Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Dark Day in Gaza.

The situation is back to as it was at the height of fighting a few weeks ago. I was caught in the Erez terminal for some time while it came under attack by Qassam fire from Gaza. Leaving Gaza last week I was holed up for almost two hours as a Qassam hit the army compound just inside the Erez checkpoint. It seems these projectiles are becoming more accurate.

As Jamal and I drove away from Erez he stopped a vehicle coming from Gaza City to ask about the conditions of the road. The driver told us there were Hamas checkpoints all along Salahadin Street, the most direct route to our destination so we took a smaller road that runs through the industrial area. For me there is no fear with such checkpoints and yet Jamal was a bit concerned as he is affiliated with Fatah although not a high ranked or active member. In the car’s rearview mirror I watched the fear in Jamal’s eyes as he attempted to remove a sticker of Yasir Arafat that his son Daher had stuck on the inside of the windshield of his car. The image of the deceased leader was a clear indication of Jamal’s party affiliation. Bit by bit, for the next ten minutes Jamal managed to peel off parts of the image.

We drove on as Jamal received calls reporting about the situation near his home. A Fatah leader on his same street was under attack and masked Hamas’ men were at the door of his home; his oldest son Daher had called to inform him. Jamal warned Daher not to leave the house. Four people had died in Beit Hanoun, a town in the Northern Gaza Strip, basically as I was crossing the border into Gaza, a matter of kilometers away. We reached my home without further incident. I tried to pressure Jamal to stay but he wanted to try and reach home before nightfall.

15 minutes later I called Jamal a number of times without answer and got extremely worried. Before we reached my home a civilian from Beit Lahya, where Jamal was heading, reported on the radio that a taxi driver had been kidnapped. The scene kept going through my mind, as Jamal didn’t answer my calls. Eventually he picked up, in a bit of a panic. He had suddenly come across a Hamas checkpoint; he crossed it after they searched his car. With many more checkpoints ahead he decided to turn back and will stay at my place for the night.

Before the news broke, Jamal received the call, his 55 year old neighbor who was being sought had been killed. Jamal’s nephew was shot in the legs; he had to tell his brother to go look for him at the hospital.

This will mean an escalation over the next days. The hopelessness in Gaza has reached a pinnacle. The economic siege is again bringing some people in Gaza to a breaking point and the factions have reverted to a demonizing tribalism, each pouring the blame on the other. The inhumane conditions everyone is living are finally taking their toll, sadly the consequences are taking this desperate, revolting form.

Another dark day in Gaza.