As Gaza Burns

16 May 2007

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The occasional shopkeeper who did stay open was harassed by gunmen patrolling the streets.

Things have been crazy in Gaza over the past two days. Very crazy. In between working and actually trying to keep our wits about us as we’ve been holed up indoors for two days no, I’ve had little time to blog.

Things are tenusouly calm at the moment with on-again-off-again gunfire, which is better than it was only a few hours ago. But things in Gaza have a way of changing very quickly-for better or for worse. Volatility is its defining characteristic.

We happen to be sort of be in the eye of the storm as it were. Fierce battles employing mortars, RPGs, and heavy machine gun fire were raging all around our house today, at times only a block away, interdispersed with the thuds of Israeli gunships bombing areas of eastern and northern Gaza.

Yousuf of course became more and more concerned as the day passed, until I finaly told him they were not firing, but rather making an enourmous pot of popcorn outside that would fill the streets once it was done. At first he wasn’t convinced, then he later remarkred “Mama, I don’t really like this kind of popocorn!” When the firing died down, he ran into my room excitedly shouting “Mama, Mama! I think the popcorn is done!!”

The city was literally transformed into a ghost town, and civilian life was all but paralyzed. Storekeepers kept shops closed and virtually all residents, including schoolchildren and university students, remainded penned indoors. Most did not even dare to go to their balconies.

The occasional shopkeeper who did stay open was harassed by gunmen patrolling the streets.

“I don’t understand-what are they fighing over, the trash in the streets?” lamented one shopkeeper to me.

“We’re in a malestrom and i don’t see a way out.”

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Unidentified snipers took positions on high-rise towers through the city, as both facrtions vied for strategic control of various locations.

Impromptu checkpionts were set up along the major roads, cutting off access from Gaza City to the north and south of the Strip.

Unidentified snipers took positions on high-rise towers through the city, as both factions vied for strategic control of various locations.

The victims of course in all of this were the residents, particularly those who lived in the towers. Many residents complained of having spend the past two days holed up in their ktichen without electrictiy, and ambulances not being given access to the injured in the buildings.

One woman told me gunmen searched apartments for armed men and set afire several flats.

The most troubling part is how this is unfolding with such purpose, and yet with so little protest. There is something far more sinister sinister behind it all of course, namely, the US’s unambiguous plot to undermind the Unity Government by arming, training, and “stregthening” Abbas, Dahlan, and their respectivfe security forces. The latest plan was uncovered in a Jordanian newspaper last week before being whisked off the presses.

I talk about this in a Guardian article I wrote today.

For now, we wait, and see what tommorow brings.

Photographs copyright Laila El-Haddad.

Freelance journalist and blogger Laila El-Haddad lives in Gaza City. Laila’s blog, Raising Yousuf, is named after her two-year-old son.

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