Gaza children too scared to step outside

Mohammed Dawwas in Gaza City
The Independent
December 30, 2008

Palestinians gather their belongings as they flee their home following an Israeli air strike.
Palestinians gather their belongings as they flee their home following an Israeli air strike; PHOTO: Getty

You can tell those moving about Gaza City by the mattresses on the car roofs. The streets are mostly deserted but some people are shifting from one house to another, trying to guess where the bombs might land and put distance between themselves and possible targets. Others are heading to the bakeries where there are long queues for bread. There is wreckage everywhere.

On Sunday night, we were told that the Red Cross had issued a warning that the Al Kinz mosque next to our building was likely to be destroyed. My wife and four of the kids went in the lift but many others went down the stairs because they were frightened about getting stuck, given that there was no power and the elevator was operating off a generator. There were about 100 of us gathered outside in the yard and we could hear continual explosions.

I drove in convoy with my brother-in-law to his father's place. It was eerie, completely dark except for the headlights of our two cars. We drove the wrong way down one way streets to avoid going near a the Palestinian Legislative Council Building, in case the Israeli planes had it on their radar.

This is daily life in Gaza now. It was tough before but, believe me, it's a lot worse now.

I ventured back this morning. My neighbours were moving out. I went to my apartment and opened every window so they wouldn't shatter during the explosions that show no sign of stopping. I opened all the doors bar the front one, put the television on the floor and left. People have been receiving warning messages on their mobiles. One of these was sent to my 18-year-old daughter Yasmin. It said in words to the effect of "This is the Ministry of Defence. If you have any weapons or wanted people in your house, evacuate the place. There will be no exceptions. We will expand our operations."

My nine-year-old son Ibrahim has been crying and shaking ever since the first bombardment on Saturday. His brothers are happy to play in the yard but he doesn't want to leave the house. He stays close to his mum all the time. And when I went out to get some food he says: "Please baba, don't go".

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