Ceylon Daily News, Sri Lanka
Jan 1 2009


Bloodied in Gaza



Silently, the world watches. And silently, governments plotted: how
shall we make the clouds rain death on to Gaza? Comments (...)

`There is a complete blackout in Gaza now. The streets are as still as
death.'

I am speaking to my father, Moussa el-Haddad, a retired physician who
lives in Gaza City, on Skype, from Durham, North Carolina in the
United States, where I have been since mid 2006 - the month Gaza's
borders were hermetically sealed by Israel, and the blockade of the
occupied territory further enforced.

He is out on his balcony. It is 2 a.m.


Palestinian men and medics remove bodies from the site of the
destroyed former office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas
following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on December 27. Israel
launched a massive wave of air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza,
killing more than 400 Palestinians after warning of a fiery riposte to
ongoing rocket fire, officials said. AFP

I can only see grey plumes of smoke slowly rising all over the city,
everywhere I look,' he says, as though they were some beautiful,
comforting by-product of some hideous, malicious event.

My father was out walking when the initial strikes began - `I saw the
missiles falling and prayed; the earth shook; the smoke rose; the
ambulances screamed,' he told me.

My mother was in the Red Crescent Society clinic near the
universities, where she works part-time as a pediatrician.

Behind the clinic was one of the police centres that were
levelled. She said she broke down at first, the sheer proximity of the
attacks having shaken her from the inside out. After she got a hold of
herself, they took to treating injured victims of the attack, before
transferring them to Shifa hospital.

Now, three days later, they are trapped in their own home.

My father takes a deep restorative sigh, before continuing. `Ehud
Barak has gone crazy. He's gone crazy. He is bombing everywhere and
everything ... no one is safe.'

Explosions are audible in the background. They sound distant and dull
over my laptop's speakers, but linger like an echo in death's
valley. They evoke terrifying memories of my nights in Gaza only two
years ago. Nights that till this day haunt my four-year-old son who
refuses to sleep on his own.

`Can you hear them?' my father continues. `Our house is shaking. We
are shaking from the inside out.'

My mother comes to the phone. `Hello, hello dear,' she mutters, her
voice trembling. `I had to go to the bathroom.

But I'm afraid to go alone. I wanted to perform wudu' before prayer
but I was scared. Remember days when we would go to the bathroom
together because you were too afraid to go alone?' She laughs at the
thought.

It seems amusing to her now, that she was scared to find her death in
a place of relief; that she is now terrified of the same seemingly
ridiculous scenario.

It was really the fear of being alone. When you `hear' the news before
it becomes news, you panic for clarity - you want someone to make
sense of the situation, package it neatly into comprehensible terms
and locations. Just to be sure it's not you this time.

`It's strange, my whole body is shaking. Why is that? Why is that?'
she rambles on, continuous explosions audible in the
background. `There they go again. One boom after
another. Fifteen. Before that, one or two, maybe 20 total so far.'

Counting makes it's easier. Systemising the assaults makes them easier
to deal with. More remote.

We speak to each other throughout the day. Last night, she called to
let me know there were gunships overhead, as though there was
something I could do about it; as though my voice would somehow make
them disappear.

Eventually, her panic subsided ...'OK, OK, your father says it was the
navy gunships ... they hit the pier ... the poor fishermen, it's not
like it's even a real pier ... it's just the pier, just the pier ...'

They cracked the windows opened, to prevent an implosion.

`By the way we are sleeping in your room now, it's safer,' she tells
me, of my empty, abandoned space.

My mother's close friend, Yosra, was asked to evacuate her
building. They live in a flat near many of the ministry complexes
being targeted. They were advised not to go to the mosque for
services, lest they be bombed.

Another family friend, an elderly Armenian-Palestinian Christian and
retired pharmacist, is paralysed with fear and confined, like many
residents, to her home. She lives alone, in front of the Saraya
security complex on Omar al-Mukhtar Street. The complex has already
been bombed twice.

The rains of death continue to fall in Gaza. And silently, the world
watches. And silently, governments plotted: how shall we make the
thunder and clouds rain death on to Gaza?

It will all seem, at the end of the day, that this is somehow a
response to something: rockets; broken truces; irreconcilability ...

It is as though the situation were not only acceptable, but normal in
the period prior to it all.

As though a calm that provides no relief - political, economic, or
otherwise - for Gaza's stateless, occupied, besieged Palestinians were
tenable. As though settlements did not continue to expand; walls did
not continue to extend and choke lands and lives; families and friends
were not dislocated; life was not paralysed; people were not
exterminated; borders were not sealed and food and light and fuel were
in fair supply.

But it is the prisoners' burden to bear: they broke the conditions of
their incarceration. Nevertheless, there are concerns for the
`humanitarian situation': as long as they do not starve ...

The warden improves the living conditions now and then, in varying
degrees of relativity, but the prison doors remain sealed. And so when
there are 20 hours of power outages in a row, the prisoners wish that
they were only eight; or 10; and dream of the days of four.

My friend Safah Joudeh is also in Gaza city. She is a 27-year-old
freelance journalist.

`At this point we don't feel that it is Hamas being targeted, it's the
entire population of Gaza,' she says.

`The strikes have been and I need to stress this, indiscriminate. They
claim that the targets have been buildings and people that are
Hamas-affiliated, but the employees in these buildings are public
sector employees, not political activists ... other targets include
homes, mosques, the university, port, fishing boats, the fish market.'

No one has left their home since Saturday, she says.

`The streets were full of people the first day of the attacks,
naturally. They were unexpected and came at a time when people were
going about their daily business.

The streets have been completely empty the past two days. People have
closed up shop and trying to stay close to their families and loved
ones. Many homes are without bread, the bakeries stopped working two
days before the attack because of lack of fuel and flour.'

The small shop down the street from my parents' home, next to the Kinz
mosque where many of the Remal neighbourhood's affluent residents
attend, opens for a little while after prayer. My father goes and gets
whatever he can - while he can.

They have one package of bread left, but insist they are OK.

`Habibi, when we see each other again - if we see each again - I'll
make it for you.' he promises. The very possibility seems to comfort
him, no matter how illusory.

It is my daughter Noor's birthday on January 1. She will be one year
old. I cannot help but think: who was born in bloodied Gaza today?

http://www.dailynews.lk/2009/01/01/fea03.a sp