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Middle East correspondent Yousef Al-Helou shares his story of how his home was targeted by an Israeli airstrike

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

We are now joined by one of our Middle East correspondents, Yousef Al-Helou, for a special report [from London].

Yousef, thank you so much for joining us.


DESVARIEUX: So, Yousef, my condolences, because I know that you just got word that 12 of your family members were recently killed in Gaza. Can you just describe for us what you know about the situation?

AL-HELOU: Well, the Israeli attacks on Gaza continued unabated, you know, regular airstrikes and random tank shelling. And today, Khuza’a, a village which is situated in the eastern part of Khan Yunis, is facing the same fate as Shuja’iyya. More than 55 people have been killed and that massacre–this is how people call it.

So the people in Gaza, of course, they are terrified. And these random shellings and airstrikes have forced residents in different locations in Gaza to seek shelter at UN-run schools.

And I’ve lost, sadly, 12 members of my extended family, and it’s really sad to hear this sad news. And my house was targeted and sustained huge damage. Obviously, it’s not the first house and it’s not going to be the last as long as Israel can carry out these horrendous airstrikes, randomly killing, shelling people, killing children, attacking civilian properties, hospitals, mosques, public buildings, even without warning people, occupants in the house. So death tolls keeps rising.

And what is happening in Gaza is unbelievable. It’s genocide. This is how people describe it, because obviously, when you look at the civilian population, they are being targeted deliberately by Israel’s military might, by warships, by tanks, by warplanes. And the scene of people internally displaced, it just reminded us of the 1948 Nakba (the catastrophe), when the indigenous population of Palestine were forced to leave back in 1948 when Israel came into existence on Palestinian land.

So what is really annoying is the silence of the international community for not doing, for not taking practical steps on the ground to pressure Israel to end this aggression on Gaza. Now, Gaza is currently known as the world’s largest open-air prison. And people, obviously, they are dismayed by the attitude of the international community, by the United Nations, by the U.S. administration, that gives Israel a green light to carry out these attacks or military operations inside Gaza. So I feel frustrated like the rest of the people of Gaza, very angry.

It’s the civilian population who bear the brunt of Israel’s offensive on Gaza, which has entered now its 17th day. And, obviously, people are terrified, are scared. And those who lost their homes, their dreams have been shattered. And they have no choice now but to resist. You know, when you ask people, how do you feel, obviously when they lost their homes, when they lost their loved ones, that’s it. Their life has vanished. And all what they’re asking for: they want the prolonged Israeli siege to be lifted, because they say their life is meaningless under the Israeli siege. They are asking for basic human rights: the right to move freely, the right to live a normal life, to export, to import, fish freely, farm freely, without any intimidation on the part of the Israeli side. This is what people want. It’s just basic things.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. Yousef, you mentioned that your home was targeted. Can you speak more specifically about that? And do you feel for your life an issue of safety, being a journalist? What’s your reaction to all of this?

AL-HELOU: Well, we heard that my house was targeted. We didn’t know whether it was an Apache helicopter, a missile fired by an Apache or a drone or–we didn’t know. I mean, we heard that the house was targeted. We are not sure if it was deliberately targeted or it was a target that was near the house. We have no idea. But a fire broke out, and huge damage caused.

And it’s–obviously, my family, we are a big family, and they are scattered now, you know, staying at relatives, different places throughout the Gaza Strip.

And, obviously, now, when the war has ended, it’s going to be hard for people to rebuild their homes, because there is lack of construction materials, as we know that Israel has been banning construction materials for the past seven years. And also other materials are scarce. So it will take time for people to build up their lives, to salvage what they can from the wreckage and from the rubble. It’s going to be very tough mission just to go back to normal life.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yousef Al-Helou, thank you so much for joining us. And I’m sorry for your loss.

AL-HELOU: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist and correspondent for The Real News Network based in Gaza-Palestine & London. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.