22 July 2014 — The Real News Network
On the 14th day of Operation Protective Edge, Gazan blogger Nalan al-Sarraj and TRNN Correspondent Yousef al-Helou discuss how Palestinians are responding to the massacre in Shujaiyeh, as well as the widespread support for the resistance against the siege (inc. transcript)
Nalan al Sarraj is a Gaza-based blogger. She can be found on Twitter @NalanSarraj.
Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist and correspondent for The Real News Network based in Gaza-Palestine. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And we’re now joined by two guests to get an update on the situation in Gaza.
Joining us now is Nalan al Sarraj. She is a Gaza-based blogger coming to us from Gaza City.
We’re also joined by Yousef Al-Helou, who is the Middle East correspondent for The Real News Network.
Thank you both for joining us.
YOUSEF AL-HELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.
NALAN AL SARRAJ, GAZA-BASED BLOGGER, ON TWITTER @NALANSARRAJ: Thank you.
WORONCZUK: So, Yousef, let’s start with you. As Operation Protective Edge continues, what’s the latest that’s happened in Gaza?
AL-HELOU: Well, for the 15th consecutive day, Israel continues its [unallowed?] land, sea, and air military assault on besieged Gaza. The death toll, of course, keeps rising rapidly up to this moment. The Gaza Health Ministry said that 560 have been killed and over 3,300 injured across the Gaza Strip since the start of the aggression on 8 July.
Now, amongst the targets shelled today was a shell at al-Aqsa Hospital, situated in Deir al-Balah in the middle of the Gaza Strip, killing five patients and injuring dozens. A state of panic prevailed at the time of the attack as families that were present and patients had to be evacuated. Also, a mosque, a UN-run school in al-Maghazi refugee camp also were attacked by tank shells. Also today, six civil defense crews were among the wounded, as their vehicle came under fire. Also, sad incidents kept happening–six worshipers injured when a mosque was struck by a missile fired from an Israeli drone in the southern Gaza Strip. Also, a church situated in Gaza City sustained damage in a separate airstrike in the city.
Now, since the assault started, over 3,000 homes were either totally or partially destroyed as a result of deliberate air raids or tank shelling. Now, many of the residential homes and buildings were deliberately attacked without any pre-warnings. In one incident, for example, today, 12 people who lived in a 12-story building–four four-story buildings were collapsed and, as a result, 12 people killed in that airstrike that targeted al-Isra building building in Gaza City.
Now, the random tank shelling has become the norm in Gaza since the start of the ground invasion launched three, four days ago. And as a result, 85,000 people fled their homes in Shuja’iyya, from Shuja’iyya to /fa/ and /t?a/ neighborhoods east of Gaza.
Now, Shuja’iyya quarter is a disaster area–huge and massive destruction and piles of debris fill and block the street and could be seen almost in every street and road [across that part (?)]. And as a result, this huge number, they fled to about 50 UN-run schools to seek shelter. Now this area is a ghost city.
Now, Gaza, as we know, is a big prison. Almost 2 million people live in the besieged Gaza Strip, which is the most densely populated area in the world. So there is absolutely no safe place.
And also, people actually are outraged from the weak position of the International Committee of the Red Cross that coordinates the services for Palestinian ambulances, because people say that the ICRC does not exert enough pressure–sorry, does not do its work when it comes to coordinating with Israelis to collect the bodies of the dead people and injured people. So the hospital is filled with dead bodies. And there is–a state of high alert has been declared for the past few days at Shifa Hospital.
So the situation is still miserable. People, they have no electricity. They cannot go out to buy goods or food, shelter, clothes. Drones, F-16s fly over Gaza around the clock. Tank shelling echoed throughout the besieged territory. So absolutely it’s a killing zone. I mean, it’s unbelievable how the people of Gaza are going through this misery, unable to flee Gaza. Gaza–I mean, the Rafah Crossing has been closed most of the time for the past few months or several months. So absolutely there is no safe haven for the people of Gaza, and the civilian population and children continued to /b?r/, you know, to be killed in cold blood.
WORONCZUK: And, Nalan, tell us what has been going on where you are in Gaza City.
AL SARRAJ: The situation is very horrible over here. Many people are–evacuated their homes from around the borders, and especially in Shuja’iyya area.
Today, me and some other social activists and bloggers, we went down to the streets to see how we could help them, and the stories that we saw, it’s unbelievable. It’s unreal how many people, huge numbers of children, they lost their homes and they [incompr.] because of the situation right now, especially after the ground invasion on Gaza Strip.
We have no electricity, especially. As I say, we only have less than five hours of electricity. And other areas, which is a bit further, they only have less than three hours of electricity, which means also water shortage, which means also people cannot live and survive under all the situations that we’ve been living through more than almost two weeks.
The people that we saw today and the children and the women and the–it’s unbelievable. They were barefoot. They have no food and they have nowhere to stay, mostly. They sleep on the ground. They have nothing. And we’re trying to help them, but even the UN schools, there’s not enough for them, so they basically go to the [churches and mosques (?)] to stay there, and it’s not even safe over there, as well as mentioned–Yousef mentioned that even those places got airstrike and nearly damaged as well. So we don’t really know how we could help them, as it’s even dangerous to go into the [streets (?)].
It’s very scary over here, and the situation is getting worse. And even right now there’s airstrikes, especially in my area, which is /?s?nd?n?hao?/, and other areas in Gaza City, and also, of course, in the close north and east and south of Gaza. And the situation is getting worse. And we don’t know where to go and how to even provide anything for them to help them go through this.
One of the stories that–one of the girls that I saw today, I was asking her, did you leave home, you know, trying to make a conversation with a little girl. But everything in a very young age–I can’t even imagine her future. And when she answered, she was like, [incompr.] to get us back home and my mom’s not answering me, she’s not giving me a clear answer. And it just seemed that this girl was trying to figure out what’s happening in a huge, unfair, inhuman world.
WORONCZUK: So, Nalan, how have people there been responding there to the news that over 70 Palestinians were killed in the neighborhood of /?u?d?a?e?/?
AL SARRAJ: Most of the people that I met today were basically evacuated their homes from al-/?u?d?a?e?/ area, so they’re actually al-/?u?d?a?e?/ area’s the citizens or they used to be. This is people [incompr.] doesn’t happen to them. They’re trying to figure out how all of this will be solved, praying that maybe they could go back to their homes again.
But the numbers are huge. I even–yesterday I went to al-Shifa Hospital to see, trying to help the people who evacuated their homes, and the children and the women, it’s unreal what’s happening–it’s real, actually. People are trying to find help, trying to reach out through the people, the international people, but there is not enough places for them. Even the UN schools are full. Now we’re trying to find out homes and places for them to stay, trying to provide food and all the necessary and basic supplies.
It’s very dramatic. They’re [under talk?] they’re trying to, you know, be strong for their children, but I can see in their eyes they feel broken, they feel–I can see the massacres, I can see the genocide that Israel did in their eyes, in their faces. And I don’t think that any one of them or any one of us who’ve been through all of this with them could ever get over it.
WORONCZUK: And how are Palestinians in Gaza responding to statements from Hamas that they’ll continue to fight until the siege is lifted? And I ask this because there seems to already be fairly little pressure from the international community for Israel to stop its offensive against Gaza. Yousef, let’s start with you.
AL-HELOU: Well, Israel, their stated goal is to put an end to the rocket fire from Gaza, and the invading troops have been confronted by Palestinian resistance groups. And we say that Israel has retaliated by shelling residential areas, by killing civilians, destroying their property. So, obviously, people are united behind the resistance. And they celebrated yesterday following the news of capturing of Israeli soldier. Quite obviously civilians are in–you know, they continue to pay a heavy price for this aggression on Gaza. They of course aren’t the main reasons why Hamas did not accept the Egyptian proposal, because it did not include the lifting of the siege and the opening of the Rafah border crossing and the release of some prisoners who were re-arrested in the past few weeks.
Obviously, people, they have had enough. Gaza has been under siege for the past seven, eight years, and people, they want to have a decent life, a normal life like the rest of people worldwide. So, obviously, it seems that Israel will press ahead with a ground invasion, will kill more civilians, will destroy more property in order to put the pressure on resistance groups to–responsible to agree to [incompr.] [entire force (?)], which is something did not actually please the population in Gaza. [They say (?)] after this losses, of the destruction, after this misery seven years. You know, we are not ready to accept humiliation by the Egyptian side. So, I mean, people, of course they want an end to this bloodshed, of course they want to have a normal life, of course they want to–ceasefire to be reached, because they haven’t slept for the past two weeks, they have suffered miserably. Loved ones–they even cannot bury their loved ones under the rubble. But they say–I mean, this let’s be clear about that. The siege must lifted, and this is the main point where, actually, [incompr.] the people of Gaza want to have a normal life away from the collective punishment of Israel.
WORONCZUK: And, Nalan, let me get your response to the same question that Hamas says it will continue to fight until the siege is lifted.
AL SARRAJ: I totally agree with Mr. Yousef, because what we’ve been living through for more than six years right now [incompr.] and we feel that Israel’s trying to push us back to live through that horrible situation. We had less than eight hours of electricity. Of course that would affect the water. The fishermen only could sail and fish for three kilometers–I’m not talking three miles; I’m talking three kilometers, which does not qualify a good living for 300 fishermen in Gaza Strip. We’re talking about two gates that not our authority controls. We’re talking about a very horrible situation that we feel Israel is trying to push us back to live in.
And we believe that the resistance, which is basically our brothers, who have been living all of this with us, feel us and do not accept what’s happening to us. They’re trying to defend us and trying to protect us from what’s happening. They’re putting themselves in the first line to be killed so we can live a better life. And of course people over here support the resistance mostly.
We cannot forget that Hamas had been elected legally over here in Gaza Strip, and this means that a lot of people over here that basically support Hamas, or even they do not support Hamas but they cannot target buildings, they cannot–Israel cannot target civilians, because basically we have more than 50 percent of the people over here who support Hamas or have got relations with Hamas, which means if they need to vanish Hamas from Gaza strip, they need to kill more than 60 percent of the people who live here, which doesn’t make any sense. They have–if they want to talk about peace, they have to show us that they want peace.
What we’ve been living through, the blockade and the occupation–and this is not our first time in Gaza Strip to be going through this kind of operations. We’ve been through that before, which means that Israel has no intentions to have a real peace agreement. And that’s why everybody over here supports the resistance, even though that that we’re going through hell. We understand that these people who are resisting for us, and even us, the normal people, we’re trying to resist with all the things that we know–social media, our voices, the arts, the music, we’re trying to show the world that we want to live a peaceful life when Israel is trying to force us to go back to live in a siege. We don’t want to live that life anymore. If they want to make any agreement, it has to be respecting our life as human beings, to have a normal life, to give us a chance to have a choice in life. Now we feel we have no control in our lives. We feel that we’re trapped in the situation that they control with their politics and their lies. And we need to see a real deal. We need to them to understand that they have to accept our conditions, because we are the people who are living in siege, we are the people losing our loved ones, and we are the people who are suffering right now.
WORONCZUK: Okay. Nolan al Sarraj and Yousef Al-Helou, thank you both for joining us.
AL SARRAJ: No problem. Thank you.
AL-HELOU: Thank you.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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