Monday, December 29, 2008

Day Two: More from Safa in Gaza City

Shock and awe is pretty brutal up close. Brave Safa has managed to get power for her computer, and shares her thoughts under bombardment:

It's 1.30 am but it feels like the sun should be up already. For the past few hours there's been heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza city and the northern Gaza Strip simultaneously. It feels like the longest night of my life. In my area it started with the bombing of workshops (usually located in the ground floor of private/family residential buildings), garages and warehouses in one of the most highly condensed areas in Gaza city "Askoola". About an hour ago they bombed the Islamic university, destroying the laboratory building. As I mentioned in an earlier account, my home is close to the university. We heard the first explosion, the windows shook, the walls shook and my heart felt like it would literally jump out of my mouth. My parents, siblings and cousins who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep. We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest. Hala, my 11 year old sister stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13 year old cousin held on to me during the next 4 explosions, each one as violent and heart stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke .

Israeli warships rocketed the Gazas only port only moments ago, 15 missiles exploded, destroying boats and parts of the ports. These are just initial reports over the radio. We don't know what the extent of the damage is. We do know that the fishing industry that thousands of families depend on either directly or indirectly didn't pose a threat on Israeli security The radio reporter started counting the explosions, I think he lost count after 6. At his moment we heard 3 more blasts. "I'm mostly scared of the whoosh", I told my sister, referring to the sound a missile makes before it hits. Those moments of wondering where its going to fall are agonizing. Once the whooshes and hits were over the radio reporter announced that the fish market (vacant of course) had been bombed.

We just heard that 4 sisters from the family of "Ba'lousha" have been killed in an attack that targeted the mosque my their home in the northern Gaza Strip.

You know what bothers me more than the bangs and the blasts, the smoke, the ambulance sirens and the whooshs? The constant, ominous, maddening droning sound of the Apaches overhead that’s been buzzing in my head day and night. It's like I'm hearing things, which I'm not, but I am.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza bleeds under Israeli airstrikes

Safa, a young woman friend in Gaza City, shares her first impressions of this morning's airstrikes which killed more than 229 people and wounded at least 700 more. The "lull" is well and truly over. This is the most carnage in a single day of conflict for decades, according to local reports.

Gaza Today

I've never seen anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I'm in the middle of it and a few hours have already passed. I think 15 locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza City. [some Israelis sources said 150 targets were struck] The images are probably not broadcast in US media. There are piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you look at them you can see that a few of the young men are still alive, someone lifts a hand here, and another raise his head there. They probably died within moments because their bodies are burned, most have lost limbs, some have their guts hanging out and they're all lying in pools of blood. Outside my home, (which is close to the universities) a bomb fell on a large group of young men, university students, they'd been warned not to stand in groups, it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home. This was about 3 hours ago 7 were killed, 4 students and 3 of our neighbors kids, teenagers who were from the same family (Rayes) and were best friends. As I'm writing this I heard a funeral procession go by outside, I looked out the window and it was the 3 Rayes boys, They spent all their time together when they were alive, and now their sharing the same funeral together. Nothing could stop my 14 year old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed. He hasn't spoken a word since.
A little further down the street about an hour earlier 3 girls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a bomb fell. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.

These are just a couple of images that I've witnessed. In all the locations people are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren't working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.

At least 160 people dead in today's air raid. That means 160 funeral processions, a few today, most of them tomorrow probably. To think that yesterday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity. At this point I think they -actually all of us- would gladly have Hamas sign off every last basic right we've been calling for the last few months forever if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.

The bombing was very close to my home. Most of my extended family live in the area. My family is ok, but 2 of my uncles' homes were damaged, another relative was injured.
I don't know why I'm sending this. It doesn't even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head.

The Arab League is summoning an emergency meeting to brainstorm how to respond to such bloodshed as the Israeli leaders threaten wider attacks.

When Izzy visited there in early November, the IDF tanks had rolled in and killed a dozen people, and everyone was glumly predicting more Israeli military action before January. And here you go.

According to the Financal Times, Ehud Olmert, the lame duck leader, is under intense pressure both from within the government and from the rightwing opposition to order a military offensive against Gaza.
Until recently, the prime minister seemed reluctant to follow the advice of his hawkish critics, possibly out of concern for the expected high casualties and anticipating a negative response around the world.

Over the past days, however, Israeli political and military leaders have increasingly presented an attack on Gaza as inevitable. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, said on Thursday that "this reality cannot be allowed to continue and we will need to use our full force to hit the terrorist infrastructure".

Israeli media reported yesterday that the army was preparing for a "limited" operation in the Gaza Strip, combining air strikes and small-scale incursions.

The conflict with Hamas has also increasingly come to dominate the early phase of the election campaign, which will last until polling day on February 10.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No time like the present: dung- ho gifts from the Galilee to Bethlehem

Under various fake fir trees and Hannukah bushes over the years, Izzy and friends have unwrapped pet rocks, a singing stuffed bass, and fluffy bunny slippers, but it took my fellow blogger Dion over at Checkpoint Jerusalem to unearth the shittiest gift ever to put the X in Xmas. With glee from Galilee, an asinine scoop of donkey dung is encased in plastic and inscribed with a Talmudic verse. This Holy Shit from the Holy Land is peddled for $70 bucks a dump and the plucky Israeli entrepeneur behind it all is doing a brisk trade in Messiah-inspired mess.

Less tongue in cheek is the man and ass retracing the journey of pregnant Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Click here for a video diary of the modern day Nativity trek by Aleem Maqbool, as he leads his donkey over hill and vale and through military checkpoints.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

50 Israeli cops hurt during riot drill

About 50 Israeli police officers have been injured by fellow officers during a training exercise in riot control, the BBC is reporting, and it's not a keystone cops scenario

The police suffered the minor injuries in a drill in which officers played militant Jewish settlers and Palestinians throwing stones.

The officers used tennis balls rather than real stones. Reports that some suffered broken bones were denied.

Seven-thousand police were involved in the exercise, which took place at an army base in southern Israel.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, described it as "a huge police training exercise to prepare for riot control and to deal with different scenarios".

Mr Rosenfeld said that the injuries were sustained during scuffling, and were mostly bruising. No-one had needed hospital treatment, he said.

A further five policemen were injured in a traffic accident en route to the training exercise, when a police van overturned, he added.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Timeless Bethlehem

Here's a reworked painting from the clandestine British wall artist, Banksy, reprised from last December. And Izzy Bee repeats the refrain of holiday wishes: May there be no barrier to peace for you all in the coming year. No time like the present to start some changes.
( And thanks for clicking on to this blog over the past two years online.)
Israelity bites.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Israeli scribes rescue Palestinians

Avi Issacharoff , a passionate journalist at Haaretz, recounts how he and several other Israeli journalists apparently saved a large Palestinian family from being lynched during the unsettling events near Hebron. He called it a Pogrom in his opinion piece, written shortly after the experience. Since then, Sir SHimon Peres has echoed the Pogrom comment, after settlers were videoed firing on Palestinians.

Checkpoint Jerusalem carries a writeup, if you missed it.

Hat tip to Dion Nissenbaum for the headsup
(Izzy Bee is away from the Middle East for the moment.)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Role reversal: Hamas orders Israeli hackette to get outta Gaza

Hat tip to Dion at Checkpoint Jerusalem for the following:

December 01, 2008

It has been more than two years since an Israeli reporter was officially allowed into Gaza.

The Israeli government barred Israeli reporters from going in after Hamas won control of the PA.

Last month, Israeli journalist Amira Hass defied the ban by hitching a ride on a Free Gaza boat from Cypress to Gaza, where she has been reporting on life there for the past two weeks.

Today, Amira wrote to friends to say that she is being kicked out of Gaza - by Hamas.

Hamas, which apparently had minders escort Hass 24-hours-a-day, told her that there were threats to her life and that she had to get out immediately.

Hass scoffed at the Hamas warnings, but has apparently been unable to change their minds.

Hass lived in Gaza for four years, from 1993 to 1997, and wrote about her time there in "Drinking the Sea at Gaza," a pioneering Israeli book about life in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.

Below is her e-mail to friends:

From: "amira hass"


Date: Mon, 1 Dec 2008

dear all

i was ordered to leave gaza.

The Hamas security - the branch which insisted in "escorting" me 24 hours a day for almost 3 weeks, ordered me today, (sunday) at noon, to leave immediately. The great efforts of my friends yielded only one gesture: i was allowed to extend my stay by some 20 hours, at most, and leave tomorrow (monday).

the reason, needless to say is "security". "The circumstances have changed, it is dangerous and we have recieved specific information that there is a danger to your life. specific my foot. just the same things i heard from Arafat's security back in 1995 and in 1999, only that that ancien regime had some kind of flexibility and disorder - that enabled my (other friends and acquaintances) to reverse the order.

I see no chance for this to happen now.

i am professionally frustrated and personally sad, so sad: i took farewell of some of my friends today - and almost know for sure that we would not be able to see each other for many many years. I was planning to stay till end of January - so many more things to investigate: to learn. I even toyed with the idea of writing a book...

Never mind me. I was allowed a rare visit in prison. Met my friends and was reminded again, more closely, how people, all caged in, are accomodating their life to electricity cuts and threats of imminent israeli incursions, and to the ever-more-loud discourse of istishaad (martyrdom).