Vacationing in the Gaza Strip

To relax, go to the closed checkpoint on the way to Rafah beach. For extreme sports, go to Gaza City and dodge Apache missiles…

I chose the latter. Yesterday I left to Gaza City for a few days vacation from ISM work and from the intensity of Rafah. At around 9:45 at night, as we were finishing a dinner of fresh vegetables and pasta soaked with olive oil and soy sauce in the we heard an Apache in the sky.

This is a totally normal occurence in Rafah so it didn’t phase me. Besides, it was Sunday, the day the UN helicopters fly over the border areas.

But helicopters are not an everyday occurence for Gaza City. We heard the bomb and ten minutes of silence and then ambulances and more ambulances and by that time the images were repeating themselves on Al Jazeera and CNN, medical workers picking body parts out of the sand in the eerie shadows of sirens in the night. At least 4 have been killed and I don’t know how many wounded.

I’ll have more information for you tomorrow, inshallah.

I’m staying with my friend Molly who lives in a gorgeous flat on the outskirts of the city, in Ramal area on the beach. This is probably the safest part of the city, although a couple of attacks have been carried out down the street from where we live. The place is luxury itself, a small clean room leads out to an immense patio of white tiles and garden and shade.

I’m hearing the US news hasn’t covered the incursions in Palestine, so for those of you who don’t have time to check the news, the army has been in the West Bank for days now. Tanks have surrounded all major towns and some smaller villages and passage in and out cut off.

Between Nablus, Hebron, and Tul Karem, 14 people have been killed and dozens injured. While the media was busy covering all the extrajudicial assassinations in the various cities, the army then flattened an entire shopping area by the Green Line near Tul Karem, demolishing 120 (I’ve also heard 140) stores and scheduling more for demolition. This is the largest demolition since the beginning of the Intifada.

In the Gaza Strip, tanks have surrounded Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia (everything North of Gaza City). In addition to last night’s attack, four days ago an Apache assassinated Ismail Abu Shanab, a Hamas non-militant professor and spokesperson, they say he was assassinated for his ability to speak. And in Rafah shooting has increased along the border almost to what it was before the ceasefire.

Laura Gordon is a 20-year-old American Jew who came to Israel in December 2002 with the Birthright Israel program and proceeded, three months later, to begin work with the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah. She moved to Rafah two days after Rachel Corrie was killed and has been there since. She works primarily in media work and documentation; and also to liase between the Rafah community and the international community through summer camp projects, cooperative building projects, and English teaching.