When Israeli bombs began to erupt in Gaza, Najla Shawa, a Palestinian aid worker, staged a game to distract her frightened six- and nine-year-old girls.
“We hugged each other on the porch and I hugged them and together we counted the explosion,” he said from his home in a red ribbon between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. “The first time the bomber exploded he screamed and screamed, and the boss started complaining of chest pains. He couldn’t sit or eat due to fear and stress.”
Caught on the coast, the borders were sealed, the common people of Gaza – some 2m people, many of them refugees of previous wars – have no refuge. Israel has filled the building with fighter jets, warships and tanks, while Hamas, a Palestinian army, has thrown thousands of large stones into the Jewish state, though many have been captured by Strategies for self-defense in Israel.
As of Sunday in Gaza, 192 people had been killed, including 92 women and children, according to Palestinian health officials. Israeli forces say at least 75 soldiers were Hamas soldiers but did not give evidence. So far, 10 people have been killed in Israel, including two children and a soldier.
The death toll in Gaza is expected to rise, with many still facing litter. On Sunday morning, Israeli warplanes killed 42 people and demolished several homes. Rescuers, using their hands and old signs, struggled to free the injured from twisted metal and heavy concrete, the witness said.
The shortage of ambulances and a boycott of nearby roads meant that some survivors had to carry their young children for medical treatment. A resident of the same house, who asked not to be named, said he had not received a warning to move before he arrived.
Israel has vowed to crack down on militants and has accused Hamas of hiding behind Palestinian civilians. But his army is using more time and short-range attacks in the air against a number of goals than in the past, using a new tactic of war called “the doctrine of victory”. Lt Col Jonathan Conricus of Israel Defense Forces says the one-hour operation on Thursday night affected 160 aircraft.
The IDF said the dormitories that were destroyed on Sunday collapsed after planes took off from Hamas tunnels nearby, destroying their base.
Gaza is one of the most populous places in the world and where Hamas fighters can go to the plateau – which has dug up a group located in Gaza’s major cities, towns and refugee camps to help combat air hazards and facilitate communication – citizens have a place few to hide.
A Palestinian man described how a house belonging to a large family of 30 people was shaken to and fro by Israeli gunfire. He fled on Friday morning and was hit by a nearby house.
“Later I heard from neighbors that the whole family, men, women and four children were placed under the rubble,” he said.
More than 10,000 people have taken refuge in schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. Among them, Ahmed Arafat, a farmer from Beit Hanoun northeast of Gaza, said he and his wife, mother and five children fled on Friday morning from bullets in Israeli tanks. During the seven weeks of 2014 – the last major conflict between Israel and Hamas – his family lived in the same house for a month. “I don’t know when it will end this time,” he added. “But I’m afraid it will last too long.”
The city of Gaza – often referred to as a prison camp by human rights groups – has been under siege by Israel and Egypt since 2007, when Hamas ousted Fatah, a political party led by Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine. As a result of restricted trade and access to foreign aid, the weary and impoverished people of Gaza had already seen their infrastructure collapse and pre-war standards.
“Every year there are major conflicts in Gaza that leave them more vulnerable and more vulnerable than ever because of the closure,” said Tamara al-Rifai at UNRWA. “Now the infrastructure that has already weakened must also fight Covid-19.”
Electricity and clean water, which are already in permanent supply, are in trouble because oil is no longer flowing. Gaza’s own gas-fired power plants ran out of gas on Monday to stop the war they discussed negotiations to allow a re-emergence, says a senior Israeli official.
Ashraf al-Qudra, at Gaza’s ministry of health, said he expected fuel for medical generators to be depleted for a week, adding to the pressure on the flood-prone rooms. More than 1,200 people were injured.
“We are burning second and third degree, people with broken limbs and some are suffering from lethal smoke,” he added. “These injuries are life-threatening and require operations that cannot be performed in Gaza. We want to cross Israel to open them because they provide essential medical care, medical supplies, food and fuel to the generators.”
Hamas, an Islamist group, controls Gaza with iron, but there is no evidence that Palestinians are criticizing the group for its recent suffering. Abbas, President of Palestine, called off a series of by-elections last month out of fear that Hamas would win.
Shawa said his family is watching the black smoke rising above Gaza. Her husband left their home near the west coast of Gaza just once when a bomb exploded. Describing the situation of the local people after the government was shut down for years, he said: “People feel that they have nothing to lose and are satisfied with this injustice.”