Narratives under siege: Not feeling safe in your own home

17 November 2011 — PCHR Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Rawand Tayseer Abu Mughassib, a shy 15 year old girl, is the oldest of 7 children. Together with her mother, father, three brothers, and three sisters she lives in a two story home south of Wadi al Salqa, a village located to the east of Deir al Balah in central Gaza Strip. Next to her family home is the home of her uncle, and not far behind it, stands the house of her grandmother.
 
On the evening of Saturday 29 October Rawand and her family went through a terrifying experience which left Rawand injured. Around 21.45h that evening Rawand walked out of her uncle’s home to go and visit her grandmother, like she does every day. When Rawand was close to the iron gate in the wall that separates her uncle’s home from the road in front of it an Israeli warplane fired a missile which struck four meters away from her. The missile landed on the road, just one meter away from the gate, spreading shrapnel, blowing the iron gate out of the wall and breaking most of the windows of the three family homes. Most of the shrapnel missed Rawand, leaving her with a mild shrapnel injury in her left hand. Directly after the impact Rawand’s father heard his daughter scream. He rushed outside and he recalls “when I saw the bleeding from her hand I feared her hand had been cut off by the shrapnel”. After receiving treatment in a hospital, Rawand returned home, terrified.
 
The family members there were many Israeli drones in the air that day but they did not witness any unusual activity in the fields around them. The missile that injured Rawand was apparently targeting fighters who were present in the area, injuring one of them. Rawand says; “I never felt very afraid from drones before I was injured by the missile. Now I feel very afraid whenever I hear a drone in our area and at night.” Since the attack she wants to sleep in her parents’ rather than alone in her own bed.
 
Rawand’s father, Tayseer, says many things in their family changed since the drone attack. Unlike before, the children now stay inside the house after sunset; “both because they are too afraid to go out and because I forbids them”, Tayseer explains. The evenings and nights are the hardest for the children and family to get through. As soon as the sun sets and it becomes dark outside, the children experience a lot more anxiety and are afraid to be alone. Tayseer tries to stay with them after dark as much as he can. Since the drone attack all family members stay in the same room from sunset until they go to bed. The children no longer visit their grandmother in her home after dark.
 
Rawand’s three year old sister Rimas shows clear signs of distress and trauma. Her father says Rimas “wants to climb in my shirt every time she hears a drone”. She has also been bedwetting since the strike of missile. The other brothers and sisters keep having nightmares and cry a lot according to their parents. Now they insist on sleeping in the same room so that they feel less afraid.
 
This is not the first time Rawand and her family feel unsafe in their own home. Their house is located near the Israeli imposed bufferzone, where Israeli Occupation Forces regularly target civilians indiscriminately by shooting at them, even as far as one kilometre away from the border. The house is also in the frontline whenever the Israeli army conducts incursions or targets fighters near the border. During Operation Cast Lead the family had to flee from their home.
 
The parents can do little to secure safety and happiness for their children and themselves. Living close to the border, they carry the brunt of the violence that often indiscriminately targets civilians. Tayseer wants nothing more and nothing less than a normal and safe life for his family; “I don’t make any trouble for anyone but still I don’t feel safe anymore in my house. The whole world should know what is going on here and what we are facing as people living in Gaza”.
 
Israeli Occupation Forces often use airstrikes to target fighters in the densely populated Gaza Strip. However, on many occasions such attacks also injure and kill civilians who are in the vicinity of the target. Since the beginning of this year 18 civilians have been killed and 16 have been injured in airstrikes that targeted fighters in the Gaza Strip. Of those killed, 3 were children and 4 children were among those injured.

Public Document
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For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: pchr@pchrgaza.org, Webpage http://www.pchrgaza.org

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