Israel pounds Gaza into dust

At 9 o’clock yesterday morning the Israeli military destroyed all of the bridges the lead in and out of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip. Israeli tanks and helicopters then shelled the town for 18 hours.

Night before last Israeli occupation forces invaded Gaza City. One of the houses they destroyed is near where I used to live, next door to where many Palestinians still live. It is unusual for the Israeli military to invade Gaza City by land the way they do in the rest of the Gaza Strip. In the south, in Rafah for instance, every house I’ve lived in is now destroyed. I left one house for an hour in Rafah’s Block O and the Israeli military destoyed it. But usually the IOF attacks Gaza City by air, by firing missiles from US donated Apache helicopters, as they also did last night.

My friends from the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City wrote this: “In the early morning hours of Friday, January 24, 2003, the IOF entered az-Zaytun area, west of Gaza City, and destroyed a house with explosives. The house is owned by the family of Mas,ud Ayad, who was assassinated by the Israeli military in 2000. Also, the IOF arrested four Palestinians; three of them are from the Ayad family. About twenty homes were damaged in the area due to the explosion. The same night Israeli helicopters shelled a metal shop in Gaza with five missiles. One of the missiles struck Saint Philips Church, which is located inside the Al Ahly Hospital, while a second missile hit a house directly, destroying it. One elderly woman died from a heart attack and three other people were injured.”

There is more from this morning. “At approximately 9 am Friday, January 24, 2003, the IOF attacked the town of Beit Hanun, in the north of the Gaza Strip. They destroyed four bridges at the entrances of the town isolating the town completely. Israeli tanks and helicopters then shelled the town until 3 am killing 18-year-old Hasan Yusif Fayad, and injuring 20 others. In addition, numerous homes were damaged from the shelling, which also damaged electricity and phone lines. Meanwhile, on the same day, the IOF murdered 24-year-old Muhammad al-Musadar, who was mentally disabled, from the refugee camp of Al-Maghazi.”

In Rafah the Israeli military is still smashing through people’s houses. They plowed into Block O again yesterday and destroyed twenty-one homes. The area is already flooded with sewage and nearly unihabitable. There is another wall next to the apartheid wall the Israeli military government is building made of broken toys and beds, bits from the houses. The children have nowhere to go. No one has anywhere to go. How is the Israeli proganda machine managing to sell this to the international community?

The kids from Jenin wrote: “Whose the terrorist? You’re the terrorist. How am I the terrorist living in my homeland?”

Last week in Khan Younis 70 Israeli tanks tore through the main streets of the town targetting auto repair shops and other similar industry. It is a common practice of the Israeli military government to destroy any mode of Palestinian economic sustainability. Targetted shootings are also common, not always to kill, but often to maim in specific areas of the body making a future of working or mobility difficult if not impossible. In Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp when Israeli soldiers shot the children who threw stones at the heavily armoured invading Israeli jeeps and tanks, they aimed at the legs of the children. Two, one who was just 10 years old (not 12 as was reported earlier), and a young teenager, will never walk properly again. Last summer a young man was hit by an Apache missile. He lived through it, but cannot walk without a limp and is in constant pain.

Another boy is about to undergo a long term operation and recovery in order to have bullets removed from his leg. In the prisons the torture is often disabling. Israeli soldiers broke a friend’s arm at the shoulder during interrogation. He put it back in place himself since he was denied medical treatment. He cannot move his arm properly now and is always in pain. He has a bullet in his back. The pain makes sleeping and using stairs difficult. Another friend who has an illicit mobile telephone inside an Israeli prisoner tells me that what I imagine happened to him at the hands of Israeli soldiers is true. He is being held without charge. When he gets out, if he gets out, the Israeli military government will be more easily able to sell their propaganda to the international community that it’s just terrorists and felons that they are killing and that they must keep all Palestinians under curfew in order to “protect themselves.” Israeli occupation forces abducted ten Palestinians from their sleeping homes in Bethelehem.

As Israelis enjoy the ability to hold elections, Palestinians in the West Bank remain under house arrest, unable to go to school, to work, and certainly unable to conduct elections.

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.