Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Word from Gaza

The London Independent has Fares Akram, a reporter in Gaza sending in daily information:

This past Saturday the Akram's father was killed at their farm in northern Gaza, when the house was bombed. His father actually belonged to the Palestinian Authority, and was not a member of Hamas.


I heard the news... it's time to evacuate my pregnant wife
Posted by Fares Akram
London Independent

* Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 02:49 pm

Things are getting worse by the day. The streets here in Gaza City have been empty. It's dangerous to go on the balcony but if you risk looking out you can see columns of black smoke rising from the north. The sound of automatic machine gun fire from the Apache helicopters I find most terrifying.

Overnight, it seems the Israeli tanks progressed further into Gaza, and now we've heard about the tank shelling at a UN school in Jabalya camp killing more than 30 people. I found out about that when the electricity resumed for a short time in the evening and I was able to get online. I'm appalled but not surprised: if you have tanks on high ground to the east of Jabalya firing down on such a densely populated area, this kind of bloodshed can be expected.

Personally I've had a big decision to make. I've had to evacuate Alaa from our family home. It's just too risky for a woman who is due to give birth shortly, to stay here in our apartment which is quite a distance from the nearest hospital. I managed to find a taxi driver willing to make the journey, and moved her to stay at her parents' house in Al Masser near the Beach refugee camp which at least is closer to a small clinic. Alaa packed up all the things for the baby – the first aid kit, some diapers, her own clothes. She didn't want to go.

I can't describe how sad it is to be apart from your wife in these circumstances. I want to be with her, but I also have the responsibility of my younger brothers, my sisters and their kids and my mother, especially after what happened to our father, who was killed by an Israeli air strike on our farm in northern Gaza on Saturday. Emotionally my mother has been very strong. But I saw tears in her eyes when Alaa was leaving. Don't worry, I told Alaa, I'll be with you soon. Now I'm very much afraid I won't be able to meet my promise. Even phone contact isn't assured. The Palestinian telecoms company say all our networks will be down soon if Israel doesn't allow fuel into Gaza within 48 hours.

Meanwhile we have no water, not even cold water. There isn't a drop in the taps.

My sister's children and our young cousins have been clustering around a very old kerosene stove we decided to try to use after the cooking gas ran out. We rush to do some cooking in the night if electricity suddenly comes on. We got power back last night for half an hour and made a loaf of bread.

There are seven children under the age of 10 here and they're all pretty scared. They don't stop asking what's going on. Will the Jews come to our house, they ask.

Today I've eaten nothing but dates and some of the bottled water we had brought in before this began. There's no chance of a shower, or getting any sleep. And the nights are so long after dark when you can't read or go online. At least when the electricity is on you feel slightly reassured and relaxed. The dark contributes to your feeling of being completely isolated and afraid.

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