Gaza's bloggers describe welcoming in 2009 with the sound of F16s and “special fireworks”, and a foreign activist explains why she has no intention of leaving.
Adham Khalil from Jabaliya Camp, who blogs at Free Free Palestine, posts a text message he received with special greetings:
Ibrahim a friend sent me a message on my mobile said : look outside .. F16 warplanes are smiling for you, missiles are dancing for you, “Zanannaa” the discovery planes are singing for you, because I have requested them all wishing you “Happy New Year”
Mohammed Ali, who works for Oxfam UK, writes on the Oxfam blog from his home in Gaza City:
Around midnight, Israeli jets hit the Palestinian Legislative Council building, 1km away from my home. Needless to say, we were not celebrating this entry into the New Year. I received calls from friends in Europe telling me that in solidarity with Gazans, they were not going to celebrate. I pleaded with them to go out, and to enjoy themselves because they could. My friend in France called to say that she was thinking about my family, in the background I could hear the sounds of fireworks exploding, people laughing and celebrating. At the same moment, the sounds of explosions shook my home and my children cried out. I felt both happy and sad. Happy because I knew that there were people outside of Gaza who had not forgotten about us, sad thinking of all the Gazans who would be spending this New Year shaking from fear in their homes, mourning their loved ones. I asked myself, do we not deserve to be happy and enjoy the New Year as much as any other human?
Natalie Abou Shakra is a Lebanese activist who posts at the group blog Moments of Gaza. She writes:
The first day of the New Year… our gift…? since 11p.m. of the last day of 2008 till around 6 a.m. of the early hours of 2009, the Israelis sent us special fire works made in the US (not all though!)… they circumscribed our house with those very special fireworks… of course, like the rest of the world, we were not asleep.. we were awake…
Prof. Said Abdelwahed, who teaches English at Al-Azhar University, also posts at Moments in Gaza:
It's totally dark. More than 80% of the Gaza city is covered by utter darkness. One cannot see his finger in the dark! Meantime, outside, there are drones buzzing overhead, choppers roaming in the sky. Inside again, children are unwilling to go to bed despite their bed time! They are fearful of nightmares, bad dreams, bombing, explosions, and what not! The routine sounds of the air craft has been going on for more than six days and nights. And when it suddenly disappears… BANG … continuous bangs! … series of explosions. … other horrible explosions. … blasts … flames in the distance. … children jump up from their beds. Scared … frightened. … anxious … they do not know what to do! They want to hide anywhere, but there is nowhere to go too? It sounds like the bang was under their mattresses. What to do again? Just nothing but wait! How can you convince your child to wait? And to wait for what? Next, one hears ambulances sirens and fire brigades. Thus, one comes back to himself to realize that he is in Gaza and he is operating a small generator to write this message to the world in the new year 2009.
Vittorio Arrigoni is an Italian activist blogging at Guerrilla Radio:
Il nuovo anno è subentrato a quello vecchio con gli stessi auspici di morte e desolazione, elevati alla massima potenza distruttiva. Mai viste così tante bombe crollare attorno a casa mia, dinnanzi al porto. Un’ esplosione a meno di 100 metri , ha scosso violentemente i 7 piani del mio palazzo, facendolo oscillare come un pendolo impazzito. Per un momento abbiamo temuto venisse giù, i vetri delle finestre sono scoppiati tutti. Momenti di panico, ho pregato iddio che il nostro edificio fosse stato costruito con criteri antisismici, ben conscio della mia effimera illusione, Gaza poggia su di una striscia di terra che non trema. Il terremoto qui è innaturale, si chiama Israele.
Laila El-Haddad, who blogs at Raising Yousuf and Noor, is in touch with her parents in Gaza every day:
When the bombs are dropped around them, they send me a quick note to inform me of what happened before running to safety. I am still not sure where “safety” is; and neither, I think, do they. It is perhaps more a mental state and place than a physical one. In any other situations, people flee to where they perceive are safer locations. In Gaza, there is no “safe”. And there is nowhere to flee to, with the borders closed, the sky and sea under siege.
Safa Joudeh has posted at the group blog Lamentations-Gaza:
I've had a lot of time to contemplate, the last few days, and looking at my siblings, I wonder how the rest of the world envisions the people who occupy the most despondent and unruly military zones in the world. My younger brothers spend their free time out with their friends, or playing basketball and soccer at youth clubs. They are passionate about sports, play station, and music. They play the guitar and are exceptional students. My brother who's in college is obsessed with computers and gadgets, he's an engineering student who comes up with the most ingenious projects for his classes. He listens to music and plays the guitar and prays regularly. He's an honor student who has big goals and big dreams. So please understand why I am infuriated when I see how we are portrayed on television. Hordes of bearded, teeth-gnashing, stone throwing blood thirsty savages in rags and tatters. […] I wonder if people would as easily accept the unsubstantiated claims that the engineering faculty building of the Islamic university, which has been flattened during the attacks, was a workshop that produced qassams, if they had seen my brother's reaction. When he came back from a walk to the university building the next day, his face was white as a sheet and he had tears in his eyes. “It's all gone he said, even the project (electric car) we've been working on all semester.” We'd seen pictures, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Did he seriously have any hope that the car had survived?
Fida Qishta, who blogs at Sunshine, is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and activist who lives in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip:
For the last year and a half the Israeli government has intensified the economic blockade of Gaza by closing all the border crossings that allow aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza. This forced Palestinians to dig tunnels to Egypt to survive. Israel continued talking about a military operation in the Gaza Strip, until the madness of war became inevitable for the both sides. And since it began, hundreds of Gazans have been killed. I don’t know how other people around the globe think. Did you think to be honest with yourself once to understand the truth? A handmade Palestinian rocket jeopardizes Israeli security, but the Israel’s scary F16 rockets, missiles, and the tanks don’t jeopardize Palestinian security! Israel’s military operation makes Palestinian blood fall like rain.
Canadian activist, Eva Bartlett, blogs at In Gaza, and is not planning to leave:
Approximately 435 internationals [non-Palestinians] are said to have left, from what journalists have told me, but I have no intention of doing so, we have no intention of doing so. Here are some reasons why we stay: Israel not only controls who is unable to leave Gaza, but who is unable to enter Gaza. Since November 4, Israel has banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza, making a minor exception for a few days in early December. At present, with the over 420 dead, over 2,100 injured and the many civilian homes and buildings destroyed, there is an urgent need for foreign journalists. […] 1.5 million Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip are unable to run from, escape from, these illegal attacks. My life, internationals’ lives, are no more important than Palestinians’ lives. We will stay on during their suffering, in solidarity and to document the illegal acts Israel is doing, the war crimes Israel clearly does not want the world to see, to understand, and is preventing journalists from reporting. To see, to understand, means to stop Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, its contravention of international humanitarian law and international law.