29 Jul 2014

What it feels like to be under Israeli fire

Some Gazans are tweeting that this was the worst night of bombardment that the city and the Strip have ever witnessed. I can’t go out and verify yet but local agencies are saying 11 Palestinians are dead. I suspect it is more.

Meanwhile the Israeli army says it lost five dead after Hamas infiltrated through tunnels to Nahal Oz, inside Israel.

I will just describe what it felt like to be under sustained bombardment.

29_gaza_r_w

For the first three hours there was constant use of exploding flares, mainly fired from artillery. These are not standard illumination flares but bang very loud. They emit orange light so the typical thing you see in your darkened bedroom is shadows creeping up the wall.

It frightened the five-year-old in me, and must have terrified Gaza’s children. Whatever military purpose these flares have, using them in a sustained barrage against a civilian area had the effect of causing mass fear.

Punctuating that is artillery fire in the distance, where the two sides’ clash on the ground.

But the most devastating and terrifying things are the strikes. This is not a “barrage” – these are strikes with single weapons against single targets. But they are massive. They shake the ground, blowing the windows out of blocks facing them. Reports suggest among the targets was the pro-Hamas TV and radio station al-Aqsa.

Though these are laser and satellite guided weapons, they create huge impacts, much bigger for example than the standard iron bomb the Germans dropped on London in WWII.

Those in any building hit like this are most likely going to die, and there is a high risk of death or injury to anybody nearby. In addition, since nobody is aware of what is being struck, or why, this too creates the impression that anything, or anybody, can be struck at any time.

Sleep is impossible and these earth-shaking impacts must also create the risk, and fear, of nearby apartment buildings collapsing.

If you have knowledge of hi-tech military hardware it is possible to rationalise these strikes as “pinpoint”. However the effect on the population in the midst of them is to create terror and disorientation.

For me “modern” life consists in knowing that if I get suddenly sick I can call an ambulance; that if somebody robs me I can call the police etc. Here, you have to go to bed at night knowing there is nobody with any power to move or help you, and lucky if you have electricity.

We will go out and assess the damage soon.

I have just lived through the first space-enabled bombardment of a modern city. The air attack on Baghdad in 2003, though massive, was aimed at a state and a military; this one was aimed at a state woven into shops and pharmacies, and in extremely dense, low-quality mid-rise housing, with very poor infrastructure to start with.

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42 reader comments

  1. sue hart says:

    Paul your account of this is terrifying and I am sitting in the safety of my home surroundings. God only knows what you and the Palestinian people feel. Thank you for reporting this to us. I took part in the march in London last Saturday for Gaza and the Palestinian people. That and raising awareness amongst friends and colleagues about this horror is what I can do to show support. My thoughts are with you and of course the Palestinian people. It sounds as if worse is to come listening to what Netanyahu has to say.

    1. Katie says:

      Hi Sue,

      I understand what you are feeling – so helpless and angry at what is unfolding over there. My 9 year old daughter has a JustGiving page connected to The British Red Cross Gaza Appeal, and also a Facebook page called Children In Gaza as she wants to raise money for those children. Please could you like and share her facebook page to spread the awareness – which is all that we can really do.

      many thanks.
      Katie Larsen
      Oakham
      Rutland

  2. Treety P says:

    Thanks for posting this. I am an ordinary person who doesn’t normally follow politics but this has really affected me and I agree with Jon Snow that there is more international sympathy for the Palestians than at any other time. Simple explanations of the war are being posted and shared on Facebook and for the first time I am seeing videos by Channel 4 news shared on Facebook. I must add I haven’t seen any other news videos shared. People are affected but this just like I am affected to write this message….what we as the public need is a movement which had direction and tells people what we can do to help eg change.org petitions to sign, or people to email. We as a people are ready with little direction.

  3. maria says:

    I have long suspected that Israel deliberately lowers the standard of living of Palestinians periodically. This has now been confirmed via US government cables:

    US State Department cable: “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.. Israeli officials have confirmed.. on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”

    for a link:
    http://www.aftenposten.no/spesial/wikileaksdokumenter/article3972840.ece#.U9ThOI1dVZY

  4. John Clayden says:

    I would like to express my heartfelt thanksThank you all at c4 news including John Snow and yourself . You are decent compassionate people who are much appreciated.
    John Clayden

  5. Andrew says:

    “The air attack on Baghdad in 2003, though massive, was aimed at a state and military; this one was aimed at a state woven into shops and pharmacies..”

    It is vital that people understand: The Israeli objective is to destroy civilian Palestinian infrastructure while simultaneously terrorising the civilian population. This is not a by-product of targeting Hamas; it is the very objective itself. Israel’s ultimate ambitions is to retake Gaza as Israeli territory. Before it can do this however, it MUST reduce the Gazan-Arab population and reverse the Arab accelerating birth rate, either through murder, or terrorism with a view to mothers/families emigrating elsewhere. Otherwise, Israel has a fundamental demographics problem in that a majority-Arab population within a one-state democratic Israel will undoubtedly vote for an Arab government meaning the end of the Jewish state. Israel has no intention of being destroyed demographically

  6. michael. P. says:

    Israel has become Sparta. It can no longer offer itself or the world anything but war.

    While Gazans are suffering this slaughter, Israelis chant and joyously celebrate chanting “Gaza is a graveyard” “There is no school tomorrow because all the children are dead.”

    Israel has killed itself while it has tried to kill Palestine.

    1. Nici Wertheim says:

      Michael – using your argument – then the people of Gaza cheered in the streets when the Twin Towers were destroyed.

      There are ignorant people on both sides – please do not say all Israeli’s are chanting in the streets because I KNOW for a fact that this is not true AT ALL!!!

  7. Ima says:

    What does it feel like to be an Israeli under constant fire from Hamas in Gaza?

    In the spirit of quality journalism, why not give a balanced picture of what’s happening on the ground from BOTH sides of the dispute

    1. lara says:

      Ima, i pardon your ignorance , and i confirm for you that handmade rockets from people under siege for 7 years , caught by dome rocks , and people are blessed to have shelters and alarms.
      one or either, you have a limited brain capability or you like to lie and fool yourself. these are war crimes , slaughters of innocent children , not only to kill people to achieve demographic victory but also to kill dreams , hopes and the power of the Palestinians to live and rebuild their future. if you dont know, they are human.
      israel crimes are shame on humanity and your fears are only paranoia and a nightmare , punishing the wrong people.i hope you educate yourself about 65 years of occupation and crimes.

  8. Keith Harris says:

    Why is the world ignoring this vicious punishment on a captive population by Israel?

  9. NorthMunsterman says:

    Thank you Paul Mason for reporting on this obscenity being inflicted upon the Palestinian nation in Gaza.
    It is deeply disturbing – and deeply shameful – that the EU stays silent in the face of this onslaught upon a civilian population when it has the full resources to bring this senseless savagery to a halt immedaitely.

    May the Palestinian people live to see the dawn of justice and freedom in their own independent with exactly the same rights as their neighbours in Israel.

  10. hajra says:

    Thank you for your bravery. For giving a voice to those who are helpless.

  11. Colin Finch says:

    If Hamas stopped firing their ‘homemade rockets’ tomorrow would it make a blind bit of difference to the Israeli killing machine?

    1. James Laurie says:

      Yes it would is the simple answer to that question

  12. ismail adan abdi says:

    H! every one, thanks this website with a channel4 I live in hargeisa somaliland it’s unreganized country. My opinion toword what is going on palasine is (kill civilain people is against the human right, one thing i surprised is where western human right activity where the ICC that is question what want the answer) it’s shame for us whether we are muslim or not does it mean that the isreal it above the international law, does it mean their is no accountability with in isreal what they are doing in palastine can we say they can in such like in BRITISH can we arrest them to make a justice the kill of civilian people are same 1100palastine are they three isreal. that is the mean of human right in western people kill muslim people without accounatiblitity shames of all western human right actiivity shame of ICC shame of USA and it’s allains shaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeee western goverment that is the Democracy .

  13. Nassir Hussain says:

    This is a very one sided article. The Israelis are simply protecting themselves. Protecting themselves from the people that they have stolen land from, imprisoned, prevented from travelling, restricted the import and export of everything, restricted basic essentials such as water and electricity, continued to bomb and kill after many cease fires and continue to break globally agreed basic human rights and international law. Of course they can’t be allowed to fight back as that would be terrorism.

    Duh!

  14. Danny says:

    I can’t believe this state terrorism is being allowed in this day and age. They are killing kids for crying out loud how can this be justified. It is all about the ££££ and the jewish lobby who have all the power to influence govt. So can act under impunity. This is MASS MURDER!!!!!

    1. Romano Gatto says:

      Danny,

      If you care about this issue it is absolutely critical – for reasons of truth but also not to fall into a trap – that you ***** don’t ***** equate judaism with Zionism. So don’t talk about ‘the Jewish lobby’ as some of the very best, most active and articulate individuals and groups advocating justice for Palestinians are jewish themselves.

      I share your outrage and one of the worst things we can do is to equate zionism with judaism.

      RG

  15. Omar Terywall says:

    It’s extremely disturbing… we can only imagine what life must be like for the innocent Palestinian families caught up in this. On that note, (on behalf of EVERYONE!) I would like to thank Channel 4, and ALL your brave journalists for being one of very few broadcasting companies, in this part of the world, to report the truth on this particular conflict.

  16. Zack says:

    My 3 year old nephew is scared of the phone. Its startling when it starts ringing all over the house. Imagine the children of Gaza who know their sounds mean death..

  17. guy, Manchester says:

    It is beyond belief that rational intelligent people can support Israel in these actions but a great many do . Our political system is useless, they sit on their hands whilst this and many other atrocities around the world are allowed to happen. Of course Israel suffers at the hands of terrorism, but nothing excuses this carnage?

  18. Wasim Chaudhary says:

    Thank u Channel 4 u guys are doing a wonderful job by reporting da war crimes 4m Gaza..Can anyone tell me the difference between what’s happening in Ukraine and Gaza at one place they are going all out to get Russia by Sanctions on it..and da latter is made to go unscathed by da western powers..

  19. Trevor Allan says:

    Interesting argument by ex-Israeli ambassador to US on C4 News tonight. The argument went like this: we inform Palestinians that they are in danger if they stay where they are and advise them to leave; Hamas tell them to stay and we carry on anyway and blame Hamas. I would have thought that any compassionate authority would not have carried on knowing that the risk to civilians is the same. I cannot condone the view that two wrongs make a right – if Hamas is putting people in danger (as they clearly are by provoking Israel), then that does not make it right for Israel also to put civilians at risk. If Israel wishes to present itself as a superior authority, then it needs to rise above this fallacious argument and treat innocent Palestinians as it would wish its own people to be treated – it can leave Hamas to dig its own grave.

    1. harry says:

      On paper its seems wrong , but if as has been proved, Hammas are firing rockets and shells at israel from all these domestic situations surely you dont suggest that israel has to stop trying to make those sites in effective. Where else in the world do you have the case where one side is warned in advance of the imminent danger . remember that Hammas is SHUNNED by all the other main stream Arab countries .
      Remember there is still a war going on in Syria and Iraq where many more people including children are dying . ALL ARAB ALL MUSLIMS BY ARABS

  20. Joshua Rowe says:

    Hamas started this war (as they have every other war) and then craves the world’s understanding and support

    Hamas has fired some 14,000 rockets at Israel population centres (equivalent to some 150,000 rockets in UK terms) and expects sympathy. Incredible!

    if they want our sympathy, they should rescind their charter (calling for the destruction of Israel), destroy their rockets and tunnels and declare a willingness to live in peace alongside Israel. when they do that, there will be no war, no casualties and no blockade

    is that asking too much ?

    1. terry drake says:

      Joshua,

      You are looking at the wrong stats and you are either in denial or ignorant. The rocket numbers you talk about have resulted in a few casualties (still too many in my view) where as Israel has killed over a thousand civilians in a few weeks. The history of this conflict can be tracked to 1948 when 720,000 Palestinian Arabs out of the 900,000 who lived in the territories that became Israel fled or were expelled from their homes. Read the book by Jewish Hstorian Ilan Pappé (head of History at University of Exeter) which is called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine – Yes he is a Jew. If you don’t want to read that and want an abriged history as a drama watch Channel 4s the promise which tells the story that Israel and the west don’t want people to know about – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-promise

      1. joshua rowe says:

        Dear Terry

        Firstly, I would not quote Ilan Pappe – who is a revisionist historian.
        Secondly, the number of refugees was around 450,000.
        Thirdly, if the Arabs / Palestinians had not attacked the fledgling and tiny Jewish state, on the day of its birth, in 1948, there would have been no refugees (see how 1.5 million Israeli Arabs are living under conditions which are infinitely superior to those in Arab lands).
        Fourthly, are you aware that many of the refugees left because the Grand Mufti (Hitler’s close ally) called on them to leave, so as to clear the field for his grand ‘counter-attack’?
        Fifthly, are you aware that at around the same time, there were some 800,000 – 900,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from virtually all Arab lands (and are you aware of how Israel absorbed and integrated them, in sharp contrast to the way refugees were treated in Arab lands)?

        As to your apparent measure of ‘body-bags’, if you measure right and wrong based on that, your conclusion in World War II would have been that Germany (who suffered infinitely more casualties than the British) were right and that Britain was wrong. Similarly, you would have to conclude that Milosevic, Sadam Hussein and the Taliban (who suffered enormous civilian casualties due to our allied air strikes) were right and that we were wrong.

        The reason Israel has so few casualties is not to the credit of the Palestinians. Their aim was that every rocket should hit a civilian target. Fortunately, their aim is not very good and Israel has invested massively in defending its civilian population (having said that, living under the shadow of rocket attacks and sirens is still quite torturous).

        The reason the Palestinians have so many civilian casualties (by the way, I suspect that a large number of their ‘civilian’ casualties are actually armed terrorists) is because they fire their weapons from within densely populated areas, which means that any response (even with all the care in the world) is likely to result in civilian casualties.

        According to Israel army reports (and this is direct from the soldiers at the front) virtually every home that Israel has destroyed had an entrance to a tunnel, a store of arms and explosives or was a firing position for the Hamas terrorists.

        The other reason there are so many civilian casualties is because when Israel asks them to leave certain streets, the Hamas terrorists force the population to stay put. It is a horrible thing to say, but from the terrorists’ point of view, the more civilian casualties, the better.

        If the Palestinians discarded their charter (calling for the destruction of Israel), disarmed their rockets, abandoned their tunnels and declared peace, there would be no war, no casualties and no blockades.

        Is that asking too much?

    2. Monic says:

      Joshua, Israel started the wars by taking the land of the Palestinan people who lived there, then by barricading them into a small infertile slip of land and to cap it all they put their warboats on the water –
      Yes the Hamas militants fire their rockets indescriminately into Israel and that is wrong but to retaliate against a rocket with mass bombing from jet aircraft is like a full grown adult male giving a 5 year old boy a thumping.

      Israel likes to protray itself as a victim but continually ignores the UN unless it thinks it can be bought,
      Every death is a crime but why do you think Israeli ones count for more than the Palestianian ones.

  21. brutal remaster says:

    I have taken to posting this quote to israeli spokesmen, diplomats etc. If you feel the same disgust at the twisting of reality as I do then please do the same. This slaughter cannot be justified.

    “Propaganda, has absolutely nothing to do with truth.”
    Joseph Goebbels

  22. Sam says:

    My heart cries with the injustice in the world. congratulation channel 4 news for telling the truth, at least there are people out there that can see and tell the truth.

    Shame on the David Cameron and the EU justifying Israel ethinc cleansing

  23. Kay Lawrence says:

    With United Nations condemnation of Israel’s merciless attacks on Gaza and growing outrage voiced by many other countries, Where are the sanctions against Israel? Netanyahu has far more blood on his hands than Putin.

  24. Nici says:

    These are horrifc and tough times. Israel absolutely mourns the death of Palestinian civilians but what is Israel to do? Hamas fires its rockets and builds its tunnels and if Israel were to stop at this stage, Hamas would increase their rocket attacks and utilise the tunnels with devastating effect. DO NOT BE FOOLED – who are HAMAS and what do they stand for?!?!?

    The saddest part is that Israel cannot rely on the UN or the West to ensure that Gaza is demilitarized. We all remember how after the 2006 Lebanon war, the ceasefire was accompanied by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ensured that Hezbollah would be disarmed and South Lebanon would be free of rockets.

    The UN placed its soldiers (UNIFIL) in South Lebanon, as did the Lebanese Government – with a view to ensure that the zone remained demilitarized. Under the noses of UNIFIL, Hezbollah has not only rearmed but has hugely increased its arsenal of rockets in the area. All this makes a mockery of the suggestion that some international body can supervise the demilitarization of Gaza and that is why, sadly, Israel has no choice but to finish the job.

  25. Mikael Grut says:

    To attack Gaza every two or three years only increases the hatred of Israel among Palestinians and elsewhere. The only way for Israel to stop the rockets is to treat the Palestinians better. South Africa too was once an armed camp, like Israel today, until it abandoned apartheid. In the same way the Israelis can only live in peace if they abandon Zionism, which is an ideology about taking away the Palestinians’ country. To help liberate the Israelis from Zionism we should not buy Israeli products, and join the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

  26. Jacqui O'Malley says:

    I’m addressing those who think Israel is ‘only defending itself’… Please somebody explain to me the effect Illegal settlements are having on normal Palestinians and do the Palestinians not have the right to defend themselves also? And which came first, the settlements or Hamas. And has anyone read The General’s Son by Miko Peled for the accurate historical account.

    1. joshua rowe says:

      Dear Jacqui

      Palestinian hostility to Israel pre-dates settlements

      The Palestinians attacked the tiny Jewish state, on the day of its birth in 1948 – long before there was an occupation or settlements

      The Palestinian charter (calling for the destruction of Israel)l, is dated 1964 – long before there was an occupation or settlements

      After the war in 1967 (the third war Israel had to fight for survival – and long before there was an occupation or settlements) Israel offered to return the territories in exchange for peace (an offer embedded in the oft misquoted UN resolution 242). the Palestinians and Arabs roundly rejected the proposal: They wanted the land but not the peace.

      [By the way, when Egypt made peace with Israel, in 1979, Israel returned the whole of Sinai, oil wells, settlements et al]

      In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its settlements from Gaza , in the hope that this would lead to a peaceful and prosperous Gaza living in peace, alongside Israel

      Israel gave the Palestinians a thriving horticultural industry (some 3,000 greenhouses) and the West poured vast sums of money into Gaza

      What happened?

      The Palestinians promptly destroyed all the greenhouses, voted Hamas into office (who promptly ‘disposed’ of all their political opponents), diverted all the money to build rockets and tunnels and began firing rockets into Israel’s centres of population.

      The bottom line is that Palestinian dream is not co-existence with Israel but the annihilation of Israel. If you understand this you understand all the problems and all the conflagrations in the region

      I hope this is useful

      1. Terry says:

        Joshua,

        You talk about the greenhouse trade and investment by the west, Israel have bombed the hell out of Gaza in three wars in an attempt to bomb the locals into the stoneage. Who would invest in any business if its likely to be wrecked every couple of years, Please read the Ilan Pappa book – it has death bed confessions made by comamders of the genicide committed by the “tiny” Israelie state in the 1948 ethnic cleansing exercise. Do you think it is likely that the Palestinians would trust Israel given the children who have been murdered in this war and the proceeding ones?

      2. Nici says:

        Terry

        You mention Western businesses not investing in Gaza because of the situation there? There is no need for investment from foreign companies – Israel left a huge commercial infrastructure when it unilaterally left Gaza in 2005.

        On top of that billions of dollars in aid has been given to the leaders of Gaza to rebuild and strengthen their economy.

        I’ve been asking “what did they do with that foreign aid?”

        Instead of building the economy they built tunnels, instead of massing resources – they massed weapons.

        It is impossible to maintain peace when you are faced with a terrrorist organisation who is intent on destroying Israel and all other Western countries next.

        Why do you think Egypt has blockaded Gaza? Surely if Hamas is as innocent as you say and Israel is as terrible – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and all the other Arab nations would
        come to their aid?

        You should read “The Son of A Hamas Leader” or YouTube it. He tells exactly what Hamas is about and what they really care about.

      3. Nici says:

        Terry

        You talk about investment in Gaza. The leaders in Gaza were given billions of dollars in aid to help with reconstruction and when Israel pulled out of the area they left a substantial industry to sustain and build an economy. And the israeli’s supplied concrete and other building materials. But what did Hamas – the Leaders in Gaza do with that aid? They built tunnels and bought weapons – with no regard to strengthening an economy or giving the citizens in Gaza an infrastructure for education, health and basic living needs.
        As for the children of Gaza trusting the Israeli’s… They never will whilst they are taught in the schools how to hate and kill. Perhaps you should read “The Son of Hamas” written by the son of a Hamas Leader who managed to escape and now lives in America.
        Please – look at the whole picture, look at why this current situation came to be, read the charter of Hamas to understand what the leaders in Gaza have as their priority and ask yourself if there has ever been another country who has pre-warned the enemy to evacuate areas, who has built field hospitals in enemy territory to treat enemy civilians or has has sent in food and other basic needs in truck loads to help the poor innocent people who are being used as pawns in a PR war.

      4. joshua rowe says:

        Dear Terry

        I think you may have things a bit upside down

        If Hamas did not fire rockets, there would be no war, no casualties and no blockade

        Sadly, living peacefully alongside Israel seems to be asking too much of Hamas

        And, if I were you, I would find better books than Ilan Pape’s revisionist theory

      5. Terry says:

        Joshua,

        we can beg to differ on a number of issues, and I understand that you are Jewish so this is difficult for you. I understand that stuff happens in war and that Hamas are far from being perfect. But they were democratically elected and have been called terrorists since. Terrorists kill women and children. There were 10 thousand buildings blown up in the last month and if you look at the pictures of towns that were demolished , it is clear that there was no concern for the ordinary people hence the mumber of casulties.

        To me that is an act of terrorism, so who are the terrorists? The founders of the state of Israel were called Terrorists by the brits and then there was the bombing of British Soldiers and officials in the King David Hotel in Jersualem in 1946. Then there was the hanging and bobbie trapped bodies of British Soliders by Zionist. The eventual president of Israel Begin was in the group of terrorists and he was the most wanted terrorist in the world. So Israel drove out the Bristish (yes we should not have been there) and then they turned to the Palestians who were ethnicallly cleansed (killed and murdered or displaced) from their homes and villages. That is Terrorism. How did you expect the Palestinians to react? Zionist Terrorism created Israel and then created Palestinian angish and thats the problem we have now. This latest bombardment will create more hate and pain. Why would they want to make peace with Israel, please answer this question for me?

  27. joshua rowe says:

    Dear Terry

    One does not have to be Jewish to support Israel

    If Hamas start a war, there are consequences. Every war is ugly (have you counted how many homes and even cities we ‘obliterated’ in our various wars?). The question is not who hit what but who started this war and who is responsible for it.

    Do also bear in mind that close to 500 Hamas rockets misfired and fell on Gaza (including, on the Gaza power station and on at least one of the UN schools). Additionally, Hamas detonated / booby-trapped many homes to impede Israel advancing / finding their tunnels, so, all told, much of the carnage and damage (and deaths) were actually caused by Hamas’s ‘friendly (mis)fire’.

    As to Jewish terrorists, you will know that the two organisations were absolutely tiny and were shunned and rejected by the main body (the yishuv) of Jews and they were hounded by the Hagana (Israel’s army then).

    Mr Begin did eventually become Prime Minister but only after he completely cast off the ethos of terrorism – in the same way as Britain accepted Kenyatta as President of Kenya (even though he had led a terror group) and in the same way as Israel would have been happy to accept Arafat as president of a Palestinian state and in the same way as Israel would be happy to accept his deputy (Abbas) as president (provided they renounce violence and terror)

    Is that helpful?
    .

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