The sounds in Gaza City

Wasseem El Sarraj writes: The bombing started on al-Hijriyah (the first day of the Muslim New Year); I was off of work because of the associated national holidays and was looking forward to a four-day long weekend. I have since spent those four days trapped in my home, in Remal, Gaza, an affluent neighborhood inside Gaza City. I am fortunate to not be living in the border areas nor in one of the densely populated—and Hamas-affiliated—camps. None of this means I feel safe.

From the moment the bombing started I cursed the newly built shopping mall that towers over our house. Not only did it break all of Gaza’s lax zoning laws, but its owner was known to be a Hamas sympathizer: each day I have been afraid that it could be one of Israel’s bombing targets. Israel’s target list will be inspected and debated in the aftermath of this operation; at present it seems to be a mixture of rocket-launching sites, pre-identified militants, weapons caches, and then there are the “symbolic” targets. Each of which carries a different strategic calculation for Israel, but from where we sit, the symbolic targeting of government buildings is as baffling as the decision to fight homemade rockets with bombs dropped from F-16s. And all of these risk civilian casualties, the “collateral damage” that rolls much too easily off too many tongues.

In the early morning hours on Saturday, Jawazat, a large police compound just a few minutes away from my house, and next to my favorite pizzeria, was destroyed. A deceptive lull in violence followed, creating hours of silence and waiting during which we dared not venture out. I sat at home with my family, speculating about the possibility of a ceasefire agreement: our fears and our hopes revealed themselves as we began to think that our leaders might be close to reaching an agreement that would bring an end to this horror. Then, in an instant, four heart-stopping explosions, one after the other, shook our once untouchable house. As the deafening explosions subsided I tried to regain some composure; you want to be stoic when the children catch your gaze. But then I realized that it’s me who is the child; I am the one who is the war amateur. My half-brother, who is seven, and my step-brother, who is twelve, are the veterans in surviving wars, for in 2008 they survived Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s bombardment and invasion, whilst I was absent and secure in London. We were only on day three of Operation Pillar of Defense by this Saturday; my young siblings had already undergone all of this for twenty-eight days, thirty-one if you include this operation. [Continue reading…]

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