“They are wrong to think we are the terrorists”

A young victim of Israeli shelling. (Eman¬†Mohammed)

Saturday was supposed to be a normal day — at least as close to normal as we are allowed to enjoy in Gaza.

Where else but in Gaza are students killed in air strikes on their classrooms? Where else does a humanitarian disaster unfold not because an earthquake, a volcano, or any other kind of natural disaster struck, but because of governmental policy, and the cooperation of world powers?

From my desk in my university classroom we could see the smoke from Israel’s bombing and hear the most terrifying sound of non-stop explosions. Girls around me screamed in horror and I thought about my camera which I left back at home for fear that rain would damage it. It ended up being a sunny day and I regretted losing the opportunity to take photos, not for fame or for money, but to document what was happening to prove to people outside of Gaza that they are wrong to think we are the terrorists.

Some of my classmates ran out of the university, fearing their lives, but were killed by Israeli missiles as they fled.

When I called my friends abroad to ask them to make sense of what was going on in Gaza, after we were cut off electricity just as the raids began, none of them could give me logical answers.

Meanwhile, the madness continued. Children ran hysterically in the streets as all of Gaza was on fire — literally.

Al-Shifa Hospital was a terrifying scene where body upon body lay on the floor, as there was no more space for the dead in the morgue. I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture. I stared for a very long time at the faces of the martyrs; I was acquainted with some and had worked with others.

One of the injured at the hospital was a little boy heading home from school. Terrified and unable to see due to his injury, the boy was shaking and holding on to anything alive. However, I think holding his hand helped me more than it helped him; I didn’t have the words to comfort him. When doctors were able to attend to the boy, I promised him he would be OK. The next thing I knew, his little weak body, deprived of life, was lying on the hospital’s cold floor. Was his crime being born Palestinian?

As the day drew to a close, I was simultaneously sad, angry, speechless and dumbfounded by what was happening so I went back home. However, the Israeli planes did not and the attacks continued for a second day and are still ongoing.

The second day was more painful than the first since we then understood that this all wasn’t some nightmare. After I woke up, I headed directly to the hospital to document the cruel reality. As the casualties kept mounting — women, children and men alike — it was crystal clear that the whole of the people of Gaza were being targeted.

Those who are reporting the events are not exempt from the bombing and seem to be a special target. Journalists rushed to the scene of an air strike at the Saraya prison compound yesterday, thinking the bombing was all over, but a couple of minutes later another missile hit our location. We escaped with minor injuries but so far hundreds of people in Gaza have not been so lucky.

Eman Mohammed is a Jordanian-Palestinian freelance photojournalist and reporter based in the Gaza Strip since 2005.

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