Sunday, February 1, 2009

Life in Gaza is Not Back to Normal - Amira Hass

Haaretz, February 1, 2009 - The talk of aerial photography reveals the frustration felt by everyone who has managed to come here. The frustration derives from the conclusion that the real dimensions of the Israeli attack on Gaza are not being fully comprehended in the West and in Israel. They go beyond the physical destruction, beyond the numbers of the dead and the wounded, beyond the deadly encounter between a bomb dropped from an F-16 and the hollow concrete and gravel house in the Yibneh refugee camp in Rafah. Three siblings aged 4 to 12 were killed there. Parents and two sisters were injured. The mother - who was nursing her infant daughter and heard and saw the bomb rushing towards them - is in a state of shock. She stares out at the world from her hospital bed in Egypt, and does not speak. The physical injuries can be treated.

Volunteer doctors, architects who specialize in the rehabilitation of disaster zones, jurists whose aspirations reach into international courts for the investigation of war crimes, Red Cross teams, international human rights organization investigators with battle experience behind them, directors of government and independent development agencies, which transfer funds from development budgets to budgets for rehabilitation and rescue: All of them - not only journalists - are flooding the Strip, taking notes, taking pictures, exchanging information, documenting and carefully cataloguing what are emerging as patterns, phenomena that repeat themselves: shelling and bombing of buildings and enterprises that have no connection to the Hamas infrastructure - politically or militarily, the prevention of the evacuation of wounded, unfamiliar kinds of injuries, vandalism in homes that became Israel Defense Forces positions, destruction of agricultural areas and, above all, families
almost in their entirety - that were killed in their homes or as they tried to flee from the approaching tanks. This is the hardest work of documentation....

Everyone we meet has a tremendous need to tell his story. In minute detail. Again and again. Adnan told how he was saved from death seven times; Kauthar related how she fled with her children as the bullets and shells shrieked overhead and Taleb, in a tired voice, told how after 12 days in which he had lost all contact, the body of his sister and the body of her son, riddled with bullets, were found in their home in Beit Lahiya. This is the sort of thing that is impossible to quantify: The unending horror, for three weeks, the worry, the impotence, the thoughts that never leave about the relative who has bled to death, a meter or a kilometer away. In Gaza today, as students are returning to school and cars are again driving along the roads, the commonplace "life is slowly going back to normal" is more hollow and false than ever....

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