The games children play in Gaza

Palestinians attend a protest, against the Israeli army operation in Gaza and arrest of Hamas lawmakers and ministers, in the West Bank town of Ramallah June 29, 2006. (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman)


Most areas of the Gaza Strip are currently experiencing an extremely difficult period — Israeli warplanes and tanks never stop, day or night, firing heavy artillery against every target possible.

Homes, institutions and infrastructure never escape the Israeli shelling; power and water plants have been severely hit so far, main roads have been damaged, buildings and homes have been shelled.

Moreover, civilians along with resistance fighters have been killed and wounded due to such non-stop Israeli aggression, while the lives of Gaza Strip residents have reverted to the way things were in 1967, when Israeli occupation forces occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In one of the Strip’s many refugee camps, a camp called Maghazi in the central part of the Gaza Strip, two Palestinian children laid down on top of sand bags, which had been placed on the entrance of their alley. “Why are you lying there?”, I asked the boys – Ibrahim, 9, and Ahmad, 14.

“We are lying here with our ‘rifles’ to defend our camp from the Israeli forces, we will kill them if they enter the camp “

In the main street in Maghazi, which is about 300 meters long, many sand bags have been placed by resistance fighters, apparently as a sort of defense against a likely Israeli attack on the camp. Sand bags, dirt piles, rocks blocking roads are being placed in various areas in light of Israeli military announcement that they will reinvade the ‘liberated’ Gaza Strip, to release an Israeli soldier who is being held by Palestinian resistance fighters.

Ibrahim and Ahmad, the two school children , have found no enjoyment in the fact that they are off school, and on summer holiday. Instead, they find themselves without food, without potable water, lying on top of sand bags and holding wood rifles, instead of enjoying the holiday as other children around the world are able to.

Senior Palestinian residents say that this situation resembles, to a great extent, the first days of the Israeli-Arab war of 1967, when the Gaza Strip fell into the hands of the Israeli occupation forces.

Munir Abdullah 60, of Maghazi refugee camp, says, “In June 1967, the Israeli forces waged a sweeping war in which they occupied the Gaza Strip including Maghazi. On that day, the people fled their homes, seeking refuge, while many others including resistance men placed the sand bags in every corner of the camp as you see here today.”

“My brother Fathi, who was then 17 years old was defending the camp, like many others, behind sand bags, and he was shot and killed by the Israeli forces”, Munir says.

“What the Israelis are doing is reversing the wheel of history four decades back; they are destroying everything, they are killing people in streets, I feel I have never grown up, I feel I am re-living 1967, when Israel first occupied the Gaza Strip as they are now about to reoccupy it.”

The Israeli government has recently decided to gradually launch a military attack on the Gaza Strip, intending to reoccupy it, under the pretext of releasing a soldier, who was captured by some resistance fighters in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah a few days ago.

Because of the latest Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, about 1.3 million Palestinians have been forced to live primitively; with candlelights at night, small radios in their hands and with sand bags on streets; all are worried about imminent Israeli invasions of their areas.

The Israeli occupation has closed all border crossings and commercial outlets, preventing the entry of any single person, food or even a single tank of gas. An entire population, already suffering from international aid cuts due to their democratic choice of a Hamas government in January 2006 elections, are now huddled in the darkness, behind sandbags, watching the thousands of Israeli tanks lined up on the border, and fearing for the worst.

Rami Almeghari is currently a Senior Translator at the Translation Department of the Gaza-based State Information Service (SIS) and former Editor in Chief of the SIS-linked International Press Center’s English site. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari@hotmail.com.

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