Besieged war-torn Gaza, experiencing the saddest Eid since 1967
by Yousef Alhelou

Twenty two days on, all efforts to reach a ceasefire have failed so far as Israel continues its all-out military offensive on besieged Gaza, claiming more civilian lives. The swing massacre shook and saddened humanity worldwide when ten children were killed in an attack that targeted a park where tens of children were playing around a swing setup on the first day of Eid celebrations, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, denied Israel’s involvement. “This incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa hospital and the Beach camp,” he said.

But Gaza’s Interior Ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozum said that the shrapnel found in dead bodies and in the wounded is evidence of Israel’s role in the incident. “The occupation claims that Palestinian rockets hit the hospital and the park. This is an attempt to cover their ugly crime against children and civilians, and because of their fear of scandal and international legal prosecution.”

The sound of explosions as a result of random tank and artillery shelling, air strikes, gunfire from warships, and constant flying of drones traumatized the people of Gaza, depriving them of sleep for over 3 weeks.

The 2008/2009 war was a joke compared to the current offensive. Attacks against residential areas have become the norm, leaving more civilians dead.

Eid celebrations marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan are meant for Gazans at least to draw a smile on children’s faces, given that more than half of Gaza’s nearly 2 million people are children.

The first day of Eid ended with more than 40 killed, of them 15 children according to the Gaza health ministry.

Ashraf Al-Qedra, the spokesman of the Gaza Health Ministry, said that over the last 21 days, a total of 1,088 Palestinians have been killed and 6,470 have been injured. Of the dead, 251 have been children and 50 have been elderly, while 1,980 children and 259 elderly have been among the injured.

Israel’s all-out aggression on Gaza would not have continued without an American green light. While the Obama administration maintains that it supports Israel’s right to defend itself, officials have grown increasingly concerned about the civilian casualties in Gaza. Obama spoke with Netanyahu Sunday and expressed “serious and growing concern” about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. Obama also said that “Any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups.” This statement was echoed by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said in a televised speech that Israel must be ready for a “lengthy” military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

“We will not end this operation without neutralizing the tunnels whose sole purpose is killing our citizens.” Netanyahu also said that the international community must demand the “demilitarization of Gaza.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that international efforts to agree on a truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.

As the all-out Israeli military offensive entered its third week, the Israeli army dropped leaflets inciting against the Palestinian resistance and sent messages to thousands of residents in northern Gaza to flee, after a mortar shell killed at least four people in Israel.

For its part, Hamas claimed that it killed at least 10 Israeli soldiers in the eastern part of Gaza when It confronted invading Israeli soldiers.

“Israelis keep saying that they have the right to defend themselves, but why we Palestinians under occupation, under siege are not allowed to defend ourselves, and then what do you expect us to do when the enemy invade our territory? Defending your country does not require you to kill over 1080 Palestinian civilians! We know they kill civilians intentionally to pressure the resistance to accept their conditions, but targeting civilians shows that the Zionist enemy failed to achieve any of his goals,” said 43-year-old Abu Abdallah, a Hamas supporter in Gaza city.

On Sunday, the eve of Eid, Hamas agreed to a 24-hour truce proposed by the UN for the Eid celebration but Israel refused to officially accept the ceasefire and continued its aerial, naval, and ground attacks.

More than 250,000 Palestinians are internally displaced in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, seeking shelters at UN-run schools as well as governmental schools, hospitals, or at relatives’.

“Resistance groups in Gaza agreed to a 24-hour truce but the Israelis rejected it, maybe they want to spoil our Eid celebrations, and they want to impose a pressure on the resistance to accept Israel’s demands. Of course we want an end to this aggression, but the Israelis decided to wage this war,” Abu Tamer , 33, resident of Gaza City said to the Real News.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, and Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades,  continued to fire homemade rockets in retaliation to Israeli military attacks.

In response to both Israel and the Kerry’s calls to for the disarmament of Palestinian resistance movements, Ezzat Al-Resheq, A Hamas official, said that “for the one millionth time, whoever thinks to disarm the resistance we will take his soul.”

This stance was echoed by an independent political expert who asked to be anonymous, who said, “Resistance groups will accept to lay their arms only when Israel ends its military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, lifts the siege, releases all Palestinian optical prisoners from Israeli jails and allow the return of Palestinian refugees from exile. Palestinian resistance was founded to resist the Israeli occupation of our land.”

Anger and desperation under the on-going Israeli siege has shattered people’s dreams and hopes. Israel still maintains Gaza’s airspace, territorial water, and border crossing despite Israel’s claims that it withdrew from the coastal strip in late 2005.

“This year’s Eid celebrations are spoiled. They destroyed our homes, killed our dreams, buried our hopes. But our children should at least enjoy a short time of fun, by wearing new clothing, by playing with toys, but many children are in their graves now, and will not have the chance to wear their new clothing,“ said 39-year-old Khalid Ali, a resident of Gaza.

Rolling news and updates from Gaza is troubling with no good news. Killing, destruction, attacks  here and there, even the targeting of ambulances, hospitals, mosques, businesses, schools and deliberate  attacks on residential homes has become the norm for the past 3 weeks.

“We want a real solution to our misery. We just want to have a decent life. We want an airport, a seaport; we do not want to rely on Egyptians or Israelis whenever we want to travel or trade. I cannot understand how the on-going Israeli siege is helping Israelis get rid of Hamas. Collective punishment pushed people in Gaza into destitution. We live in a big prison,” said Sadai Ahmad, a 57-year-old trader and resident of Gaza City.

Israel has occupied the Gaza strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 during the 6-day war. However, the current war on Gaza is not aimed at re-occupying the already occupied Gaza, but to send Gaza back to the stone era, break the will of the Palestinian people, and sabotage the Palestinian national unity between the two main rival factions.

This year’s Eid celebrations is spoiled and replaced with deep sorrow. So many people lost their loved ones, lost their homes, and became homeless. But as civilians in Gaza pay a heavy price and are targeted day and night, a fact stresses itself that there is no red line; no one is immune from Israel’s disproportionate force.

The feast of Eid Ul-Fitr came, innocent children were having fun, waiting for their turn to ride the swing, but Israel decided they should die instead of riding on the swings.

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