The dehumanization of Gaza


Gaza strip: in this déjà vu conflict, where bombs are breeding traumas and hate, children are the biggest and most tragic victims. 


Bostjan Videmsek


First, the lights were out. Israel cut off the electricity in northern part of the Gaza Strip. Then the Israeli tanks – followed by the infantry units – rolled in the shattered Palestinian enclave. The sky over Gaza was allready burning. Israel Air Force has responded harshly to several Hamas more or less impotent rockets fired just minutes after the five hours of «humanitarian ceasefire» ran out. The whole Gaza Strip was under harsh bombardment. Including Gaza City, one of the most densely populated area in the world. The Israeli ground offensive has begun.Israeli Navy joined in with artillery fire. The sound was horrible. Explosions have illuminated the sky.

Hamas, who rules Gaza fighting for its own political survival in the changed geopolitical map of post Arab Spring Middle East, was firing its rockets from the centre of the city, «inviting» Israeli bombers to attack civilian targets. Israelis took this as an open invitation. And as an omnipresent alibi for killing the civilians in Gaza. More than 30 people died on the bloody Thursday night and Friday morning. All together 260.

«Why are they killing us? Why? This is what my children ask my every single day. And this is what I'm asking myself. I don't know the answer. Do they know it? I'm not sure. Somebody is playing a game of chess with our lives. Human is a rational being. In most cases humans even kill  for rational reasons, don't they?» said Dr. Ayman al Sahbani, head of the emergency unit in Shifa hospital, largest hospital in Gaza. Mr. Sahbani, man with probably one of the toughest jobs in the Universe in these days, has not slept for more than an hour in last twelve days. He's tired and utterly disillusioned. One can not count on God's help these days. Or ever. Quite the opposite: all the prayers and good deeds seem to have made life much worse. 

For him. For 1,7 million Palestinians from Gaza.

«We are against the war. Everybody with a bit of sanity – except the military leaders – is. Does it help? No! It's innocent people who are dying. Children. Women. Old men. I haven't seen many wounded soldiers in the last eleven days. No. More than 80% of all victims are civilians Only yesterday I received eight dead people myself. Five of them were small children. Four were the boys who were playing football at the beach and got hit by the Israelis. Just like that. With no reason. There were no military targets on the beach. The rocket landed 100 metres from the hotel which hosts international journalists. They have seen it all. But nothing will ever change,» continued Dr. Sahbani deeply sad, but eagerly motivated.

The killing of four boys was a horrible tragedy, but nothing new for Gaza, he said. «I was broken. It could have been my son. Easily. Why children have to die? I scream all the time, but nobody hears», concluded another doctor, while controlling an «organized chaos» in the Shifa hospital. The doctors, each of them equipped with deep black eye bags due to lack of sleep and exhaustion, are working 24/7. They're saving lives. It's not their energy which is running out. The hospital is running out of basic equipment and medicines and nothing is coming in. Nothing at all. Even in Τhursday during the five hour humanitarian ceasefire, no foreign NGO were seen delivering aid. Dr. Sahbani, who says that this Israeli invasion is harsher than those in 2008 and 2012, was clear: «If the attacks go on, we will be unable to save lives in a couple of days. The number of the dead will increase dramatically. This is our destiny.»

In one of the busiest hospitals in the world women were screaming. Men were loudly talking about politics and war. Nearly nobody believed that the ceasefire wοuld last.

They were damn right. A couple of hours later, it felt as if hell broke loose.

«I would like to go back to our house in the north of Gaza, but the men of the family don't allow me. They say that Israelis will kill us. That the war will go on,» I was told by my miss Dawlat Zindan in the UN primary school in Gaza City which is currently hosting around 1000 refugees from the most dangerous areas of Gaza Strip. More than 22.000 people have taken refuge in the UN compounds during the last ten days. Miss Zindan and her family – thirteen children among 23 family members – were forced to leave their home on the third day of the Israeli bombing. They found the leaflet in front of their house saying that they must leave immediately.

The Zindan family was forced to run from their home for the third time since 2008. Children, tired and obviously traumatised, were sticking to each other or hanging into the dirty wall during my visit. It was stiffly hot in the old classroom full of people. «These children urgently need psychosocial help. They're suffering heavily. Most of them wet their pants during the night. They can't sleep. They're terrified: they also need fresh milk and drinking water. What we get here is not clean,» said one of their uncles who came to visit his relatives just a couple of days before the bombing started in 8th of July.

«As far as I know, our house is still in one piece, but all the animals, our livehood, were killed. This is what we were told by our neighbours who briefly visited our village in the north. Also our crops were destroyed. We're farmers. What shall we do now? Maybe it will be impossible for us to return due to the Israeli ground invasion. Maybe they will return in Gaza. I'm worried ...,» miss Dawlat Zindan continued. 

On the football pitch in front of the school little boys played football. Girls were doing the dishes. It was one of the quietest hours in last two weeks. Some Gazans, inshallah, optimistic as ever, even went out and started rebuilding the houses and properties destroyed in the bombing. Their resilient attitude reminded me of the women of Sarajevo in the early 90's, who walked around the city under Serbian siege with perfect make-up on their faces and in modern clothes. That was their act of resistance.

The children of al Batch family did not have a chance to resist. They didn't have enough time. Five of them were killed in a single Israeli strike in the eastern Gazan village of Tuffah on last Saturday which killed 18 members of al Batch family. Thirty members of the family were wounded. Some of them badly. On of them, Zakaria, a badly burned man in his thirties, was encircled by his men relatives in the Shifa hospital. He is still unable to talk. His eyes are eagerly searching for focus. But there is none. His family compound – 4 houses with common garden – were bombed just after the evening's prayer. With five rockets. Israeli army claims that it was a «legitimate military target», because the head of the family, Taissir al Batch, is also a head of Hamas police department. But he was not killed in the attack. The children and women were. Like everywhere else in Gaza Strip.

In this déjà vu conflict, children are the biggest and most tragic victims. The bombs are just killing or breeding traumas and hate. Lots of hate. Where ever and when ever. «It's just terrible. Tragedy! Two months ago I was co-ordinating a peace project in Gaza. Children were flying kites with peace slogans on the beach. I have seen the same boys with sticks in their hands pretending to be shooting and screaming 'You're a Jew' on each other. Such a blow! Especially after the killing of four boys who were just playing football … It's a vicious circle of war and violence,» I was told by the Kiwi humanitarian worker Alex from World Vision, while leaving the burning Gaza behind.




  ΧΡΟΝΟΣ 15 (07.2014)