Still Casting Lead: Israeli Air Force Attack Kills 2, Injures 12 in Single Family

Update: Midgdad’s 12-year-old cousin died yesterday.

“This is the occupation,” a neighbor mumbled as we stepped into what remained of twenty-year-old Migdad El Zalaan’s cement-block home in the north of Gaza City this afternoon.  The Israeli Air Force dropped the first of three bombs near Zalaan’s home at approximately 2 a.m. this morning, killing his uncle, wounding El Zalaan and the rest of his twelve family members, and destroying his home.

Midhad El Zalaan in his home after Israel’s Bombing

In one corner of the living room a baby doll lay on a mattress buried under shards of tin roof.  Cement blocks squashed plastic party hats and red stuffed bears, and  El Zalaan’s family’s modest possessions lay buried under layers of dust and rubble.  El Zalaan was on his computer right before Israel attacked.

“After the Israelis dropped the first bomb, I took my family and left my home,” explained El Zalaan, periodically looking up at the sky, where the ceiling once was. “Then the second bomb dropped and I went to my uncle’s home to find out if they were okay. My uncle’s wife [Saada El Zalaan] called me from under the rubble. She was holding her baby, I took the baby and then Israel dropped the third bomb.”  El Zalaan then helped his aunt out of her house despite her pleas to get her son out and leave her.

“I kept digging, looking for my uncle, then I found him, buried, but still breathing. He told me ‘take care of my family, take care of my wife and my children’ and then he died in my arms.”  Bahjat El Zalaan was 33-years-old and the father of 5 when he died.

El Zalaan described how during the bombing he was screaming and pulling his hair out, and how he was trying to protect his mother, father, grandmother and siblings from the shrapnel by holding them in his arms. “I got rubble in my leg and back,” he explained, wincing in pain throughout the interview.

He took his family to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Two of his cousins, ages 10 and 12, remain in critical condition.  Israel had destroyed the roof of his home before, during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.  On the outside of the home, a small plaque hung near the broken window, “This shelter was repaired by UNRWA through a generous fund from the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Before leaving, El Zalaan asked if he could take a photograph with us and his cousin, who snapped a photo on his cell phone. As we left I asked him if he worked, and he said he had no home, and no work either.  “We stay at home because there’s no work.”  El Zalaan will be living with this cousin in the Beach Refugee Camp.

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Palestinian Kids Kidnapped and Interrogated While Fishing Tell Story

I interviewed a couple of really sweet Palestinian boys yesterday who had just been released from over 12 hours in Israeli detention.  Why did Israel detain and interrogate two 17-year-olds while they were fishing, force them to strip naked, jump into the frigid Mediterranean in the pre-dawn hours, blindfold them, handcuff them, feet cuff them, interrogate them, photograph one of them with his shirt of, and then ultimately release them without apology or explanation?  Mohamed and Abdul Qader have no idea.  The Israeli army never told them.  Chances are, unless you read the report I wrote yesterday, you never heard their story.

Can you imagine what the world’s reaction would be if armed Palestinians kidnapped two Israeli high school students fishing a couple of miles off the coast of Tel Aviv

I spent most of the time speaking to Abdul Qader, who appeared really traumatized by the experience, and kept repeating “this is no way to treat human beings.”  His dad is a plumber, and since there’s not a lot of work in Gaza now, he often helps his family out by catching fish when there’s a school holiday.  He won’t be going back out on the water for a longtime though.

Anyway, check out palsolidarity.org for the full report, plus photos.

Israel Drops Missile on North Gaza Neighborhood, No One Cares

The Israeli Air Force fired a missile into a Beit Hanoun residential neighborhood in north Gaza early Sunday morning. The missile landed in a grove surrounded by homes, creating a crater the size of a tennis court and destroying over forty orange and olive trees. Chunks of shrapnel and oranges lay scattered about the grove

Local children and area residents interviewed appeared to be in shock.  Ayman Ismail Hamad explained that “[a]t 3 a.m. we heard a huge boom. It was so scary for the children and women here and they started to shout and cry – such a scary thing for them.  When we looked out to see what happened we found everything there totally destroyed . . . and the windows from the houses in this area – totally nothing. The [Israeli] F-16 didn’t leave anything behind.”

The owner of the farmland, Sufyan Musa Muhammad, reported losing approximately 40 orange and olive trees, not including the uprooted trees at the periphery of the crater, valued at approximately $200 a tree.  “It’s not just the price,” he added, gazing sadly at the upturned alien landscape.  “It’s that there’s no more fruit.”  According to Muhammad, no journalists had approached him regarding the Israeli missile attack, which went unreported.

Thirteen-year-old Amer Ayman Hamad, whose house is about 50 meters away from the impacted area said, “There was boom . . . I didn’t scream, I just woke up . . .  it was during the night we didn’t hear any plane except for the sound of the drones . . . after that I went to the bathroom.”

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack which terrorized local residents.  No one was injured.  Palestinians in the area believe that Israel used an F-16 to bomb the residential neighborhood due to the size of the crater and the thickness of the shrapnel.

When asked if he believed Israel should compensate him for his loss Muhammad replied, “I don’t want money from the Israelis. Whatever they do to us we are steadfast and strong and we won’t leave our land.”

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The Israeli Army shot at me and 3 Palestinian kids in Gaza today

After a lovely day of drinking excessive amounts of tea with a few families in South Gaza (Faraheen and Khuza’a, to be exact), an Italian colleague, Silvia, who used to live in Khuza’a, suggested walking down the road towards the local school.  It was late afternoon, about 4:30 p.m. and dozens of children played in the area.  We walked past slices of a giant concrete wall placed in the middle of the road.  The slivers reminded me of Israel’s Apartheid Wall in the West Bank — 25 feet of reinforced concrete.  The local villagers had apparently retrieved these sections from a former settlement and placed them there so that children could play outside while being (somewhat) protected from Israeli army gunfire

Silvia pointed to a school farther down the road.  “That’s where the children go to school,” she said. The sun was beginning to set and the area was quite beautiful if one didn’t look too hard at the Israeli military towers in the distance. I took some pictures, and even asked Silvia to take a photo of me.  Kids played nearby and a donkey cart passed us.  I photographed a house that looked like it had been bombed, but the bougainvillea had grown back in vibrant fuchsia.  Two boys playing with a piece of plastic ran towards us from farther up the road and begged me to take a photo.  I snapped a sloppy photo, and they eagerly checked their digital images on my camera.  One in a green sweater thought it was terribly funny that the boy in a red hoodie’s head was missing in my photo.

They ran up ahead, and we walked for about 15 seconds when I heard a strange whiz, a whistle, eerily close to my ear. I paused, a bullet?  Red hoodie and two younger boys up ahead hit the floor as I momentarily pondered the strange sound.

The kids turned around and yelled at us to stupid foreigners to get down.  We bent down and started to walk away — fast — and they yelled at us to get completely on the ground.  The Israeli army left us no time to be scared. No gunshots over our heads.  No warnings.  A second bullet whizzed  past the three kids, and then us.  The Israelis were shooting at us from the towers 500 meters ahead. This time, we were on the ground. I continued to look at these 9-year-olds or 10-year-olds or whatever they were for cues–walking towards their school under Israeli fire was clearly routine for them and they knew what they were doing.  We waited on the ground for several minutes.  As I still had my camera in hand, I snapped a quick photo of them from the ground.

A minute or two later a father and his toddler, also further up on the road came towards us and offered a ride on the back of his motorized cart. We jumped in and he “sped” back to behind the wall.  Anyway, I got back to my apartment about an hour later, just in time for my Arabic class.  Even though I had actually studied this time, I couldn’t concentrate.  Why was the Israeli army shooting at our heads? 

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And I realized this is what Palestinian first, second, third, fourth graders experience daily in Gaza.