Fares Akram: As waves of F-16s swoop, Gaza is no place to be nine months' pregnant
Wednesday, 31 December 2008
It's not easy for anyone living in a city being pounded by Israeli F-16 fighter jets. But when your wife is in the ninth month of pregnancy and about to give birth at any moment it is nerve-racking.
On Saturday, when the first strikes started, I was at my office. I tried to call Alaa's mobile but the network was down. My mother, who lives next door, reassured me that my wife was fine.
In fact, Alaa was not fine at all. The impact from an explosion blew her to the wall after she tried to open the windows to protect them from smashing. My mother eventually managed to get her to the nearest clinic – the main hospital was in chaos dealing with casualties. The baby was fine but Alaa suffered from trauma. Staying in the house, as we've been doing for nearly four days, we've been clustering around the television for news.
Luckily, a few days before the start of the offensive, we had gone to the supermarket and stocked up on food in cans, peas, tinned sardines and a big lump of cheese. We're living on that. As we are refugees, we are also entitled to UNRWA food rations and got a sack of flour last month. With that, we can bake bread, provided there's electricity. I don't have a generator and sometimes the power cuts out when the loaf is half baked.
Prices of vegetables have gone through the roof as have the prices of goods previously smuggled in from Egypt since the Israelis started bombing the smuggling tunnels. We don't have much cash left now either, because the ATMs ran out 10 days ago. It is winter and very cold here in Gaza. In the night, we sleep, or try to sleep, with the windows half open because closing them completely means the glass will shatter and fall on us due to the tremors the air strikes generate.
On Monday night/Tuesday morning, the air strikes were so intensive that we lay there as the whole building shook. One of the bombs struck about 200 metres away. To calm Alaa, I suggested that we count the explosions for the coming hour – we counted 13 blasts.
We spend much of the day on the telephone to friends and family. Most of the people I know blame Hamas for this crisis. They seized power in Gaza by force and we are all paying the price.
But I'm aware that this view is not representative of most opinion here. For most Gazans, Israel are the aggressors. It is simply a fact that any Palestinian group will gain in popularity if they come under attack by the Israelis. People here also take the view that there is no comparison between what is happening to us, and to the suffering of Israeli border communities affected by the crude home-made rockets launched at them.
Gaza is a prison. If I could get out with all my extended family, I would go.
Now Alaa is fretting about how we'll get to the hospital when she goes into labour. We're thinking about alternatives to the hospital. In the meantime, we keep praying that this round of miserable violence will end before our daughter comes into the world.
The writer is a Gaza-based human rights researcher and journalist