It was a mixed feeling yesterday to encounter the new graffiti on the sidewalk and wall near my apartment: on the one hand, nice to be able to read it (the training is paying off); on the other, deeply sad to be reminded of the trouble in Gaza. That is a place where I've spent much of my life; where I learned real lessons on life and humanity, and where I have many dear friends.
|Long Live Gaza|
|Long Live Gaza|
Now is not the time to go to Gaza. There is no need to take the risk. Fortunately, I've been able to reach many of my friends by phone.
I reached Mohammed on Friday; he, the patriarch of the family I live most with in those years in the late 1990s, between the two intifadas. His voice was strong and resolute as always, but he confirmed that bombs had fallen that day nearby the Maghazi Camp where his home is, in the middle portion of the Strip.
Later I reached Ahmed, his nephew, who I befriended back then when he was a teen and have become like a father to him. His fear is always more apparent, and he kept repeating how bad things were. He clarified that the bombing was much closer than I thought. I learned later from the news that 3 had been targeted and killed in that bombing. Later that night, while messaging on Facebook, more bombs were falling.
Yesterday, Mahmoud's phone was dead all morning. I finally reached him in the afternoon, just as he was approaching his home north of Gaza City to inspect the damage. Mahmoud, a NGO official, dear friend, and key advisor to our research project, proudly toured me through that home two years ago. He had saved the resources to finally move his family of 9 out of the urban cramp of Gaza City to this very nice home on the north side of the Sha'ti refugee camp that abuts Gaza City to the north. Likely in an attempt to destroy any rocket launching pads, the empty field next to his home had been bombed, pulverizing all of the windows and doors of the home. He lives now with the in-laws of his daughter.
I reached Hammam in Khan Yunis, the southern part of the Strip, and was able to talk to most of his family. They were the first family I lived with back in 1998. The call was interrupted by bomb blasts. Hani, his next youngest brother, got on the line as said he witnessed the blast just as he was coming home. None knew how long the assault would last, or if and when the IDF would bring in ground troops.
The variety of predictions of the timing or reach of any escalation reveals just how precarious and unpredictable the situation is. This is made all the more onerous, when, as Mohammed said, "We still haven't recovered from the last war." - referring to the punishing assault on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
Lastly, yesterday, Khalil returned my call. He'd just finished a meeting with other human rights leaders who met to determine ways to let the outside world know of the utter gravity of their situation.
I've not been able to reach Hussam or Eyad.