Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Letter from Gaza: Light through the wall

the International Herald Tribune:
Life in Rafah, Gaza's southern-most city, has always been difficult. But the period since March 2006 has been the worst in my 25-year life. Israel placed Gaza under a siege after Hamas won the Palestinian elections and tightened the siege after Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier near Rafah in late June 2006. We have had little electricity, fuel, money, food or medicine since.

We felt some hope last week, however, when Palestinians knocked down the wall that Israel built along Rafah's border with Egypt, allowing us to escape our prison and cross to Egypt to buy essential goods.

The Israeli Army has destroyed about 2,000 homes in Rafah in the last seven years. In January 2004 they demolished our home. My grandmother, aunt, uncles and cousins had gathered in our house because their homes had just been demolished. Then an Israeli bulldozer started destroying our home. I helped my grandmother because she has trouble walking. My mother passed out, so I dragged her to a safer place. That day Israeli bulldozers destroyed 50 homes in our neighborhood.

When the siege intensified in late June 2006, my family and I were trapped for 14 days along with 4,000 Gazans at the Rafah border crossing trying to enter Gaza from Egypt, because Israel had closed the border. We had little food or water. Nine people died. Finally, armed men from Gaza broke the border wall, allowing us to return home.

But the last months have been the hardest, with the borders sealed, growing poverty, dwindling supplies of food, medicine and other goods, and parts of Gaza without electricity due to lack of fuel. Israel's military kills Palestinian fighters and civilians almost daily.

We are waiting for our destiny. Slow death or fast death, it's the same result. Last week eight-year-old Huda from Rafah told me, "I have kidney problems and need to visit the hospital three times a week, and now the Israelis are threatening to shut off the electricity. That means I will die."

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