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"As I'm writing this article, the Israelis are dropping leaflets on Gaza asking its residents to evacuate from certain neighbourhoods. Gaza does not have any shelters like the ones in Isdud or Ashkelon, and even if it did, they will probably be deserted. But Palestinians seek no shelter. As the original inhabitants of this land, we only find security where we belong.
"Israel, aware of that fact, will probably use the leaflets in defending itself in case more civilians are killed tonight (which they probably will, given Gaza's high population density). Any civilians who get killed in the way are either "collateral damage" or human shields used by Hamas. We know the narrative by heart.
"But when a 7-year-old child carries his 2-year-old brother after their parents were killed by Israel, and when a one-year-old baby tries to play with his dead 8-year-old sister, you are left to question the little faith you have in humanity. Meanwhile in Israel, the Jerusalem Post shamelessly features articles about pets feeling anxious every time the bomb sirens go off."
"We can't leave. Even if we could, why bother? We're already refugees.
"My grandparents taught me about the Palestinian villages in what is now called Israel -- villages that four-fifths of Gaza still calls home. More than 500 were leveled, renamed and stolen by Jewish terrorists during Israel's creation.
"I'm 21, and that was long ago. But every blast this week has reminded me of the injustice. And I will never forget.
"I record my own grandchildren's future memories between the blasts. They come in intervals measured in steps. Steps to the bottom of this five-story building. Steps sprinted by my mother, sisters and brother in tow, to join the other families in a huddle."
"The hardest feeling is the sound of the planes. You feel like death is coming towards you to take you away." These are the words of 21-year-old Jehad Saftawi whose home is in Northern Gaza where most of the shelling by Israeli drones and warplanes is taking place.
"I feel responsible for my sisters, my mother, and my brother. They huddle together in the bottom floor." The son of a political prisoner, Jehad's mother takes care of his younger siblings and tries to calm them down by making them think that going to the bottom floor and being crowded by all the other neighbors in the 5-story building is just a game they are playing.
There is no where to run to: "the worst feeling I have now is watching my sisters and my mother crying, afraid for their lives, with no where to hide, no where to go. I will never forget this."
The electricity in Jehad's neighborhood is cut off intermittently. The dark according to him makes people more scared and more helpless. And today they no longer have the most basic food items, "We ran out of bread but we had some rice. We do not know when we will be able to get bread again."
Dr. Mads Gilbert
"A horrible bombing night. Quarters flattened. Sleep deprivation as a collective torture, hitting hardest at children. They bomb now. Dogs barking. No sounds of humans in the morning hours."
A wounded boy in Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza. (PHOTO: Dr. Mads Gilbert)
Sabah Al Barakoni
Sabah Al Barakoni
"I am writing this in the middle of the night. I can't sleep. There is bombing and rockets all around us. I feel like my heart is cutting into pieces. Every morning I phone all the staff and they tell me they can't sleep either. They say they are suffering from headaches. Our hearts are very tired. My colleague tells her four-year-old daughter the loud noise is just thunder so she won't be frightened. But then she asks, 'Where is the rain?'
"We huddle here in the house away from the windows that might shatter if the bombing gets too close. We're afraid to go out, even for some bread. The bakery is not so close. My husband is taking care of his paralyzed father and can't leave him to go to the bakery. I'm too afraid for him to even try. We're lucky. We have enough food to last maybe a week. We have rice and sugar, cooking oil and lentils and a few vegetables.
"There is a rising feeling of fear. There is no safe place to hide. We can't leave Gaza to find refuge elsewhere."
"We cannot sleep. If we sleep, then we wake to the sound of bombs. Each time one hits the ground, my little sister cries out in fear. We have started to dream about the possibility of sleeping for just one day without the killing and bombing.
"The war started in a way that surprised us. Every day we say to one another that today is the end, but then we realize that it is just another beginning."
Raneen Haddad, 19 years old
"The Israelis bombed an empty piece of land next to our living room window last night. It lit up the entire house. It was so loud that I felt like the bomb landed on top of us. I heard the shattering of windows and all of our things crashing to the floor. But I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even leave the room where we were hiding.
"We are not the only ones. Every single person living in Gaza is suffering the same fate. In my opinion, acts such as these are the most heinous, hateful acts one could ever commit against their own species.
In three days, there have been more than 900 airstrikes. The death toll among Palestinians is a hundred times that of the Israelis. Should I tell you what the Gazans feel when they hear the sound of Israeli rockets? The fear in the children's hearts? What about the helplessness of our parents to protect us?
"We Palestinians are not terrorists; we are resisting against the Israeli occupation. If someone took your land by force, and systematically controlled your entire community with walls and checkpoints, destroyed your universities, sewage systems and economy, what would you do?"
I wish I could get rid of the smell of burned bodies in my nose...Horrifying in Shifa hospital.
Dr. Ghada Ageel
My 3-year-old nephew in Gaza, Abdallah, is a funny boy. He is very scared of the bombs and the constant shelling. But he told me that now he has a technique to calm himself down. He goes under his bed, closes his ears and starts shouting so that his voice would cover the sound of bombs and rockets. Today, he has a more creative solution: "When the missile comes to our house I hope my strong and big parents will hit it and push it away. But if that doesn't work then I will give it all my chips, sweets, and candies so that he won't hit me."
"As soon as my daughter, Noor, tried to fall asleep last night the glass from our windows was shattered due to heavy bombing. Glass fell all over her body injuring her face. She thought that our house had been bombarded and started shouting in a hysterical way and calling to be rescued from under the rubble. I woke her up and treated her wound. We stayed awake until morning."
"If I was able to steal a few hours of sleep before, now I am afraid to close my eyes because if I do death might steal my children. I don't know what to do. As parents we are supposed to protect our kids but we cannot do this anymore in Gaza, the terror machine hits us from the air, land and sea. It follows us day and night in our homes, in the streets, in our beds, and in our dreams."
"I have to control my emotions and play with my children. As soon as the shelling starts I begin to make jokes and be playful. I am terrified but I want to make sure they don't panic." The mother of four, Beesan says that what she feels as a mother in these times is not comparable to anything else. "We live knowing that today could be the last day. I may close my eyes but I can never sleep. I don't want my children to leave my sight because even if it were the last moment in life, I want to be next to them, holding them, and trying to make them feel safe."
Keeping her children safe is almost impossible for Beesan. She knows that she has no control over where a missile could hit or when Israel would fire the next nail bomb, an explosive that is banned internationally.
"My son Karim is only 12 years old. He has not yet been able to forget everything he saw when he was eight years old in the previous Israeli invasion of 2008. He has a lot of anxiety. He asks me questions that are so hard to answer: Where do all the people that are killed go? I am worried about his reaction and about how he will deal with all these experiences. No matter how smart he is or how anyone tries to explain things, the feelings of fear and anxiety are uncontrollable for the old and the young alike."
Aside from worrying about missiles dropping, Beesan says she has to worry about her children's well-being. "It is very cold now. We have to keep all windows open so that the pressure from the shelling does not cause the breaking of our windows and shattering of glass. It makes the nights unbearable. I hear my children's voices but I am constantly looking at them making sure they are still breathing.
"The worst feeling is that I feel helpless. I cannot protect them. I cannot give them a sweet, peaceful life like other kids in the world. They are young. They have energy. They are bright but I do not know what the future holds for them. I feel they are isolated. I am a faithful woman but when bombs are falling from the sky I feel helpless."
The above footage shows an Israeli strike on the Haddad family home in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza on the morning of November 17.
Mohamed Abu Safia
"Today, I went to the Salah family home - or what used to be their home before it was completely destroyed by bombs. I saw women and children who were buried under the rubble but managed to climb out from beneath the ruins of their home. They told me they were able to survive because of their strong will to live and resist."
Taking a deep sigh, Mohamed says that the children in the neighborhood were having a hard time processing what they were witnessing. "They see what the occupation forces are doing to them. At their age, children in European countries are in sports clubs and enjoying their time but here children in Gaza can barely make it alive each day. I was speechless in front of these kids and their pain. They were all less than fifteen years old."
"Tonight four children and their mother sleep in a hospital's mortuary. Are they firing rockets? Are they threatening security? Children at the Shifa hospital are standing at the doors and saying goodbye to their friends. We want this brutal occupation to end. We want freedom for our children."
Mahmoud Abu Galwa
Mahmoud Abu Galwa
"The light gives us a feeling of safety. This is why when the power goes out I feel very anxious." Mahmoud lives in Jabalya, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
The most haunting experience he says is, "looking at the eyes of children when the sound of the warplanes break the sound barrier. Their eyes turn dark. This is what I worry about; the future of these children. How will they ever forget these sounds? How will they ever make it through this time?"
Mahmoud knows all about trauma. A former photographer, Mahmoud says he can no longer pick up the camera. "I cannot let go of the horrific images I saw during Israel's invasion in 2008. My memory makes it impossible for me to practice photography again."
But his future is the last thing on his mind. Mahmoud is worried about losing the ones he loves. "What if I wake up and someone I love has been killed? In Gaza everything can be lost at any moment, a loved one, a house, everything and nothing belongs to us." But according to Mahmoud, in Gaza, love wins. "Despite everything happening around me I get strength from the way people care for each other. We share food, shelter, and love. In this time, we give to each other. I await impatiently for the moment this will end so that our children may live."
"My best friend's father was killed yesterday and another friend's daughter lost her hand. She is seven." Writing from under shelling, Majed Abusalama says, "We are in our homes waiting to die inside. We have no shelter."
Majed wants the world to see what is going on, "Even if I don't survive I want the world to know what is happening to us here. We are being bombed in our refugee camp. In Jabalya we have no humanitarian aid, no help from anyone. Our children are crying. They are terrified and witnessing things they cannot comprehend.
"Since the day I was born Israel has been attacking us. This is not a war. This is an attack. We are not equal. They have drones, F16s, and many other lethal weapons. How can we fight the 3rd most powerful army in the world? We need international protection. It is raining bombs, heavy bombs."
A man carries his daughter, running for their lives after the shelling of the Civil Administration Office in Tal El Hawa (via Permission to Narrate)
"In the last 48 hours, my mother and I have kept vigil by my siblings' side - my twin, an adolescent brother and a sister within earshot of her high school valediction. We sit together, my mother and I, in an inner room without a view, watching the furrowed brows of my brother and two sisters straining to sleep.
"And all the while, we hear bombs. Bombs that bear autumn's scent and winter's chill. Bombs that batter. Bombs that kill. I still have waking nightmares of the bombs that tore through our sky nearly four years ago, when a classmate, Maha, lost her mother in an Israeli strike. And a childhood friend, Hanan, who saw her mother's leg severed under the rubble from another strike.
"As I contemplate my own mother's tired eyes, I wonder: What happens to those who lose a child? And will I ever see my own?"
Sprinting from her seat as another shell hits her neighborhood, 19-year-old Inas says she was home alone studying for her exams when the shelling started. "I called my mother to make sure she came home immediately because the situation is not safe. When she arrived she held me and started praying to calm me down. I was terrified. I feel so scared for my family and my friends. I feel scared for everyone I love."
Inas already lost two of her friends in the Israeli invasion of 2009. "I am afraid of something like this happening again. I don't think I can survive loosing someone I love again."
Aside from dead friends and family members, young Inas says her dreams are also dying. "All my dreams are being destroyed minute by minute. All the things I planned to do I may never do them because I can be killed any moment. I am speaking to you now and the rockets are falling everywhere."
"We are all sitting in one room now. We are glued to the TV watching the news. We are charging our phones because we are afraid that the electricity will be cut off again anytime now."
"Every half an hour we hear loud blasts. We can see fire and bombs falling from the sky. Every time it feels like it will be our turn and they will fall on our house." 23-year-old Kawther Abuhani from north Gaza lives with nine members of her family.
Right now, "we are all gathered in one room. The radio is on. We do not turn it off. When the shelling starts my sister and I get very scared. We close our eyes. We cannot do anything else. Closing our eyes is the only thing that helps so that we don't see the yellow and red lights of the shells when they are falling like blood rain."
Kawthar's mother tries to hold her daughters and calm them down. Kawthar says, "I have a baby sister. She is very innocent. When the explosions happen we convince her that they are fireworks. I cannot hide my tears when I see her playing because she doesn't know what is really happening and that we could all die in any moment."
While fearing for their lives, like many families in Gaza, Kawathar's family receive harassment calls from unknown people form Israel. "We do not answer the phone anymore. We are in a horrible moment. This is a physical and psychological war."
At approximately 1.10pm, as we were leaving the ICU, a 10 month old girl, Haneen Tafesh, was brought into the ward. She was unconscious and her tiny body was grey. She had suffered a skull fracture and brain haemorrhage, which resulted from an attack that took place at around 11am yesterday in Gaza's Sabra neighbourhood. She was in a coma and on mechanical ventilation. Later in the afternoon, we checked how Haneen was doing and doctors said her condition had deteriorated. After returning home in the evening, we learned that she had died.
Mohammed Abu Amsha (Photo: Gisela Schmidt-Martin)
Mohammed Abu Amsha (via Joe Catron):
Mohammed Abu Amsha, a two and half year old boy, was injured while he was sitting in front of his grandfather's house in Beit Hanoun. An F16 fired a missile nearby, and scattering rubble struck him in the head. As we were about to leave, Mohammed's father mentioned that Mohammed's uncle had also been injured.
Zuhdiye Samour (via Joe Catron):
Zuhdiye Samour, a mother and grandmother from Beach refugee camp in western Gaza City, was still visibly shaken by what had happened when she shared her story: "We were sitting together in our house. It was around 8.30 in the evening and we were watching TV, playing films so that the children would be less afraid. Then, we heard the sound of 12 shells being fired from gunboats in the sea." Zuhdiye and three other civilians were injured as shells dropped in her neighbourhood, a residential area in the north of Gaza City.
My parents' friend, Marwan Abu Al-Qumsan, 52, who has repeatedly visited our house, was walking on the street returning from a family visit to his sister's house. In the meantime, the Israeli military fired a missile at an empty lot a few meters from him that left a large and deep hole in the ground. Somehow, he fell into it and was buried alive. People were digging for 4 hours trying to get him out. (His brother was walking behind him by about 20 meters and miraculously survived the attack, but has wounds all over his body.
(later) My father left the house to visit his friend's funeral. We didn't want him to leave because Israel could easily target his path to the funeral, but he promised he'll be back soon. I know we'll only relax when we see him back home safe and sound.
Duaa Hejazi (via Joe Catron):
Duaa Hejazi (Photo: Lydia De Leeuw)
A 13 year old girl, Duaa Hejazi, was coming back to her home in Gaza's Sabra neighbourhood, after a walk with her mother and siblings, when an Israeli missile fired on the road in front of their home around 8 o'clock at night. "I was bleeding a lot. My brother was injured too, in his hand. The neighbours brought me to the hospital" Duaa sustained shrapnel injuries throughout her upper body, with some pieces still imbedded in her chest. She would like to pass on a message to other children, living outside of Gaza:
"I say, we are children. There is nothing that is our fault to have to face this. They are occupying us and I will say, as Abu Omar said, "If you're a mountain, the wind won't shake you. We're not afraid, we'll stay strong."
Two bombs just fell in our neighborhood, like 100 m away. As we heard them, another shout could be heard from the traumatized people in our neighborhood. I personally felt like my heart stopped for a second