Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza amid escalating Israeli bombing

Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza amid escalating Israeli bombing

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The airstrikes that engulfed the Lina Wahbi neighborhood in the Gaza Strip appear haphazard and relentless.

“We are feeling the bombing everywhere and every second in particular,” said Wahbi, 19, who spoke by phone Thursday with NBC News. “We are all very scared – adults and children. No one feels safe at home and everywhere. “

“Every time I close my eyes, I wonder if I’m alive or not,” added Wahbi, a student at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.

After nights of continuous airstrikes by hundreds of Israeli missiles, Palestinian civilians living in Gaza are exhausted and frightened. On Friday, in an escalation of violence that Israel said was aimed at clearing the tunnels of militants, tank shells and artillery fire shelled the densely populated and blocked enclave.

Since the round-trip flights began on Monday, Israel claims to have hit around 600 military targets in Gaza. At least 119 people, including 31 children, have been killed and 830 injured, officials in Gaza say.

Eight people were killed in Israel – seven civilians, including a child and a soldier, according to the military.

At least three high-rise buildings that housed Hamas installations were toppled after civilians were warned to evacuate, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas, the movement that controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, and the smaller militant Islamic Jihad group have fired some 2,000 rockets at Israel, according to the IDF.

Palestinians outside Gaza City, near the northern and eastern borders with Israel, fled their homes on Friday amid increased Israeli shelling.

Relatives mourn the deaths of two members of the Palestinian Alrantisi family, killed in an Israeli airstrike, during their funeral in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Friday.Said Khatib / AFP – Getty Images

Muthana Najjar, who is a reporter for a local radio station, says he hasn’t slept in days because he’s up all night reporting – ranging from the site of an airstrike to the another across Gaza.

But aside from the terror of witnessing death and destruction for his job, being separated from his wife and four children is scary – as is the fact that he cannot calm his own desperate family.

“Yesterday evening there were strikes near my home and I was not there,” Najjar said from Gaza City. “My little girl, who is 5 years old, is very afraid of the bombings.”

He said his daughter, Nadeen, had night terrors and wet the bed.

“They cry all night and can never sleep,” he said of his children.

The bone-shaking airstrikes are especially frightening in Gaza, the narrow and densely populated strip of barricaded land that is home to an estimated 2 million people, as there are no bomb shelters and most people do not have bomb shelters. ‘have nowhere to go.

After the Israeli withdrawal of troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, Hamas won local elections and ousted the more moderate Fatah movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas. This is the fourth armed conflict with Israel that has resulted in blockades of airstrikes and thousands of deaths since Hamas took control of the region.

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Israel and Egypt also imposed a strict land, air and sea blockade of the 25-mile-long and 7-mile-wide strip of land.

The blockade has had a devastating impact on civilians in Gaza and has caused soaring poverty and unemployment, according to a 2020 United Nations report. Residents cannot leave to seek work elsewhere due to the blockade. and the region has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Most people do not have access to clean water and there are chronic electricity shortages and poverty rates are rising, UN says

“When people hear about rockets falling on Israel, of course Israel has the infrastructure and the resources to have bomb shelters. People in Israeli cities can leave their cities and go elsewhere, ”said Fadi Quran, campaign manager for Avaaz, a global left-wing human rights organization. “But in Gaza, everyone is under siege. It is one of the densest regions on the planet. “

“There are no shelters in Gaza,” Koran, 33, said Thursday by telephone from Ramallah, in the West Bank. “They have nowhere to go, they have nowhere to hide.”

He said he had spoken to friends and colleagues in Gaza over the past few days and that they were simply “terrified and devastated by what they were seeing”.

Many take the only precautions they have, such as finding places to hide in their homes where cement is most fortified and removing windows to avoid injury from broken glass.

The IDF said that while continuing its aggressive military campaign, it was trying to “minimize civilian casualties.”

“It’s a complex and difficult operation,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said on Friday. “We have all the sensitive targets mapped out, including the clinics, and we’re trying not to hit them. Sometimes Hamas uses these facilities on purpose. “

It is a cold comfort for Gazans who experience the bombing.

“We watch people flee their homes in seconds. They sit at home and in a second they become homeless. Everyone is scared, ”said Wahbi, the student.

“We fear for our families, our friends, ourselves and our people.”

Palestinian families take refuge in a United Nations school in Gaza City after fleeing their homes.Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

The bombing came at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, just as people were supposed to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on Thursday.

Journalist Najjar said his children were very excited to celebrate Eid, but in the end they didn’t even want to put on the new holiday clothes he bought them for the occasion.

“To be honest, there is no vacation,” Najjar said resignedly. “How can my children and I celebrate the holiday while our people are being killed or left homeless?”

Wajjeh Abu Zarefah reported from Gaza City; Lawahez Jabari of Jerusalem; and Petra Cahill from London.