Counting for the new year:

END the Occupation of Palestine NOW.

Break the Siege of Gaza

Break the Siege of Gaza
The siege is a genocide and don't say you didn't know

Monday, December 4, 2006

A return to “normality” in Gaza

Two things occurred today to make me feel that life has returned to its normal routine.

I awakened in the morning, alone as usual these days, and heard a very familiar sound, one which had been missing for a while. It was the sound of shelling in the northern parts of the Gaza Strip. I smiled to myself. We have not heard this noise for about two weeks. We even thought that the Israelis had moved all of their military equipment to Lebanon (as if they did not have enough to be used in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip).

The other thing which made my day improve was the arrival of the newspapers. We have not had them in Gaza since 25 June. The three Palestinian newspapers are printed in the West Bank and are brought to Gaza via the Erez crossing point. It was very nice to again have the feeling of holding a newspaper in my hands, which became dirty with the ink. Of course, having newspapers in Gaza means that Erez has been opened. It is open for everything but certainly not for the Palestinians.

Yes, at the beginning of the day I felt good that some routine returned to my life, especially when I am alone and missing domestic routine. In the evening I was speaking to my father, who lives in Vienna, and suddenly I heard another familiar noise. It was the F16s and the surveillance planes and the constant shelling.

I started to laugh and my father wondered about the reason. I told him that I feel better when I hear these sounds. I know that life has returned to its normal rhythm.

Before that the situation was relatively calm, to use the language of the media. The new style that the Israeli army is using is that it calls the mobiles of targeted houses and flats and asks the people to leave within a certain time in order to bomb them. Some time ago they allowed people around two hours to vacate but now they give them only 15 minutes to evacuate their homes.

Two houses near my flat are under threat, one to the north and one to the south of our building. They have been threatened for a few days but until now they have not been bombed. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of these buildings do not live there any more. Every time we hear the sounds of the Israeli planes in the air we think that they might be about to bomb these houses.

Another thing the Israelis do is to call the land phones in the Gaza Strip with recorded messages, asking the people not to support the “terrorists” who are fighting against the Israelis and are shelling mortar rockets on the southern Israeli towns. Sometimes the children answer the phones and listen to these messages and understand it as a threat to leave their house. Families start to gather whatever they can, at least their documents and some clothing. Then they discover that it is a false alarm and return to their homes.

People are waiting for salary payments. There are rumours that the Authority will pay a whole month’s salary. Everyone is waiting for the money. Especially so as the schools are due to open soon and preparations have to be made. However, until now, nothing has developed from this rumour. Civil servants have not received their salaries since the appointment of the Hamas Government in March. They received only once a part of their salaries and once half a salary. This affects about 160,000 employees!

Another rumour is the opening of the borders. Those who have employment outside Gaza in different countries, university students who were visiting their relatives before 25 June and who study abroad, new students who finished high school this year and want to begin their university studies, and all Palestinians who want to leave for reasons of work, business, health or even recreation are waiting anxiously for the opening of the border.

Relatively speaking we do not feel the Israeli presence as before but all of our worries and expectations are connected to them and wait for their approval. And the world is still talking about the liberated Gaza Strip and the approaching first anniversary of the Israeli “withdrawal”!

I have to be satisfied with talking to my family once a day and hearing my four year old son telling me that he will come back to me as soon as he gets a permit.

Lama Hourani
Gaza City
16 August 2006

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