Every day is a major invasion in Gaza

Above: The Government and Municipality compound of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, shattered by missiles. Palestinians in general have greatly suffered from Israeli destruction of their property during the Intifada. According to USAID, since the beginning of the Intifada until February 2002, shelling and demolition has destroyed 720 homes completely, and damaged 11,553, affecting some 73,600 Palestinians. Photo by Sam Costanza.

Gaza City did not sleep last night. 35 Israeli tanks plowed into the Tal Al-Hawa area in the south of the city. Apache missiles were fired from the sky. The explosions lasted throughout the night. Red light bullets passed by my nose, sometimes hitting a building, while others fell to the ground. Two Caterpillar bulldozers destroyed the home of Palestinian Preventative Security officer Yousef Mkdud, who Israeli soldiers arrested last week while Apaches fired missiles into another area of Gaza City. His family was at home.

A man called out that the international community must wake up. He said, “They are killing our children but we are here to stay. The world must listen to the truth.”

Another said quietly, “No one heard you.”

A few media have contacted me since the news is that there is a “major attack on Gaza.” Here in the Gaza Strip, children, men, women, doctors, professors, students, are killed or displaced daily. Their houses are knocked down, they often cannot pass from one end of the Strip to the other, cannot leave it at all, do not have access to drinking water because Israel diverts the best water for its own agriculture and illegal settlements. People here are easy targets for the Apaches and F-16s. There is nowhere else to go.

The residents of Block 0 in Rafah, along what is now the most exposed row of houses after several rows deep have been demolished, are not staying in their houses at night anymore. The situation is too dangerous for them: midnight demolitions and constant shooting. They sleep on the ground under white sheets that barely pass for tents. More than 300 homes have been demolished in this area in the last year.

What is most alarming is not the increased frequency of the demolitions, but the complete acceptability of them. They go unnoticed by anyone except the Palestinians who are rendered homeless in the process. The tents sit in messy rows on the sides of dusty roads around the town of Rafah. Today the PA was handing out $100 checks for emergency aid. Even with $1,000 there is still nowhere for Palestinians to go. 42 percent of the Gaza Strip is occupied by illegal Israeli settlements and more are being built. Between September 1993 and March of 2001 settlement building increased by 72 percent, with the peak time under then Israeli Prime Minister Barak (recall his “generous offer” in that time which was considered “a time of peace”). That, along with humiliating checkpoints, targeted assassinations, random killings and frequent invasions, is “the Israeli peace.”

Friends who live next to Abu Holi checkpoint have just called. Israeli soldiers have been shooting at them for the past hour, but this is not considered a part of the “major invasion,” nor are the Apaches firing missiles near the tents in Rafah.

Kristen Ess is a political activist and freelance journalist from New York City, who has lived in the West Bank and Gaza since March 2002, where she does solidarity work and reports for Free Speech Radio news and Left Turn magazine.