Mohammed Dawwas, father of four boys, kept his sanity by writing a journal during weeks of sustained assault on Gaza, the fenced-in enclave where they all live. At two this morning, the cacophony in the skies stopped as the Israeli ceasefire took hold and the family got a little more shut-eye. Perhaps a proper bath will be possible soon. No one thinks that the grisly fighting is completely over. In fact, Qassam rockets still rain down on southern Israel. Read on:
Sunday, 11 JanuaryIt did.
Troops and tanks begin fighting in Gaza City suburbs. Around 20 rockets launched into Israel from Gaza.
'The whole night no one could sleep. Everyone is terrified. The Israelis said there would be a three-hour ceasefire and I went out with the car to buy water. My kids wanted to go with me because they hadn't left the house for days. I kept looking for more than an hour before I found some, but at that moment the bombardment started. My kids began crying and screaming. I filled up with water and drove home fast. I said, "Don't ask me again to take you out." They said, "It was a ceasefire!" I replied, "But it's a war."
Sometimes the kids joke. They give themselves names. My son Ibrahim, he's afraid, so he doesn't speak all day. They call him the Drone. Sammy, he's the F16; Ismail, he's the Apache helicopter; Imam, he is the Tank. Me, I am the Jeep.'
First Israeli reserve forces sent into action. Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said Israel was deliberately "going wild" with military force to restore its deterrent capability.
'For the first time there is electricty when I wake up. I can listen to the news and use the electric kettle to make tea, not the kerosene stove, which smells. We wanted to go to the market so I drove through streets full of mountains of garbage, but had to make a detour because the security headquarters had been bombed, and I was driving on glass. I got some frozen meat at the market, then drove as far as Palestine Square to find a place to turn the car. Minutes later, as I arrived home, the square was bombed by the Israelis. Two people were killed and 10 injured – one of them could have been me.'
Israeli forces push deeper into Gaza City, with at least three Palestinians killed fleeing their homes. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, appeals for a ceasefire.
'At about 4am the phone rang. It was the Israelis again. They deliver recorded messages saying they are preparing for the next phase of their attack on Hamas, and for our safety we should follow IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] orders 100 per cent. The night was terrifying. They destroyed towers in the north of Gaza, and we live in towers in the middle. The bombardment lasted all night. They even shelled the Al-Jazeera hotel on the edge of Gaza City, about a kilometre away.
My wife got a call saying she could get two sacks of flour because she works at the UN. She should take her card and ID and go and collect it. I did it myself – thank God it was not far. Flour for any family now is very valuable. There is none in the market, or if you find it, it's very expensive.'
Israeli military says it hit 60 targets, including the police headquarters and rocket-launching sites. Rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon. Palestinian death toll rises above 1,000.
'We had power for a few hours in the middle of the day. Everyone watched the news on television but then wanted to stop because of all the images of bloodshed and destruction. So they changed to another channel for Egyptian soap operas, but I wanted to see the news. We flicked back and forth. I'm really worried about how this war has affected the children. They are afraid to move from one room to another. They always ask for me or their mother to go with them, even to the bathroom.
I have an Israeli friend who called to ask about the situation. He was sad about what is happening and hoped that this crazy war would end. We receive a lot of random calls of support from Arab countries. The Libyans have the go-ahead from their government to call for free.
Today an office building about 200 metres away received a call from the Israelis, warning that they were going to bomb it tonight. Now, as we prepare for night, we have our windows open everywhere in case they do it, so that we will not lose the glass. We stay in a room away from the windows that face that building. The only thing we can do is go to the first floor. That is the safest place for us. We don't know if it's going to happen.
This could be psychological war. It's difficult. When you wait for this to happen and that to happen and you don't know, that really kills you.'
UN headquarters, a hospital, a school and a media building attacked during intense shelling. Troops push further into Gaza City amid intense fighting, but rockets continue to land in Israel.
'Last night we were worried they were going to bomb the building close to us. It didn't happen, but it gets to you psychologically. We were holding each other every time a plane passed. We are on the seventh floor of a 14-storey building. Our neighbours went downstairs to the lower floor for safety, but we stayed. There was a lot of shooting, bullets, gunfire.
Now, from the window, I can see smoke everywhere. They destroyed the UN building, including the storage room with flour and food for the refugees. It's less than a kilometre away. Now it's all destroyed and there is a huge fire. I can hear shelling, I can see the smoke from shells everywhere. I hear voices over the local radio of people calling for rescue, they want ambulances. One says, "We are in a holocaust."'
Rockets hit a mosque during morning prayers. Reuters reports 45,000 Gazans fleeing battle zones are sheltering in UN schools. Hamas rejects Egyptian-brokered truce.
'It's been calmer. We slept last night for the first time in a few days. At 4am the Israelis fired a shell near where my parents-in-law live. It blew a big hole in front of their house, broke their front windows and damaged their front door. Thank God they weren't injured. This morning the troops withdrew from the south of the city – to our relief, as we were sure they would come here next.
The silent majority, I think, have changed their mind about Hamas. They question whether to vote for them again. Some say whoever was in power the Israelis would do the same. But that is for afterwards. Right now we all stand by Hamas because we are together in this problem. Right now, the Palestinian people, are suffering and paying the price. Gaza is destroyed. It's set us back 20 years. When things are more normal, people will see the catastrophe.'
Over 50 air strikes. After a UN school in northern Gaza was hit, the UN Relief and Works Agency said Israel's actions should be investigated as possible war crimes.
'We have heard that some calls from "supporters" in Arab nations are from Israeli intelligence. You can tell when they are intelligence calls because they ask questions rather than just give support. I might have had one, from a woman who said she was a Palestinian from Kuwait. She asked for my name; I did not give it.
On the radio we got a report that the Dawwas building where my cousin lives was on fire. I tried to call but the mobiles are not working well. I spoke to my nephew, who had no news but promised to call. I still haven't heard from him. I hope everything is OK, that the news report is incorrect. We are waiting and hoping the Israeli government will vote to stop this war.'
Crossposted from the Independent