News Middle East

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Hamas warns of return to war as mood in Gaza Strip hardens

Shona Murray

Published 08/08/2014 | 02:30

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A Palestinian by holds a toy gun as he participates at a Hamas rally in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

Hamas says it is ready to re-engage in hostilities against Israel if its demands, which, among other things, include an end to the siege in Gaza, are not met.

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The militant group is part of a delegation of Palestinian representatives negotiating a permanent truce with Israeli delegates in Cairo.

Its military capabilities were severely diminished in the last month due to Israel's incomparable strength but it says its fighters are ready and rockets are "trained at Israel".

Growing support among Palestinian civilians in favour of a tough negotiating stance in Cairo is apparent, following a month of intense shelling and the obliteration of some of Gaza's cities, in the north and south of the strip.

Shelled

Zain Zuabi, from Beit Lahyia in north Gaza, says her family received no warning last Sunday when her house was shelled; her brothers and sister were killed. She says that Palestinians need a lasting solution soon - otherwise, "the resistance" should continue to fight.

"We were just in our home, fasting and praying; because it's wartime we are connecting with our faith. We started gathering ourselves, about to let the children sleep.

"Suddenly - because it was an F16 we didn't hear anything - we just felt the world collapse, and we couldn't see with the dust. If we knew the house was to be bombed, we could have gone outside; we didn't know," Ms Zuabi added.

Beit Lahiya suffered days and nights of bombardment on a number of different days during Israel's 29-day Operation Protective Edge.

Thousands of its residents fled to Gaza City in the days before the shelling, following a string of warnings from the Israeli Defence Forces to leave their homes.

Israeli policy is to communicate to civilians by phone call, text, email and a flurry of leaflets from drones in the sky, ordering the denizens of Gaza's heavily populated cities and refugee camps to leave, or suffer the consequences of its military campaigns.

"I've prayed that they would just bomb all of Gaza, and all of us together, this is just a slow death, this siege, these bombs," Ms Zuabi said.

For Zain and her family, the reprieves from bombing have been all too brief.

"What truce? What truce, I ask you? We have been under siege for so long; our children are killed in front of our eyes. Now, we want something, we want the negotiations to get us something.

"The children, how they scream; you don't know how hard this situation is. Only Allah can help us," she added.

A few yards away at a nearby UN school, now occupied by hundreds of displaced families, women are mourning the loss of their husbands and sons, who died during a shelling there that killed 15 people. Women and children were "mainly sleeping inside (the classrooms), and the men outside, that's why most of the casualties are men, some were sons sleeping with their fathers," said Yamma Hamaloui, whose son and husband are injured in hospital.

"Nearly everyone from the Abu Jalala family died," Yamma added.

"Suddenly three bombs were thrown at the wall of the school and five inside. Their injuries are in their head, their neck and their arms - they were just sleeping.

"We are out of our homes; our families are injured, some of them dead. This is not a life - my neighbour sitting there cannot move, but the hospital says her injuries are not serious enough for her to stay.

"I pray that the prime minister of Israel suffers the same fate that we are.

"We are civilians, these people are all civilians. This is not fair, it is haram (forbidden).

"Does anyone want their children to live this life or to face this situation?

"We are women - these are children," she added.

Irish Independent

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