ZaitoonTree: Entering the Danger Zone: Gaza Under Fire, Again

Entering the Danger Zone: Gaza Under Fire, Again

Rafat Abushaban


Fri, 23/11/2012

Last week seems very distant from now. We were a team from the Business and Technology Incubator/IUG from Gaza participating for the first time in the Growing SMEs conference and meetings organized by BiD Network in the Netherlands held as a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week when the latest Israeli massacre on Gaza took place

The event was visited by Princess Maxima of the Netherlands and the Minister for Foreign Trade who have applauded the development of start-ups and businesses in Palestine. Rarely that I have the time these days to follow up with the people I met at the conference or return to my normal life routine and work as we have experienced intensive ground shaking Israeli air strikes in the Gaza strip last week.

We Were Taken by Surprise 
While sitting in partner meetings in the event, a member of my group rushed in with the news. “There is a war in Gaza”, she said. We stood there in silence for a few moments and then it was all over the TV. It was a total surprise for some of our team members who were travelling outside Gaza for the first time as we debated on whether we stay put or rush back to our families under the Israeli shelling. 
We have witnessed the last cast-lead operation three years ago and we know what the worst scenario can be: "The Israeli military firstly eliminates a so-called Bank of Targets including governmental buildings, shops, electricity generation plants, empty grounds and underground tunnels with thousands of rockets killing and wounding anybody around. After the infrastructure is devastated, a ground operation starts with tens of thousands of Israeli troops in high-tech tanks supported by artillery and jets to sweep the ground before the ground forces". 

Despite this, the government of Gaza has called on their essential staff to return to their works challenging the defacto Israeli curfew in a step that have stimulated people to leave their houses to buy necessary goods for their families in the case of the escalation continuing for a long time. We then made our decision to go back no matter what happens. 

People queuing at Rafah crossing waiting to meet their families in Gaza during the Israeli escalation

Bombing along the Rafah border, a few hundred meters from Rafah crossing

Entering The War-zone 
After two sleepless nights travelling back, we have arrived at the Egyptian town of Rafah which is the twin city for the Palestinian town with the same name where the famous Rafah crossing to Gaza exists. Along the borders between Gaza and Egypt, there is a network of underground tunnels used to smuggle goods and foods into besieged Gaza as there is no commercial border between the two countries. The only borders for importing food, goods, medication, tools and equipments are under total Israeli control and are closed most of the time. Every now and then, Israeli air-strikes target these tunnels along the border line. 
The clouds of smoke in Gaza could be seen clearly from far away which has raised our stress. We have arrived at the crossing early morning before the border was even open. The scene of tens of people queuing at the gates to enter Gaza was amazing and shocking in the same time. We had three or four air strikes a hundred meters away from the crossing where the ground and windows of the nearby Egyptian buildings were heavily shaking. When the border was open at 9 o'clock, a missile then has struck a nearby tunnel as if it was welcoming us back. People were talking around and joking to lift up their spirits and man shouted: “Let's go. The air strikes air awaiting us!” 

After finishing the inspection and entering Gaza, we were praying that we can make it home safely. I was asking about if we can go back using a potentially safe road along the beach, but I was told that it was destroyed. We discussed the possible routes of entering the city and then went with a taxi on a full speed. The roads were nearly empty except for ambulances, fire trucks and a few travellers like us rushing to reach their destinations before a strike occurs nearby. Israeli jets could be heard very clearly from everywhere along the way and destruction was visible in various places. We have passed through a couple of totally destroyed police stations and civilian buildings while the radio was giving the latest news about rockets being fired from Gaza.

Home, Sweet Home 
I was telling the driver for the directions to my home. When we have gotten closer, the road was blocked by the rubble of the vacant Saraya buildings that were targeted a few hours ago. Arriving a little late could save life sometimes! 
The Saraya buildings were targeted many times in the past until it became a deserted piece of land, but that did not prevent targeting it again and again, as apparently the Israeli bank of targets was running out. 
We took and alternative route and finally arrived and I rushed to see my family members and friends. Later on that day, the air strikes were escalated so much as full civilian buildings were brought to the ground. Aldallou family including their four children were killed under the rubble of their home and the scenes of these children were on the television for the world to see. 

When the night hours came in, the air strikes intensity and number increased dramatically and most people could not sleep before dawn, especially with the type of missiles used by the Israelis to shake the ground intentionally, which does feel like an earthquake. Unmanned air-drones could be heard all day long with their loud noise, looking for targets on the ground on a 24 hours basis.

The rubble of the Saraya complex in Gaza after being targeted many times by Israeli jets

Civilian Targets 
Media offices in the main street of Gaza were targeted killing and wounding civilians and journalists and destroying media offices. A local bank that is used to pay the salaries of thousands of employees was fully destroyed in Gaza by direct missiles. The people who have died from the continuous bombings have exceeded 160 individuals with over a thousand wounded, mainly children, elderly, and entire families. Israeli propaganda messages were transmitted after hacking some local Palestinian channels and radio stations warning and threatening people. Other flyers were dropped from planes asking people living near the borders to leave their homes and move to city center, which most of the people has ignored. 

On the last day of the escalation, the Israeli jets targeted a major civilian complex used by the government for arranging the travels of citizens called Abukhadra that was totally destroyed. The whole neighbourhood was affected and many nearby buildings caught fire

The rubble of Abukhadra complex in Gaza after being targeted by Israeli jets

Despite all the killing and destruction, the Palestinians have won by their patience. A cease-fire agreement was signed after 8 days of the aggression stating that the blockade on Gaza will be removed and people will be free to travel and import/export goods with the outside world. Still after one day of this agreement, a young man was killed by Israeli fire in Khan-younis in the Gaza strip for getting close to the border. Only time will tell if this agreement can last for long

*United we can overcome the hurdles and defeat the occupation


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