Gaza’s borders and their continuous attacks, farming has now become a very unproductive industry. Of the 175,000 dunams of cultivable land, PARC reported that 60 to 75,000 dunams have been destroyed during Israeli invasions and operations.

The level of destruction from the last Israeli war on Gaza alone accounted for the destruction of 35 to 60 percent of the agricultural industry, according to the UN and World Health Organization. Gaza’s sole agricultural college, in Beit Hanoun, was also destroyed. Oxfam notes that the combination of the Israeli war on Gaza and the buffer zone renders around 46 percent of agricultural land useless or unreachable.

Between January and April this year there have been 50 people injured and 14 killed in attacks on the buffer zone. In the past twelve months there have been at least 220 Israeli attacks with 116 coming since the beginning of 2010 (PCHR, as of April 30th).

Journalists killed by Israel while reporting in Gaza were remembered at an award ceremony in Gaza City yesterday; family members and co-workers received a plaque in their honour.

Abu Walid Mahmoud Al-Zaq of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), the group organising the event – on their 43rd anniversary – presented awards in memory of ten journalists.

One of those was James Miller, a British documentary-maker killed in Gaza in May 2003, whose award was accepted on his behalf by current members of the International Solidarity Movement working in Gaza.

One Palestinian journalist honoured was Fadel Shana’a, killed along with eight other noncombatants, by a flechette shell fired by an Israeli tank, clearly seen by Fadel’s own footage of the shell being fired before he was killed a few seconds later.

After the first missile that killed Fadel, the clearly marked Reuters vehicle in which he had been travelling took a direct hit from a second tank, killing two children and another civilian close by, and injuring twelve others, including five children. Wafa Abu Mezyed, 25, a Reuters sound technician, was also injured.

On 13 August 2009 the IDF closed an investigation into Fadel Shana’a’s death, without taking disciplinary action against the tank crew that his own video clearly showed killing him.

Collecting the award on his behalf was cameraman and friend Sameer Al-Boje of Palmedia.. He expressed happiness that there were organisations showing appreciation for – and raising the profile of – the invaluable and often perilous work of journalists and cameramen in the occupied territories.

cameraman Sameer Al-Boje of Palmedia receiving the award in honour of Fadel Shana'a

When asked of the dangers he continues to face in Gaza he told us, “They don’t outweigh the importance of getting the real story out as to what is happening to the Palestinians.”

“When I entered this job, I knew that Israel doesn’t care about Palestinian journalists and that they would be happy to shoot them – there is no protection for the media here in Gaza because Israel does not want us to get this kind of news out.”

Sameer called on international organisations to do more to ensure safety for journalists in the course of their important work: “I feel its dangerous every time I go out there. We are not provided with any freedom of the press and media rights taken for granted in other countries. This is what we need if we are to continue sending out the real news of what’s happening in Gaza.”

Like the Palestinian Red Crescent, Palestinian journalists continue to be the first at the scene in the most dangerous times in Gaza, and so much of the footage the world sees is recorded by people well aware that they could become the next news story or grim statistic following the next Israeli attack in the continuous barrage.

A poster of Ihab Al-Wehadi killed 9th January during Operation Cast Lead

The full list of the journalists deservedly honoured at the ceremony
  • Basel Faraj, a cameraman, died January 6th 2009 from injuries sustained in an air strike on Gaza Decmeber 27th 2008. His killing was condemned by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
  • Ala’a Mortaja, died during Operation Cast Lead.
  • Hamza Shaheen, photojournalist for the Shihab News Agency, died December 2008.
  • Fadel Shana’a, a Reuters camerman, killed April 16th 2008.
  • Hassa Shaqora, killed March 2008.
  • James Miller, killed in Rafah on 2nd May 2003. Watch a video about his death here.
  • Ihab Al-Wehadi, (pictured right) cameraman for Palestine TV, killed with his wife and mother on 9th January 2009 during Operation Cast Lead when Israel shelled their apartment in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.
  • Mahamed Herzallah, details unknown.
  • Bilal Deeba, details unknown.
  • Omar As-Silawa, details unknown.

9 year old Samah in a 'semi critical' condition after being severely injured by a nail bomb blast on Wednesdey

“She came in through the front door and it wasn’t clear she was injured. Suddenly a lot of blood came from her nose and she vomited, all of the family saw this — her little brothers were very scared. She had just been playing in the front of the house.”

That is how Nihed el Massry describes what happened to her daughter, nine-year-old Samah Eid al-Massry, after the Israeli army reportedly shelled and fired four bombs into and around a residential area in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip on 21 July. Samah is now being hospitalized in serious condition, suffering from extensive blood loss and very low haemoglobin. She was hit by shrapnel and flechettes from a nail bomb that landed 100 meters away, causing internal bleeding to the chest and severe head trauma. Nails are now embedded throughout her body. Shells containing flechettes are illegal under international law if fired into densely populated civilian areas. Three other children were wounded in the attack. and Samah is one of four children injured in the attack.

Two young men were killed; Muhammad al-Kafarneh, 23, suffered severe shrapnel injuries to the back and chest and Kasim al-Shinbary, 19, was wounded by nails embedded in his skull and shrapnel his back. It was unclear earlier whether they were resistance fighters or if they were civilians — the Israeli military called them “militants,” certainly not applicable the four children aged four to 11 injured in hospital whose parents were found weeping over their loved ones in al-Shifa hospital last night in Gaza City.

Four-year-old Haitham Thaer Qasem, injured by an Israeli nail bomb

Haitham Thaer Qasem, a four-year-old boy and an only child, was sleeping on the hospital bed, occasionally gasping for breath through the apparatus around his nose. He had suffered deep nasal trauma, and flechette darts from the bomb were still embedded in his tiny body, through his back, right elbow and right leg. He was 200 meters from the impact of the bomb. In his hospital ward his mother was standing off to the side, quietly crying while one of Haitham’s aunts at his bedside explained what had happened:

“We had asked Haitham to get shopping for her from the market, then we heard the bombings and somebody came to our home and told our family that he was in the hospital and was injured in the bombing. We came quickly to the hospital.”

Meanwhile, Samah’s doctor explained that the girl’s blood loss was a major concern. Her injuries are exacerbated by the fact that she, like three of her brothers, already suffers from the blood condition Thalassemia and the drug to treat the condition, Exjade, is scarce because of the Israeli blockade. She was clearly in pain and confused, trying to remove the nasal tubes. Her mother showed us the bandages on her chest. Her Doctor, Mohamed Abu Hassan described her situation as ‘semi-critical’:

“She was in very bad condition when she arrived — it’s difficult for children and very traumatic to insert a chest tube for small children — very painful. Blood was mainly coming from the chest. We will have to perform surgery and we will further explore her abdominal pain.”

The al-Massry family has been affected by Israeli attacks before. Samah’s four-year-old brother Ryad was injured during Israel’s three weeks of attacks on the Gaza Strip during winter 2008-09 when more than 400 Palestinian children were killed.

“Our house was hit during the war, a neighbor was killed inside and our son suffered severe head injuries. He wasn’t cared for and because of this his sight is now permanently damaged.”

As we left Samah, she had begun to cry, moaning in serious discomfort and confusion. There were two more injured children in the hospital from the attack, also from the Al Massry family in Beit Hanoun: Azzam Mohammed al-Massry, 11, who a severely fractured left elbow and Ebrahim Wasseem El-Massry, 4, with light injuries to his abdomen.

The Abu Said family house, scarred after a nail bomb attack

The previous week in Gaza, we visited the Abu Said family, who were mourning Nema, a 33-year-old mother of five who was killed by a second round of Israeli shelling as she went outside frantically looking for her youngest son after the first round. Three more family members were injured by the flechette shells, many of the darts remaining permanently embedded in their bodies.

The notion of justice for Palestinians is a distant one so long as these crimes are allowed to be dismissed as footnotes by those supporting, or blindly ignoring them. But those who meet the families and the victims of these atrocities will never forget, just as people around the world are opening their eyes to the root cause of these tragedies.