Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Devil's Footsteps in Gaza

Time Magazine, Middle East blog, January 26, 2009 - There's something about phosphorus, the way it smoulders and burns for days, that makes it looks as though the Devil had walked by, leaving fiery footprints in the earth. I saw phosphorus today in a bombed out ice cream factory (did the Israeli gunners think Hamas had paused for a Magnum bar?). A fire was still flickering in the smoky gloom two weeks after the shell had smashed through the ice cream factory roof.

And I saw phosphorus again yesterday in the charred rooms of a house in north Gaza that belongs to the Abu Halima family. You could possibly blame the Abu Halimas for their own misfortune. You could say that they read the leaflets, which the Israelis dropped ordering everyone in the neighborhood to flee, and they chose to ignore the warnings. “The Israeli soldiers had been through here many times,” say Mahmoud. “They didn't bother us, and we didn't bother them.”

Then the shelling started, harder than anything they had witnessed before. Tank shells crashed into the houses around them, thudded into the strawberry patches, sending up sprays of dust and fruit. The father, Saadallah, gathered his wife and kids into the corridor, away from the blizzard of debris coming in through the windows. Then three phosphorus bombs crashed through the roof, right above them. Mahmoud Saadallah Abu Halima, a relative, arrived soon after at the horrifying scene.

“I saw my mother coming towards me. She was on fire. I threw a blanket around her to try to put out the flames but she kept on burning. I went to Saadallah who was lying on the ground with his three young kids wrapped inside his coat. He was trying to protect them. But the coat had caught fire, too. When I tried to pull the kids away, their flesh came off in my hands.”....

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