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7 Minutes

Palestinian exploring a bomb crater in Gaza

Palestinian exploring a bomb crater in Gaza

Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

15th January 2009

When I’d met the extended Abed Rabbo family, before the ground invasion began, they had just had their house bombed by an F-16. Their area has been occupied by Israeli tanks and soldiers since the ground invasion began. Medical workers cannot reach the injured there, and those who have managed to escape testify to imprisonment in their houses, abuse, point-blank shooting (to death), and a number of dead not yet known. It’s an area Israel views as strategic, lying just hundreds of metres from the eastern border to Israel, a key entry point for invading troops. Past invasions have meant entire families and neighbours being locked into a room of a house for a day, days. Supposition among journalists and those with 2 cents here is that Israel’s intense bombardment of, and destruction of houses in, the area is to both decimate any resistance and to create an alternate ‘road’ for tanks and troops to roll in on, meaning houses in their path are leveled to the ground.

That day, Abu Mahmoud Abed Rabbo had related the events of his house demolition. “A person called me saying he was a spokesperson for the Israeli army and that we had 7 minutes to leave the house before it was bombed. I begged for 10, told him 7 wasn’t enough to collect possessions and get our children out safely. He said 7,” Abed Rabbo explained. His family made it out in time, avoiding the death sentence that has been given so many here, without warning. He said he’d just stood away from the house and watched as it was bombed, watched 20 years of his life be erased, with everything inside it. “I’m just a working man, not Fatah, not Hamas. Just a man. Why did they bomb my house?” he’d asked. “There were 4 families in here, at least 25 children,” he’d added.

Gazan women forced to cook over a fire

Gazan women forced to cook over a fire

We stepped over and around rubble and the bits of house interiors that get melded together in blasts like these, going across the street to a relatives who was then sheltering the family. An elderly woman sat by a wood fire, simmering something in a pot for their meal, no gas to cook over.

We’d continued visiting sites of missile strikes around the Ezbet Abed Rabbo area. A yard with 2 massive craters in it, one from that morning and one from the night before. Looking from a room at the back of a 2 story house, I noticed the damage the F-16 bombs had done not only to the land but also to the houses around. Glass shatered, window frames blown in, safety to the wind…

And on to the next house demolished, in our paths at least, that of Ziad Abud Foul, whose new home was demolished at 2 am January 2nd. The blast, of course, damaged the surrounding buildings, cutting chunks out of walls and sending rubble and shrapnel flying dangerously.

This family is very likely now among the dead.