Electronic Intifada, February 19, 2009 - Three weeks after the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, 16-year-old Maysa al-Louh sits stoically on the pile of sand that consumes half her home in Beit Lahiya. Under the sand, churned up by Israeli bulldozers during incursions into the area on 4 January 2009 lie all her report cards and school awards that were testament to her excellent academic record.
Nearby her grandmother tries to heat water on a pile of ash. The smell of decomposing chicken carcasses is overwhelming: the family's chicken coop that provided them with eggs, as well as their vegetable garden, were all destroyed by the bulldozers and tanks.
Thirty-five people lived in the three-story al-Louh house. The contents of home life -- a refrigerator, notebooks, framed pictures, and plastic flowers, lie scattered over the area. The adjacent Sakhnin Elementary School was also damaged by artillery shells and some of its classrooms are now a masse of mangled chairs, steel rods, shattered concrete and broken glass. Israel says militants were firing rockets from the school grounds.
"We were trapped in our home for two days while the Israeli army was based in the school nearby and operating in the area," says Maysa's 32-year-old mother Najat. "I had to give my children water from the toilet cistern to keep them alive. Then they ordered us to leave our house."
"As soon as we left the house they opened fire on the area and some of our neighbors were killed. My husband and I said our goodbyes to each other when the tanks came," Najat adds. "We thought it was the end."....