Israel is violating numerous international laws in its assault on Gaza, secure in the knowledge that western leaders will be unstinting in their support whatever atrocities are committed.

Witness to the lives of four children on the beach wiped out by Israeli shells

By Peter Beaumont, Guardian

The retaining wall of Gaza‘s harbour sticks out into the Mediterranean about 100 metres from the terrace of al-Deira hotel, base to many of the journalists covering the conflict in Gaza. The first of the artillery shells came in a little after 4pm on Wednesday as I was writing on the hotel’s terrace.

There is a deafening explosion as it hits a structure on the pier, a place we have seen hit before, where fishermen usually store their nets. Behind the smoke, I see four figures running, silhouettes whose legs are pumping raggedly. They clear the smoke. From their size it is clear they are a man and three young boys.

Where the harbour wall ends and the beach starts, there are a few brightly coloured tents and chairs for beach users in more peaceful times. The four figures jump on to the beach and begin running towards us and the safety of the hotel.

Only afterwards do we discover there are four others who are dead, all children, lying on the wall. I am shown a picture of one of the dead boys, his skin scorched and bruised. Their names are released later: Ahed Bakr, aged 10; Zakaria, 10; and two other boys from the Bakr family, both named Mohammad, aged 11 and nine.

The second shell catches the survivors as they reach the brightly coloured tents. As it explodes, my colleagues, now standing by the terrace wall, shout at unseen Israeli gunners who can’t hear them: “They are only children.”

The man makes it to the terrace first, scrambling up a steep sandy bank. A skinny man in his 30s, he groans and holds up a T-shirt already staining red with blood where he has been hit in the stomach. He faints, and as he grows pale and limp he is carried to a taxi waved down in the street.

The children are brought up next. Pulling up the T-shirt of the first boy, who looks about eight years old, we find a shrapnel hole, small and round as a pencil head, where he has been hit in the chest over the second rib. Another boy, a brother or cousin, who is uninjured, slumps by the wall of the terrace, weeping by his side.

The boy cries in pain as we clean and dress the wound, wrapping a field dressing around his chest, pressing to staunch the bleeding. He winces in pain, and he is clearly embarrassed too as a colleague checks his shorts to look for unseen femoral bleeding.

A waiter grabs a table cloth to use as a stretcher, but a photographer takes the boy in his arms to carry him to the ambulance that has arrived.

Other colleagues work on the final surviving casualty, an older boy. His arms are scuffed, and a bandage around his head barely staunches a head wound. He too is quickly carried to the ambulance.

In less than 10 minutes it is over. Even the smoke on the pier has died away, save for a last few drifting wisps.

What it’s like to live beneath bombs in Gaza

by Safaa El Derawi Common Dreams

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Young relatives of four boys killed by Israeli shelling cry at their funeral in Gaza City

I tried to write two days ago, but I did not know where I should start.

Do I start talking about the terror and the fear that we feel due to continuous bombardment of houses and agricultural lands across Gaza by Israeli warplanes? Or do I tell you about the bombing by marine boats all that make us feel that we are threatened with death at any time?

But I decided to write about last night; it was the hardest and the heaviest. Many homes and mosques were bombed randomly. A hospital and association for the disabled were targeted too. We spent all night in fear and tension without electricity trying to calm the children. No matter how hard we tried, they did not stop crying.

In the area where I live, three houses and a mosque were bombed in a period of 15 minutes. Messages reached the many of the people ordering them to leave their homes, some residents left and others decided to stay.

I called my friend Maha after I heard the news about the bombing of several houses in the ​​Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp and I could not reach her. My heart was racing. She contacted me after hours to tell me that they left their home. Their neighbors had received a warning message before their home was bombed. Four floors with four families and they had just three minutes to leave the house.

They live in a very crowded residential area with no space between homes. All of the refugee camps in Gaza are like this. So they told all their neighbors about the warning message.

What could they do in three minutes? Is it enough to come to grips with the shock or to take the papers, clothes and property?

They did not take anything with them.

The house was bombed while people were leaving their homes. It was then bombed again killing and injuring a lot of people, mostly women and children, and caused many houses in the area to collapse.

My friend Maha’s family is one of hundreds of families whose houses were destroyed, leaving them homeless without anything. They went to her uncle’s house where 20 people are living in less than 120 square meters (1200 square feet).

This is happening all over Gaza. The same story is repeated every hour with a different family.

We have endured a very bad situation for years due to the siege. And now we are threatened with death at any time.

But we love life and we will stay here.

Gaza is full of death and destruction

By Arwa Mhanna, Oxfam in Gaza

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A Palestinian baby Abdullah Abu Halib, wounded during an Israeli airstrike, is treated at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis

People keep asking me how the situation in Gaza is right now, and I don’t know how to begin describing it. Scary. Dangerous. Confusing. So many emotions.

The airstrikes happen everywhere, anytime, day and night. At night is the most difficult time. The bombing intensifies and I can feel it getting closer and closer. I’m exhausted but I try and force myself not to fall asleep… the explosions are even scarier when they wake you up.  I prefer to be awake when they strike.

It’s Ramadan, the holy month, and we should be celebrating. The “Iftar” meal – at sunset to break the day’s fasting – is usually a huge family occasion. My brother’s and sister’s families would join us, or I’d go to the beach with friends. But this year we spend Iftar on our own, with the sound of explosions and ambulances in the background, phoning relatives to check they are safe. My nine year old niece – named Arwa after me – calls me first thing every morning for reassurance that things will be ok. People keep saying they will be, but you can tell they aren’t sure. I call my friends every day and I’m terrified there will be bad news.

During the day we try and work, as much as security allows. Today Oxfam has been distributing food  vouchers to families who have had to flee their homes. The needs are growing by the hour – a water system for 70,000 people completely destroyed, a health clinic for pregnant women seriously damaged.

The violence goes on and civilians are the ones paying the highest price. I speak regularly with Oxfam’s partners – engineers assessing the latest damage; hospitals struggling to cope with all the casualties and shortages of fuel; fishermen who have had their boats destroyed.

Often we’re at home and it’s too dangerous to go out – the streets are empty, shops are closed. Time goes so slowly at home… we are constantly watching the news for updates, full of children being killed and homes destroyed. Sometimes I want to turn the news off and watch something else – a drama, a comedy  – but I feel guilty. It’s the World Cup and the cafes are usually full of men watching the football – now it’s too dangerous.

People in Gaza are very resilient. This is the third big military crisis we’ve been through in six years. I think of children like my niece and I don’t want them to get used to this.

My sister’s children are so frightened. A bomb fell next door to their house, smashing all the windows. Fortunately they were sleeping in the living room because it has only one window, so nobody was hurt. Now they don’t want to leave her side, even when she goes to the bathroom.

Even in between major military escalations, in the “calm” periods, there are still frequent airstrikes and the blockade continues to cripple our lives.

It leaves people unable to get jobs, move freely or enjoy a normal life. People in Gaza want to live in peace and justice. We need a long-term solution for Gaza, to give my niece and others the better future they deserve.

16 Jul 2014

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