Palestinian father’s account of life under attack

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(Vatican Radio) As Israel continues its “protective edge” military operation against the Gaza Strip the civilian death toll continues to rise.

Officials say that more than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have been killed in the past 14 days of fighting.

The latest Palestinian death toll was announced by Gaza’s health ministry, who also said that 3,640 people had been injured.

And as Palestinians flee for their lives, over 100,000 of them have sought refuge in UN schools while many others have been taken in by relatives and friends.

43% of Gaza has been affected by evacuation warnings or declared no-go zones.

Amongst the suffering people is Said, a Palestinian father of two small children, who works in Cooperation and Development in Gaza.

He told Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni of how he escaped for his life with his family, of his terror during the bombings and of his desperation at the continuing attacks…

In his words:

“That night” – Said says, speaking of when he received a telephone call telling him to evacuate – “we were preparing to lie down and sleep on the ground for the night, to open the windows and to put the children in a safe and protected place”.

Later, he says, he discovered that the whole of his district had received the same warning that “they were going to start bombing the area and if we didn’t leave, our safety would be in danger”.

Said says the Israelis gave an evacuation period until 8am in the morning: “in reality we could not go out at midnight because for sure we are dead” he said.

“I waited until 6 in the morning, we took what we could carry of clothes, and we ran away”.

Said speaks of the shocking scenes he witnessed (reminding him of when Israel occupied Palestine in 1948) during his escape: “people walking in queues, women, children, elderly people, disabled people, men… all fleeing for their lives, trying to seek safety and assistance”.

By 7am the whole district – he said – was empty.

“You have no idea how massive the bombing was that night (…) they bombed massively with artillery shelling, with F16 jets… and rockets hit the building just next to us” he said.

Said speaks of the sheer terror that overcomes you when you hear the “whistling of the missile landing, a silent moment and then the explosion – I couldn’t stand strong in front of my children, I was about to collapse, but I must be strong to convince my children I am able to protect them” he said.

Said says he has a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-and-a-half-year-old son. He says they are highly traumatized and his wife is slightly injured. He says he will never forget that terrible night: “the fear we felt has impacted badly on my children” – he says his daughter now has nightmares and has started wetting herself in bed.

Said and his family are currently staying with relatives but he says no one is safe in Gaza. Initially they had wanted to go to an UN-run school, but it was too far away: “Yesterday the building next to his relatives house was bombed as was the hospital and another school” he said.

Said appeals to the International Community not to look away.

“I call everyone: politicians, humanitarian workers, the international community – put yourselves in our shoes and try to imagine one night of the fear we are feeling here in Gaza” he said.

“For those countries who believe in democracy and justice I think the time has come to spread peace in the Middle East with the recognition of international political agreements and laws” he said.

“We want peace”.