Home / Reports / Fida Qishta: About my daily life in Gaza Strip, Rafah

Fida Qishta: About my daily life in Gaza Strip, Rafah

Fida Qishta lives in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. She is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and blogger, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) coordinator for the Gaza Strip.

31st December 2008

For the last year and a half the Israeli government has intensified the economic blockade of Gaza by closing all the border crossings that allow aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza. This forced Palestinians to dig tunnels to Egypt to survive. Israel continued talking about a military operation in the Gaza Strip, until the madness of war became inevitable for the both sides. And since it began, hundreds of Gazans have been killed,

I don’t know how other people around the globe think. Did you think to be honest with yourself once to understand the truth? A handmade Palestinian rocket jeopardizes Israeli security, but the Israeli’s scary F16 rockets, missiles, and the tanks don’t jeopardize Palestinians security!

Israel’s military operation makes Palestinian blood fall like rain

There is no solution in sight .The Israeli government and their army commit inhuman acts against civilians. For the last five days the Israeli missiles killed 394 Palestinians and injured more than 1800. Do you know my dear reader how many Israelis were killed by Palestinians resistance rockets? Four were killed and 12 injured. I wrote these numbers to say this is not equal, and it’s unfair for the world to keep silent.

On December 28th, we woke up at 7am after an Israeli F16 attack. Our house was shaking. We all tried to imagine what had happened, but we wanted to at least know where the attack was. It was really scary. We tried to open the main door to our flat, but it was stuck shut after the attack.

Two friends and I climbed out the window to leave the house. It was a shock when I found our neighbor’s pharmacy was the target. It was just 60 meters from our house. They targeted a pharmacy. I still don’t believe it and can’t imagine it. I filmed and asked some people who were really close to the pharmacy about what happened and their thoughts,

64 year-old Saed said, “At almost 6:30 am three missiles were fired by Israeli fighter jets. They hit the pharmacy in our neighborhood and the surrounding shops. They’re just civilian buildings. And as you can see, the street is damaged. All of the buildings are damaged. The Palestinian people elected Hamas in a democratic election, and all the world witnessed the election. And we are punished because of Palestinian democracy. If it were Israeli democracy the world would welcome it. I’m 64 years old and I never saw a sweet day in all my life. Since I was born in 1945 we’ve been in a conflict with the Israelis.”

Om Mohammed said: “They say that they don’t attack civilians, but they attack children. Why do they do that? They care so much about Palestinian rockets hitting them. Don’t they realize how much their air strikes hurt us?”

“We fold our arms and they attack us. Then they say to the world that Arabs attack them. Do you see? Did we hit them? Israel is a liar. Israel is a liar. They do anything and they don’t listen to the international community. This is medicine for the children. There’s no medicine. No drinks, no water, no gas. We are suffering from hunger. They attack us. What does Israel want? Can it be worse than this? I don’t think so. Would they accept this for themselves?”

“Look at the children. What are they guilty of? They were sleeping at 7:00 am. All the night they didn’t sleep. This child was traumatized during the attack. Do they have rockets to attack with?”

“They [Israeli forces] attack everywhere. They became crazy. The Gaza Strip is just going to die…it’s going to die. We were sleeping. We were just asleep. Suddenly we heard a bomb. We woke up and we didn’t know where to go. We couldn’t see through the dust. The dust filled the house. We didn’t know where to go. We called to each other. We thought our house had been hit, not the street. What can I say? You saw it with your own eyes. What is our guilt? What are we going to say? Are we terrorists? I don’t carry a gun, neither does my girl.”

Also on December 28th an Israeli F16 attacked a mosque in Jabalya. That increased the number of mosques attacked to five, and today they attacked one more in Gaza City. When they attacked the mosque in Jabalya, one of the houses nearby was totally destroyed. But the house is not the problem. The problem is the family who lives there, five sisters were killed and their mother seriously injured. The first question the surviving daughter asked was, are my dad and mum okay? She was between the two dead bodies of her sisters. How will she forget that? No treatment in the world can erase that image from her mind. It’s not the education that Palestinians give their children, it’s the experience that the children live.

December 27 Update

We just received a phone call on our land line. It was the Israeli Defense Ministry, and they said that any house that has guns or weapons will be targeted next, without warning and without any announcement. Just to let you know, we don’t have any weapons in our house. If we die please defend my family.

December 27

This morning I went with some friends to visit the Block O neighborhood in the city of Rafah in the South of the Gaza Strip. While we were in one of the houses that we planned to visit, my phone rang. It was a friend from Gaza City. He was asking about something. Suddenly I heard the sound of an explosion at his side. At the same time I heard an explosion in Rafah too. He said, Fida they are attacking nearby, and I said they attacking here too. It seems that they attacked all of the Gaza Strip at the same time, all the cities at once. We hung up.

My friends and I in Rafah ran into the street, and in the street everybody was running, children and other people who wanted to see their relatives and friends. It was the time for schoolchildren to go to school, and for the second school shift to start. To explain more, because of the number of students here, which is increasing daily, schools in Rafah work in two shifts. The first shift starts at 7 am and finishes at 11:30 am, and the second shift for a different group of students starts at 12 pm and finishes at 4:30 pm. The attack happened at 11:30am, the time when schools change shifts, just as the first shift was coming back from school, and the second shift was to go to school.

So anyway, when we went to the area it was full of children and people looking at the wreckage. It was scary for many people to come and look because the Israeli attack wasn’t over, and from where we were we saw an Israeli airplane attack another police station. Some people could say they are police and that gives the Israelis the right to attack them. What about all the civilians who were walking or driving nearby? What about the children who were in this street? It’s impossible that the world sees just part of the truth and denies the important part. Even if it’s a police station, this government was elected and democratically chosen.

Most the people who were killed were people walking nearby or children going or coming back from school. I can’t believe what this world thinks.

Below are some interviews I conducted this morning.

Interview 1:

We heard the explosions and went to the scene. People were shouting. Some of the schoolchildren were afraid. There was damage throughout the whole neighborhood. Until this time we don’t know the exact number of martyrs. But people have been killed and many have been injured. There are martyrs under the wreckage…as you see.

Interview 2: Naama, 13 years old

I was sitting with my friends when the attack happened. We were scared and we ran out of our school. Our headmaster asked us to go home. We saw fire. We were told to leave the area by another street.

Interview 3: Policeman, 39 years old

We were at the police station. The Israeli planes came and suddenly the building collapsed on us.

I saw four dead bodies near me. They were in pieces. Outside I saw the same thing.

Everyone was shouting. I lost consciousness and then found myself in hospital.

Interview 4:

We were in a meeting in Rafah. I was with Abu Odeh, the manager of the traffic police, and with Rafah’s manager. We were preparing to release impounded motorbikes before the Israeli attack. We received an order to evacuate the police station, and as we were leaving the attack happened. We managed to reach the door of the police station. The explosion was strong and I fell down. I looked around and saw my colleagues and they were in pieces. The situation was desperate, so I said the Shahada prayer until I was rescued and taken to the hospital.

Interview 5:

We heard the attack. It was far away in Tel Al Sultan [northern Rafah] and we were in the city centre. We ran away from the police station. I was injured by shrapnel as I was leaving the main gate of the police station. We didn’t have a chance to get an overview of the scene because debris was flying everywhere.

December 26, 2008

Our experiences here reveal much more than what is in the news. Here in Palestine, the death penalty was ordered after a summary trial before a military court for people caught with Palestinian passports. Why?

While the world celebrates Christmas and people wish each other a happy New Year, it shocks me how many people in the world live below the poverty line, and how many children die every year because of bad food or water. And where I live in the Gaza Strip, sickness and poverty are increasing. Gaza is the only prison in the world which has no limit on the number of prisoners or on prisoners’ age.

The prison here has no image that you can imagine, and no description that writing can describe. And the prisoners here range from a day old to over a hundred years old.

In Gaza you might be confused to see many shops full of things to buy. With so many things that to buy, you might ask, are these people really under siege? Yes the shops are full of things that Gazans need to survive, but can’t buy. How they can buy something they don’t have they money for. You can find chocolate in the markets but you can’t find bread. You can go to the hospital but you can’t find the necessary treatment.

From the thousands of stories about life in Gaza and the suffering of the people here, I was amazed by one story of Gaza’s fishermen that I heard when I was out on a fishing boat. To write a story like this you need to wake up at 5:30 am and prepare yourself to leave Rafah at 6am to be on time for the fishing trip.

The trip from Rafah to Gaza City is an hour by taxi. Normally, we share the taxi with six other people. We don’t know one another, but the strange thing is that we talk to each other as friends who see each other every day. And in that way you can hear six stories about life, about a father or a son, a mother or a daughter, a lover or a friend, about their days, or about the questions in their minds that need answers. We share the taxi to share the costs, but at the same time to share the happiness and the sadness. This is one of the things we have that people in Europe don’t.

At 7 am on my first day fishing, I wanted to be on one of the trawlers. I didn’t think it would be easy or that I would be safe, but it was worth trying, in order to see something different and a window on the world that is almost closed.

I arrived at Gaza port with one of my friends, got on the boat and started the trip, after the fishermen had prepared themselves. On the boat I realized how open the fishermen were, how much they wanted to talk about their experiences. They just needed somebody to listen, somebody to make them feel better.

While we were all chatting about different things, Ahmed, who is 20 years old, started to talk. He said, “my brother was shot in the head while he was working on this boat. I remember that day very well. All of us on the boat were working, and things were going alright until an Israeli gunboat showed up and started to shoot at us. You are going to ask me, for no reason? Yes, for no reason, unless they aim to make us suffer on land and in the sea. The gunboat started to shoot directly at our boat. Ibrahim was shot in the head. Some of us were scared, and some tried to deal with Ibrahim’s wound. They were really strong to be able to deal with his injury and see all of the blood. For a while I thought he had died. But when we arrived to the port, and took him to the hospital, he was in very bad condition according to the doctors. He stayed in the emergency room for ten days, and after that it was God’s will that he survived. Since then he has not come back to fish because the accident affected him.”

I asked myself since hearing this story, what is the mistake that we have made to face this fate? The Israelis always say that they fight us because we are armed. Are the nets that we use for fishing a prohibited thing, are they a weapon? If so, international law should inform us of this.

For your information, according to the Oslo Agreements, Gaza’s fishermen have the right to fish 20 miles from the shore, and according to international law we can fish 12 miles out, with or without an occupation. Then why does the Israeli Navy force these fishermen to fish no more than six miles from shore? Is this part of their siege, or another of their security reasons which have no end?

I asked another fisherman named Hassan who is 35 years old, is it really dangerous to fish? He answered, the Israelis have left me with no alternative but to die.

In the stories that I write I never try to remember the date or the time, but for some people it makes a difference to know when something happened. But for Gazans it doesn’t make any difference. It amazes me how people here survive. Maybe as we say in Arabic, a person who sees others’ miseries finds that his misery looks smaller than he imagined.