Tania de Ildefonso Ocampos and Rana E. Manna
Last updated: 16 November, 2012

Impressions from Israel and Gaza

Our correspondents in Gaza and Israel, Rana E. Manna and Tania de Ildefonso Ocampos, have talked to people on both sides to get a sense of the mood in the streets.

Since the commence of Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have struck more than 450 targets in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants have launched more than 510 rockets against the State of Israel. Israeli citizens from Be’er Sheba, Tel Aviv and other places share their impressions with Your Middle East.

“I believe the situation is going to escalate because Israel has targets, and, until Israel does not achieve all its goals, this is not going to stop, specially since, apparently, we have green light from the EU and States” to launch a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, revealed an Israeli reservist from Gedera serving in an Intelligence unit. “Every person needs to understand the following: In towns like Sderot you have alarms every single day, people living in these Southern towns can’t have normal lives, for them, every minute is waiting for the next alarm, and that is why an incursion is necessary”.

On the other hand, Kobi Kabalek, a lecturer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheba, believes that “a ground intervention of the israeli army in Gaza is not needed or justified”. According to him “It might lead to some reduction of the shooting of missiles, but eventually it will continue the circle of violence, make it worse, and create more hatred and casualties on all sides”.

Despite the ongoing cross-border violence, humor flourishes in Tel Aviv. “Red alert sirens over Tel Aviv again just now. Got to meet the neighbors in my sexy sweatpants. Heyyy. Everything is fine, but we heard the boom that time. No word yet on where it landed,” wrote Jennifer on her Facebook. Ben Decker, an American Jewish DJ studying in Tel Aviv, posted recently on his Facebook: “Yo, Islamic Jihad, stop messing around with my recording session… I was in a really good groove this morning”.

While in Tel Aviv, people are enjoying Shabath rooftop barbecues, Southern Israel is under incessant rocket fire. “I am very stressed, I didn’t go to work on Thursday, I have no night and no day, I am all day worried about my children,” tells Rachel, mother of three. “I can’t sleep, i hardly eat, I am watching TV 24/7, and I am asking myself, why my children can not live and study in peace like children in the rest of the world?”

“Since always I hoped for my kids to be able to live peacefully, like kids in the rest of the world, with Rabin I had hopes… Now I hope my grandsons will not have to go through what my husband and children went and are going through, but that’s probably not going to happen.” 

While the impact on Israeli lives across the Jewish state is varied, most Gazans are facing a fundamental threat to their very existence. Our correspondent in Gaza met with some of them to hear about the issues at hand.

After a three-day Israeli military operation known as “Operation Pillar of Defense”, the besieged Gaza Strip has witnessed a progression of at least 450 struck targets causing the death of 24 civilians and nearly 255 injuries including children, women and the elderly.

During any military escalation, families within the Gaza Strip tend to remain at home and avoid wandering the streets in fear of random explosions. “Under insecure circumstances similar to the one we’re being forced to put up with these days, I can’t sleep at night not only considering the danger my children are being exposed to but also trying my best to calm them down all night long,” says 46-year-old Ahmed Anaan and father of five.

“Ever since the military conflict, I haven’t let one of my children step foot outside the house. From getting the groceries, bread or any household necessities, it has all been on me.”

Just like the Cast Led Operation in 2009, many Palestinians in Gaza Strip find it necessary to evacuate their homes in the desperate hunt for a safer and more secure place to settle down until things begin to brighten up. The house of Mr. Saleh Abu Kweik is located in the Al Karama neighborhood where many security and military compounds are positioned. 36-year-old Saleh and his family of wife and five children evacuated their house in hopes of finding a safer and more secure refuge at the house of his older brother.

“My family and I had evacuated our house in Al Karama neighborhood two days ago after literally having to live a nightmare in our small apartment. The constant sounds of explosions were incredibly loud and angry as they shook the entire building. I don’t think we would have made it out alive if we had stayed another hour,” Saleh says.

“There doesn’t seem to be a safe place in the entire Gaza Strip. Though we were expecting some peace of quiet here at my brother’s house, we experienced the shrilling sound of at least seven or eight massive explosions in the area just last night. Yet, it’s still better than our area.”

Young children had been amusing themselves tossing marbles a couple of meters from their home just minutes before sunset in the Amoody neighborhood Northern Gaza, when ten-year-old Ahmed Sheikh Ali got deeply wounded in the left shoulder by a small metal shell. “This is not fair. Why can’t we have fun playing in our own front yards like the other children worldwide, without having to worry about getting hurt?” cries Ahmed at the Al-Shifaa hospital.

Mohammed Sheikh Ali, the father of Ahmed said, “It isn’t safe for children to be wandering outside at a time like this. I should’ve never let it happen. I never thought a day would come where I would prevent my own children from playing outside; seems like I was wrong.”

Here in Gaza, people seem to focus more on how to deal with the situation imposed upon them rather than having an opinion because as Ahmed Abu Talal, a local shop owner said, “Whether we have an opinion or not, no one ever seems to listen”. 

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