Israel wants us to die, but we will remain

No house is safe: Palestinian rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble of a house destroyed by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City Monday. Ashraf Amra APA images

“Israel contends that the civilians of Gaza expose themselves to harm, therefore, they should leave areas where Israeli army troops operate.”

That was one of the things I told listeners during a telephone interview with the US Emoprog Army Radio Hour.

I did the interview only a few hours after my four children, my chronically ill wife, my elderly mother and I were forced out of my home in the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

We are now among the more than 100,000 Palestinians forced to flee their homes as Israel’s horrifying bombardment of Gaza continues.

We are lucky to find shelter with relatives about three kilometers away. We are now 31 people all crowded into a single home.

But in tiny Gaza, there’s no feeling of safety. Nothing is far away, especially Israel’s bombing and shelling that we hear all the time.

It was in a home like this, like any home in Gaza, that early on Monday morning, at least 26 members of the Abu Jami family were wiped out when Israel destroyed their house in Khan Younis. Like us, here in this house, they were men and women young and old, and little children.

Our departure came after residents of Maghazi and nearby al-Bureij refugee camp received a recorded phone message in Arabic ordering us to leave our homes immediately, warning that otherwise we would face the same destiny as the Shujaiya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City.

The Israeli army’s massacre in Shujaiya on Sunday killed at least 66 Palestinians and wounded hundreds.

As of Monday, the death toll from the fourteen consecutive days of Israeli attacks has risen to more than 500 — including entire families wiped out — and more than 3,000 have been injured. The vast majority of the dead are civilians, and one in five is a child.

Where should we go?

My home town of Maghazi is located in the eastern part of the central Gaza Strip.

“It is totally unfair that we, the residents of Gaza, are forced gently by an Israeli army [spokesperson] on the phone, to leave our homes in a coastal region that is considered the most densely-populated” in the world, I told the radio program.

Feeling outraged, I exclaimed, “Where should we go? Where should we go?”

Over the past two weeks, we, the civilians of Maghazi, al-Bureij, Shujaiya, Rafah and many other northern, eastern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip, have been forcibly confined to our homes, living with tension, worry and sleeplessness with the deafening and terrifying sounds of Israeli bombs day and night.

Tightly closed

Yes, where should we go? The Gaza Strip is a tiny territory: it is only 360 square kilometers — that’s about twice the size of Washington, DC, or just a quarter of the size of London.

Gaza’s eastern and northern boundaries are blockaded with a heavy Israeli army presence and Egypt has tightly sealed off the Rafah crossing, the only land border that does not traverse Israel.

And finally, our western border is the Gaza sea that is filled with Israeli gunships firing at the shore. There is no safety there as the brutal murder of the four young boys from the Baker family on a beach last week shows.

So where should we go? The phone messages that the Israeli army left advised us to leave for Deir al-Balah, a town and refugee camp on the beachfront. Deir al-Balah is only about seven kilometers away from Maghazi and al-Bureij and is one of the densest areas of the Gaza Strip.

Deir al-Balah is already under attack, as Israeli gunships and warplanes continue to hit this Gaza town as well. Where should we go?

The entire Gaza population faces death, injury or harm as Israel attacks every region of this small corner of Palestine.

Nowhere is safe. People are barely able to help each other as they have lived under very harsh economic conditions due to Israel’s punishing seven-year-old siege.

We are going back to Palestine

Being displaced forces me to ask the simple questions: Where should we go? Where do the Israelis want us to go? Are they asking us to die?

Yes, apparently, they want us to die. Their threats have come to fruition, as we saw during the massacre in Shujaiya and the new massacres revealed every day.

Where do you Israelis want us to go? To hell? No, we are going to heaven, instead, and our souls will curse at you either at the international courts of justice or on the day of judgment — that is if the “international community” denies us justice here, and continues to side with those who occupy and commit atrocities against men, women and children.

US President Barack Obama said he “supported Israel’s right to defend itself.”

What is this “self-defense” you refer to, Mr. Obama? Please watch the scenes of dismembered Palestinian children on television screens or in photographs coming out of the devastated, impoverished Gaza Strip.

Where should we go?

We will go back to Palestine, our own homeland that Israel stole back in 1948. We have nowhere to go this time and we will not do what our grandparents did when Israel committed massacres during the 1940s, forcing them to flee.

We are not going to flee, we are going to stay.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.