Victoria Schneider & Ilham Rawoot
On Sunday morning at 8am, the Israeli army tweeted it had dropped leaflets over Gaza ordering people to evacuate their homes by midday as they intended to “attack terror and terror infrastructure”. The leaflet read: “The IDF’s campaign is to be short and temporary. Those who fail to comply will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware.” But Gazans are snorting in their faces. One of those is local writer and radio journalist Ahmed Balousha. The last update he posted on his Facebook timeline last night is this:
“I will not leave my house. I will stay with my brothers and neighbours. I won’t leave Beit Lahia like our grandfathers left al-Majdal (since 1948 Ashkelon / Israel)”
Today is the first day of the Israeli military’s ground offensive, which it has been threatening to begin for days, with tanks surrounding the Gazan border. So far, from attacks from the air and sea since Tuesday, the death toll stands at 165.
We will bring you diary entries as often as we can – some from Skype conversations, some from emails, some from voice notes, some from Facebook conversations. Gaza loses power randomly. It was like that before the war but now the periods without power are becoming longer and more unpredictable, so contact is sporadic.
Skype diary with Ahmed Balousha
Ahmed is a 24-year-old journalist from Beit Lahia, a refugee camp in the north of Gaza. The day before we talked, his 24-year-old cousin was killed when an Israeli missile hit his car. This is the transcript of a Skype conversation we had with Ahmed at 1am on Friday..
Don’t worry. Thank god, we are still alive. Alhamdulillah. As you know this time of killing and dying is something we are facing again and again, and sometimes you can even think: Oh my God, this is actually our daily life. They [the Israeli military] are talking about the ground invasion but we don’t know if they are serious. Maybe they are trying to intimidate us with those threats. In the north of Gaza in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia they’re trying to talk people into leaving the area and go to the middle of Gaza. They want to destroy the resistance in Gaza. I think it’s another way to destroy unity. The people are standing by the Palestinian resistance and Israel is trying to make us afraid.
Today they [the Israeli army] called us on the phone and told us to leave our homes and go somewhere else in Gaza. But we refused to leave our house because we need to stay. It would be like leaving from al-Majdal (now Ashkelon in Israel) in 1948 and we can’t do this thing again. We have to die in our house; we cannot leave it.
You know my grandfathers left their houses back then and came to this bullshit, Gaza. Now I can’t do the same thing. I’d rather die.
Now, the bombing, it’s like a constant noise in my ears. It’s a ringing sound. And I have a headache.
[A bomb goes off in the background, nearby.]
There’s bombing right now in Beit Lahia. You can hear, yeah?
[He leaves the camera for a few seconds and returns.]
Sorry, I just had to open the doors and the windows otherwise the pressure of the blasts will burst them.
I cannot count the numbers of the bombs – there are so many. Every hour, every minute. All the time. I don’t know. In the whole of today you cannot sleep. I tried to get some sleep but I couldn’t because of the constant sound of bombs.
I feel so sad when I see my little niece. She just cries when she hears the bombs and when the grounds shakes under her legs. She tries to smile but she doesn’t understand what’s going on.
I am living in a room facing the street, in the corner of the house. My mother always asks me to come to the hall so I can be far from the rockets but I don’t wanna go out of my room, you know. But walla, I have air conditioning here! Haha, I don’t wanna leave my room. When the power cuts you feel like you are in a big oven, walla, especially in the afternoon. It’s so hot. From the beginning of the summer I started having two showers daily.
They are bombing near the sea right now. Can you hear?
We cannot move outdoors. We cannot leave our houses. I am just working on the reports for a radio station, trying to get information from colleagues and brothers and friends through phone or social media. And I’m learn English for the TOEFL.
[Ahmed posts that the internet in Gaza might be cut off. He translates into English.]
I said [Binyamin] Netanyahu wants to cut the internet off in the Gaza strip. So I said, go ahead, we need some more social time anyway, because sometimes the social media takes too much of our times. I was just trying to make a joke.
There was another joke I posted. I wanted to say Netanyahu, he can cut off the electricity, I will just take the electricity from the neighbours.
Sorry, I am trying to translate everything because I haven’t studied the language in a while. My English has gotten worse.
We need to have something new. I don’t like the routine and everything is just so boring here. I feel bored by everything that happens more than once. I don’t like it.
Food and water is available. But the markets close early and the food is less than before. Because of the situation you cannot move in the streets. Even if you are not related to Hamas we are all targeted by the Israeli forces and they can identify you as something dangerous for them. Some areas are cut off from water. They can’t shower or wash dishes or clothes. But we had this problem before the war. The water has always been very salty and makes your eyes burn.
[He says that one of the positives that have come from the war is that he spends more time with his mother.]
It’s actually very cool to sit with my mother. When I was at work I couldn’t see my mother all the time. But now I can see her every day. I try to be with her in the kitchen and make things with her. I fried the eggs the other day. When I was a kid I burnt the kitchen. I left the eggs on the gas stove for too long and nearly burnt the whole kitchen.
After one hour we will have suhur [breakfast before fasting begins].
The war, it feels like so long. You stay in your house all day and do nothing. Nothing. It’s bad, you know. I am working, I am writing. But at the same time I feel like I need to see my friends. I wanna do something different. It’s just what I like to do.
[Another bomb goes off in the neighbourhood.]
This is another type of war [different from Operation Cast Lead in 2012]. The last one was targeting the leaders and the people that they want. But right now they are trying to target anything they can, anything they can reach. They can’t find any leader in Gaza right now because they all went into hiding. They developed new strategies and know much better what they have to do.
And today, Netanyahu said that they are thinking to invade in Gaza and the spokesman of Hamas said: We are awaiting your arrival.
Because Hamas is strong on the ground. They are better now because they’ve come up with solutions – they can deal with the tanks much better and can co-ordinate missiles.
You have to know something important. Hamas can operate everything well. They have a very good experience in military work. They are really professional, and there is no Hamsawi, no Hamas military member who has been killed in this war. The Israeli forces are only targeting civilians, because they can’t reach the military bases. They have thousands, they have shifts, they are changing their shifts all the time.
Pic Creit: Gaza under attack from Israel by Eloise Bollack