By Yousef Al-Helou

As the Israeli military offensive on Gaza entered its third week, there’s been more horrific mass killings committed because of indiscriminate Israeli tank shelling and bombardment throughout the besieged Gaza Strip.

After the massacres in Shujaeyyah and Khoza, now the supposedly safe United Nations-run schools have also become targets. A school in the northern Gaza strip town of Beit Hanon, which sheltered hundreds of displaced people who thought they would be safe on United Nations-controlled premise, came under Israeli fire. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least thirteen civilians were killed and more than 200 were injured. UNRWA spokesman said that his agency was not warned.

A wittiness interviewed by a local radio station said that her two daughters needed amputations after the shelling.

“We were not warned before the attack, we do not know whether the school was targeted by shells, fired by tanks or artillery. I can confirm that most of those who were in the school were old men, women and children. Previously we have asked the Israeli army to grant us more time to evacuate people and our staff but our request was declined,“ said Adnan Abu Hasna.

Currently, more than 300,000 Palestinians are internally displaced, of that group about 120,000 of them are seeking shelter at UN schools. 77 of UNRWA’s schools have been damaged so far.

The attack on the school, took us back to the sad memories of the 2008-2009 offensive, when a UN-run school was shelled with white phosphorus bombs which led to the killing of scores of Palestinians

Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad resistance movements have denounced what they called an “ugly bloody crime” and said that this heinous deliberate attack will not go unpunished.

Despite the wide scale condemnation and outrage, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fumed over the UN Human Rights Council’s plan to strike up an investigation into Tel Aviv’s human rights violations in the Gaza Strip. The UNHRC’s decision to launch the inquiry was made shortly after its chief, Navi Pillay, said that there is a “strong possibility” that Tel Aviv was violating international law in its military operations against Gaza.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has expressed deep concern over the shortage of food and water in the Gaza Strip, as Israel continues its offensive in the besieged enclave for the 17th day. Amos said on Thursday that 44% of Gaza has become a no-go area for Palestinians due to the ongoing military operations and residents are facing food shortages.

Abu Abdallah, 52, is a resident of Gaza City who lost members of his family. He said that Palestinians have lost faith in the international community, especially the UN. “Ban Ki-Moon position is very weak. We do not want talks – we need actions.  He is afraid to criticize Israel, and he rushes to the rescue of Israel and ignores our suffering. We are not beggars for food. We want a just solution and to see Israel held accountable for its actions in Gaza.”

People are running for cover, and many are going without food or drinking water.  The humanitarian situation is dire and terrible, and public services such as electricity are lacking.

Israel began its offensive on Gaza on the July 8th under the stated goal of halting the retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza and destroying underground tunnels near the border fence, but instead we are seeing entire residential areas being destroyed. For example in Shijaeyyah, thousands of residential homes have been bombed. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed – the vast majority of them being civilians.

Hospitals are overwhelmed with injured civilians, especially children, many of them have had their limbs amputated. Health officials say that some even arrive with deep wounds caused by internationally banned or controversial weapons like DIME, white phosphorus, flechette bombs and gas poisonous bombs.

The ongoing Israeli land and naval blockade has had a disastrous consequences on the people of Gaza. The costal strip’s only gateway to the outside world is through Rafah, a border town under Egyptian control, which remains shut.

“It’s a grim feeling when we see the Egyptians keep the crossing closed even during this difficult time. We have had enough humiliation. We really hope one day to have our own seaport and airport to travel to the outside world without the need to cross through Egypt,” said Abu Abdallah.

Scenes of dead bodies and destruction are devastating. People are eagerly awaiting any news of a ceasefire, and of course any good news about the lifting of the siege.

“This war is bloody, the scarcest one we have had, simply because civilians are deliberately killed in their homes, in the street, even in the places which they think could be safe like what happened today at the UN school in Beit Hanon” said Saeed Elian, 33, a father of two.

There have been rallies organized worldwide to condemn the Israeli aggression on Gaza and show solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza. Some countries such as Brazil have even called their ambassador back from Tel Aviv in protest.  

“The most disappointing thing is the shameful stance of Arab regimes, especially Egypt. The crossing is closed even in the face of delegations and aid conveys destined for Gaza. History will not forgive all those who are complicit and conspire against us in Gaza.”

Gaza’s nearly two million people, especially children, are traumatized. They bear the brunt of Israel’s offensive on Gaza, where safety is nowhere to be found.  Some families have fled the eastern parts of Gaza to the city center, but they were killed in the heart of Gaza assuming it was safer for them.

International pro-Palestine activists in Gaza said that they are inspired by the steadfastness and resilience of the Palestinians. This growing support on part of the freedom loving people shows that this indeed is an awakening, especially in light of the power of social media which has enabled Palestinians to tell their own narrative and correct the distorted image that the mass media projects.

I’m one of those Palestinians who grew up in Gaza, and I did not enjoy my childhood under Israeli military occupation and attacks. Now after 30 years. my children too are going through the same suffering. My house has been targeted like the thousands of other Palestinians throughout Gaza. I’m one of the thousands of Palestinians who has lost family members in this aggression. I’ve lost many other members in the previous two aggressions in late 2008 and 2012.

This is the third war on Gaza in less than six years, and it will end sooner or later.  A ceasefire will be reached, but these tragic experiences will never cease to exist in our memories.

I did not ask to be a Palestinian, I just got lucky.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

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.