Thursday, February 19, 2009

Testimony of a Gazan

FAUSTO BILOSLAVO from the BBC Panorama programme came to Gaza to look at some of the personal stories behind Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. The following story is just one of a number that he reported on the programme.

"To die with us is a great honor. We will go to Paradise together or survive until victory. Allah's will be done." In this way Hamas militiamen responded to the entreaties of the Palestinian civilians not to use their homes as positions during the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

With the international spotlights turned off, the Panorama team went to see what happened in Gaza and discovered the other side of the war that has not been told: entire buildings taken hostage, the population used as human shields and, for the dissidents,even today the risk of getting a bullet as "quislings".

And far from theoretical danger: since the end of December, 181 Palestinians have been summarily executed, kneecapped or tortured because they opposed Hamas.

But it is not over: now the Islamic movement that rules Gaza with the Koran in one hand and a gun in the other wants to control everything, including aid and reconstruction.

The building of the Andalous family in the Al-Karama neighborhood of Gaza City has been reduced to a skeleton of concrete. The Israelis have hit hard, and this middle-age Palestinian couple has nothing left but to pick up the rubble of an apartment not yet paid for. They escort us on what remains of the indoor stairs, on the condition that Panorama team uses only their family nicknames. "We knew that it was going to end up like this. Since the early days of the attack the the guerrilla fighters of the Palestinian resistance had positioned themselves in the twelfth and thirteenth floors, with the snipers. Every now and then they tried, to no avail, to shoot down one of those UAVs that the Israelis use", says Abu Mohammed, shaking his head.

In the building, not yet finished, lived 22 families: more than 120 civilians, including women and children. The Israelis had begun calling the tenants' cell phones ordering them to vacate the premises. Then, the militiamen got a more explicit message: a fighter dropped a bomb on the empty courtyard on the other side of road without causing injuries, but opening a huge crater. "A delegation of householders beseeched the militiamen to leave" said the tenant." The answer was: "You will die with us or we will survive together".

On January 13 the Israeli F16's hit the building at 9:30 P.M. "At night we would go to sleep at our relatives' homes: we were saved, but no longer had a home and we still have to repay 9 years of the loan' said a tenant in despair, a veil on her head. The Islamic Bank does not grant exceptions.

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