The evening of 3 January, we realized that if there was any truth to Israeli war minister Ehud Barak’s words, it’s that this invasion will be a long one. At approximately 9:15pm local time Israeli forces entered the Strip from three locations. From the east of Gaza City and the northern towns of Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya, tanks rolled into the Palestinian residential areas while Israeli F-16s created a cover from the sky. At the same time, Israeli tanks and infantry troops entered Rafah from the southeast, while tanks shelling and artillery fire rained on the Mintar area of Gaza City. Israeli warships were simultaneously barraging Gaza City from the sea. The entire Strip was surrounded and being heavily pounded by Israeli missiles and artillery fire.
Many people were not even aware that the invasion had begun, thinking the whole time that Israel had just intensified its air raids. Gaza City has been without power for a few days now and radio batteries were running out. Almost all the residents of Gaza City have been confined to their homes for over a week and all of the stores have been closed. People are relying on word of mouth to get the news, very few are lucky enough to have generators and leftover fuel.
This war is being waged against an unarmed civilian population at the most desperate and bleak time. Israel had been systematically and indiscriminately using its most advanced military capabilities against a defenseless population — three-quarters of whom are women and children — for eight days prior to the invasion. People are weak and dealing with a great amount of loss and frustration. This is to speak nothing of the 18-month-long siege that Gaza has already barely been able to hold up under.
For the past few days we have seen over 10 mosques, holy places of worship, bombed, frequently while people were praying inside. We have seen children being pulled out from under the rubble who looked like there was not a single bone unbroken in their small bodies. We have seen hospitals overflowing with bloody corpses and people taking their last breaths. We have seen friends on television being resuscitated at sites of Israeli air raids. We have seen entire families swept off the face of the earth in one blow, and we have seen our streets, homes, neighborhoods become unrecognizable ruins from the amount of destruction.
And yet Israel continues to blatantly and insistently affirm that the offensive is not aimed at the civilians and that it’s war against the political and military wings of Hamas. Meanwhile we, the people of Gaza, are collectively experiencing a kind of terror and violence that no human being should ever endure. One almost begins to suspect that the Israeli war forces are acting on a delusion that they have created and come to believe.
Israel has come into our homes, is fighting us in our streets and is expressing its brutality against us in full force. How are we supposed to react?
All Palestinian factions have united and are out facing the enemy, using all of their military capabilities that they collectively have. Although these capabilities are incomparable to the military strength exerted by Israel, yet it has made us more certain than ever that Palestinians will fight to the very end to protect their own. It has shown us that resistance, courage and love are an integral part of the Palestinian identity that will never change despite all the hardships we endure. It has given us a moral boost, which comes at a time when we need it most.
The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades of The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad movement, The Izzedin al-Qassam brigades of Hamas, the Salah al-Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah have all come together as one united front and at a high, almost affirmed risk of peril, are out protecting our streets and our homes, ready to die if that means preventing the death of one more helpless child. We are united and we have accepted our fate recurrently, but the people of Gaza — almost 80 percent of them refugees — will not be massacred and displaced yet again by people from the outside guided by tyranny and greed.
There are estimations out there as to the collective count of the united military resistance fighters from the Palestinian factions, the number is thought to be a few thousand. The Israeli troops within and around Gaza at this moment are approximately 33,000, with more reservists being called in within the next day. The disparity is not only in troop numbers, however. The Israeli forces are supported by the Israeli navy and the Israeli air force. The ground forces include artillery, tanks, engineering forces and intelligence agency support. The Israeli soldiers are equipped with the most modern weaponry and intelligence devices.
Palestinian fighters, on the other hand, have to make do with their homemade projectiles and a bare minimum of basic weaponry in order to defend themselves and their people against the Israeli military might.
At the moment, and in the midst of the aggression, it is hard to make sense of the current situation or make future predictions. It’s hard to come to grips with the numbers and the extent of our losses. It’s hard even to remember a time when basic necessities such as food, water, warmth and daylight weren’t a luxury. At this point, bare human instinct is at work — the need to protect your loved ones, the need to ensure shelter and the instinct of fight or flight. We have fled for too long, Gaza is our last refuge and our home after we were displaced from what is now called Israel. All this happened 60 years ago. What more could they want? We have nowhere left to go. They have disregarded every single international law there is. Now is the time to defend ourselves, now is the time for resistance.
Safa Joudeh is a master’s candidate in public policy at Stony Brook University in the US. She returned to Gaza in September 2007 where she currently works as a freelance journalist.