Rana E. Manna
Last updated: 20 November, 2012

Staying safe in Gaza

Shop during the day and remain in your house at night. That’s two of the few safety measures that Gazans can take to protect themselves when the airstrikes hit the coastal strip.

Tension escalates as the sixth day of Operation Pillar of Defense comes to pass. Ever since the targeted killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed Al-Jaabari of the Al Qassam brigades, Israel has been threatening an invasion on the enclave that the Islamist group said would “open the gates of hell.”

With nearly 120 tragic deaths and almost 900 injuries, the only security measures taken by the Hamas government in protecting the people in the coastal strip is to evacuate neighborhoods near police and security compounds frequently taken as target points for the Israeli air force.

At times of disaster, in this case a military escalation, most Gazans prefer to stay locked inside their houses for their safety, especially after nightfall.

“The streets of Gaza are no place for anyone at a time like this. I haven’t allowed any of my children to step foot outside my door. Not day or night,” said Nermeen Abul-Rahman, a 24-year-old mother of three children.

Living in central Gaza’s Al Nasser Street, she and her family have been exposed to several explosions taking place next to her home.

“I spend my entire nights sitting next to my sleeping children; tucking them in and making sure they’re okay; calming them down whenever I have to,” she added.

With no one to rely on but themselves, the Gazans are accustomed to taking precautions at their own homes. With their own supply of first aid kits, radios and fire extinguishers, they establish their own techniques for comforting themselves. 

“Here in Gaza, we’ve got no choice but to make the best of everything. We sadly don’t have underground shelters, the warning of sirens or any other safety measures available for us to rely on. Instead, we’ve got to play smart to survive,” said Abdulla Daloul, local governmental employee and father of five.

Gazans have made it a habit of purchasing household necessities such as bread and groceries during the day rather than at night.

“Leaving the house at night is too risky since moving objects usually get targeted at night. I would rather shop during the day when it’s light out; better to be safe than sorry,” said Abdulla Daloul.

The sight of people running in the streets. forced to escape from their homes during Israeli strikes, holding household items such as blankets, bags of clothes or other precious belongings has become quite customary in the smoky streets of Gaza.

Ahmed Abu Assi, 48, a father of seven had his house destroyed early Sunday morning. It was located on Nassir Street, behind the office of the Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Hanaya, which was the target of the Israeli strike.

“As you can see here, my house has been utterly destroyed,” says Abu Assi, pointing to the last remains of his house. “In less than a minute, everything seemed to have disappeared. We’ve got nothing left but the clothes on our bodies. Thank god we make it through alive,” says Ahmed, turning away with a tear stained face.

Rana E. Manna, a Palestinian-Canadian, is Your Middle East’s Gaza correspondent.