Sunday, January 25, 2009

How Life Can be Rendered Utterly Unliveable - One Gazan Family's Tale

Associated Press, reporting freom Beit Lahiya, Gaza, January 24, 2009 - Mohammed Zayid returned to his northern Gaza neighborhood after the war to find nothing as it was.

Tank blasts had blown the front off the local bakery, bullet holes riddled the hall where his son was married and airstrikes had collapsed into rubble the store where he bought tea and Coca-Cola for guests. His home with its view of the Mediterranean was gone except for a pile of concrete and the reek of a rotting donkey nearby with two bullet holes in its back.

"I lost my head when I saw it," the 55-year-old fisherman recalled. "My whole house was gone. I felt dead right there."

Tens of thousands of Gazans, including the Zayid family, who fled the fighting returned to find their homes damaged and their neighborhood wrecked, marking a painful end to three weeks of war. Like the Zayids, many sought refuge in schools and hospitals, scrounged for food and struggled to shelter their children from death and violence....

They ran to a house shared by his sons....There, 34 family members including a dozen children crowded into a windowless back room. A shell soon exploded on the roof and another shattered the front balcony, so the family fled again, carrying the children as they walked to a United Nations school.

About 500 refugees were in the school and the family crowded into one classroom, said 23-year-old Wisal Zayid, Mohammed's daughter-in-law. They had no mattresses and she wrapped the youngest children in their only blanket. The adults stayed awake to watch over them, she said....

Wisal said all felt safe in the school since it bore a U.N. flag. But on Jan 5. an Israeli missile hit the school, killing three boys, the U.N. said. Wisal said the three, ages 10, 17 and 19 were killed on their way to the bathroom.

"We ran away from death and found it in front of us," Mohammed said.

"Since the three of them were killed, my kids will never feel safe in school again," said Wisal, a mother of a 2-year-old girl and two boys, ages 4 and 6....

After a tenuous cease-fire brought fighting to a halt on Jan. 17, the Zayids returned to find traces of vicious fighting throughout their neighborhood....

Tank tracks led up the sandy road from the ocean and most buildings along the simple main street bore the scars of tank fire. A number of homes had been reduced to rubble and a soccer field-sized orchard — once full of orange, apple and olive trees — had been bulldozed flat....

On Friday, Mohammed woke early and walked to the ocean to fish for the first time since the war started. He and two of his sons had caught only three fish when an Israeli navy gunboat fired on them, they said.

As they reached shore, the boat shot their cart and the donkey they had brought to pull their catch home.

Mohammed doesn't think he'll fish again but knows no other work.

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