The objective of the operation in Gaza is to prevent the Qassam fire…But the operation in Gaza is causing Qassams to be fired. The Qassam fire will, in turn, bring about the next operation in Gaza, which will lead to the next round of Qassam fire…Everyone is playing his role; each side pretends to be the initiator, while well aware in its heart of hearts that it is just as trapped as the other side is.
— Yair Lapid, Israeli journalist
THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION
Down to a 43% charge on the computer, no electricity for at least 12 hours, flat’s generator out of gas, long gas lines at the bottled gas stations, Mustafa’s family out of gas, the siege is tightening. This is my last morning, we hope, in Gaza, due to pass thru Arez at 9 am [January 21] and meet a taxi at 10. Will it be or not?
On the way home on January 20 we noticed a group of about 30 men and boys lined up with gas canisters waiting their turn to fill up. This is cooking and heating gas, it also runs electrical generators. Due to the complete closure of the borders the supply has shriveled from an already limited quantity. No cooking, no heating, no light, no power of any sort. Unless Israel relents and opens the crossings. Adham who came to be with me on my last night had heard the rocket men had agreed to a truce. Might be just another rumor. Mosab had heard Egypt was going to somehow solve the electrical problem in 2 hours. He announced that at 10 pm. By next morning at 7 am the electricity had not resumed. A land of rumors, in common with prisons.
When we entered the flat at about 8 pm, after a good-bye party of sorts for me at the Big Bite, my flat’s owner promised power in 15 minutes. 10 pm and no electricity. Luckily I had enough charge in my computer to finish burning CDs and backing up files to my external hard drive. But I’ve not been able to complete other work such as copying the folder of Quaker Youth Program files to Ibrahem’s hard drive nor add to it the last series made yesterday. This might be one small consequence of the siege.
I’m relatively sure I’ll be able to get out of Gaza son. The taxi driver says yes; Mohamed, Ibrahem’s brother working for the UN and himself not sure he can leave this morning, also confirmed that internationals can pass thru Arez. My daughters Katy and Joey have both written with concern and good wishes.
I will let this writing gestate awhile as I make my toilet and consider what else to write and whether to clean up this text with the 30% charge remaining or save that for later.
ONE WAY OF UNDERSTANDING THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION
One might question the wisdom of both the Israeli militants and the Palestine militants, the first using heavy arms and draconian closures, the second home made rockets and other small-scale implements of war. To what end? Demonstrating one’s manhood, one’s courage, one’s fortitude, one’s warrior nature? Is this path strategic for bringing justice, security, and peace to the region? Without hesitation I answer: hell no! Rarely if ever does violence create justice and peace. Instead it brings unspeakable horror, to all sides—fear, suffering, loss, despair. It does not bring a solution to the problem of how to share the land of Canaan.
A CASE STUDY: DEATH FROM THE SKY, IN A FLASH
On January 19, 2008 Ibrahem, Issam, Mohamed, another friend and I visited the site of the recent F-16 attack on an unused and empty building. It had been the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of the Interior until partially destroyed earlier by Israel, but now was somehow connected with Hamas. Down the street by about 100 meters, a wedding party danced in the street. The missile cleanly cut into the lowest level of the building, toppling it, leaving it in a geometric, eerily beautiful pattern. The pilot may have been proud of his work, the support crew sharing their pride; engineers back in the States, if they heard of this, might have been happy with yet another military hardware success.
The partygoers were not as pleased. The grandmother of the groom, standing outside her home watching the dancers, was hit in the head by a piece of concrete hurled from the building by the blast. It crushed her head. She did not have much time to contemplate her end. A total of 50 were injured, I assume most from the wedding.
Did the pilot see the gathering? The technology is rumored to be highly effective, day and night. I didn’t notice thick foliage covering the road which might have obstructed the party. If he saw people dancing in the streets, did he care?
Other buildings in the area—a thickly populated residential area of central Gaza City—had windows blown out (no glass to replace it because of closure), balconies destroyed, shrapnel holes in the walls, doors missing. A day care center was across the street from the blast; its tile roof had been demolished.
At the time of the blast, Friday afternoon, I was at home, I heard it, my building shook. I thought instantly of running into the street to find the wreckage and photograph it. Ibrahem phoned within minutes of the blast and curtailed my enthusiasm. Until yesterday when friends offered to guide me there.We arrived less than 24 hrs after the attack, the second day of the mourning ritual which runs for 3 days. Men—all men, the women were elsewhere—sat in the street where the dancing had occurred. One line of men greeted guests. The men were all aggrieved, either from this most recent violence or earlier. They were all related to shaheeds, martyrs, anyone dying while protecting the country. Some looked injured, perhaps from the day before. We sat with the mourners, drank the proffered coffee and ate the dates, and then some men showed Ibrahem and me where the woman had died, pointing to the bloodstains on a small carpet outside the house. I held the rock that ended her life.
They led us inside to meet the son of the slain woman, who was the father of the groom. Hit by multiple pieces of shrapnel and debris he was heavily bandaged around his midsection and head. Blood stained some of his clothing, draining from the wounds. He looked in the pit of despair, perhaps still in shock. His mother dead, others injured, his son’s wedding viciously cancelled, the invasion of a festive celebration.
There may be more such incidents; no doubt there will be more. Mohammad feels Israel will briefly abate the attacks until this incident’s publicity dies out. Then resume, perhaps intensify. I may be here to witness that, or not, I’m not sure about my transit out of the Strip.