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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Gaza: ‘I feel like this is the last battle’ | Miller on Gaza
The shelling here in Gaza City is intense. We have decided not to venture out for now. So I called my Palestinian friend Adeem. Here is her story.
We first met in 2006, when Adeem Abu Middain was studying for a masters in television journalism at London’s Goldsmith’s College. She was in her 20s, young and beautiful, brimming with ideas.
She came in to Channel 4 News to help Jon and me with translation work. It was when Hamas won the election in Gaza in 2006. Since then, Adeem got married to a Syrian-Jordanian man, Iyad al-Hindi, moved first to Abu Dhabi, then to Saudi Arabia and is now just about to settle in Canada, where her baby, Rakan, was born. He’s eight months old.
Three weeks ago, before all this happened, Adeem decided to come back for a holiday with her family home in Gaza. She wanted to share Ramadan with her mother, Aida, and father, Abdel Dayam, in their little farmhouse on the edge of Bureij refugee camp. It’s less than half a mile from the Israeli border, half way down the Gaza Strip.
It’s a 15-minute drive from where I sit right now. But for days it’s been impossible to get there – or to escape from. Adeem’s husband is in Canada. He’s worried sick. And for good reason.
“We are cowering in a corridor,” Adeem said. “The shelling is crazy. They are not aiming at anything.” I could hear the constant crash of shells around her. And her two-year-old girl, also called Aida, screaming. “We are running out of food and water. We can hear the Israeli tanks moving around us, but no one dares to look.”
She said some nearby Bedouin families had fled a few days back. The farmhouse is exposed and they feel very alone. In the farmhouse with her: her parents, her uncle, Abdel Minem, brother Amro, who’s 35, and the children.
Adeem told me they have no electric power, so the family is cut off from news of what is happening. The mobile signal isn’t strong enough to get online. She cannot charge her phone, but she wanted to use what she had of her precious battery power to tell me what was going on.
“I had been breast-feeding Rakan, but every time a shell hit, I would jump. It was no longer a comfort to him, so I decided to quit because I could feel his fear. I can no longer breast-feed my baby.”
“Is is absolutely impossible get out?” I asked. “Impossible,” Adeem said. “We were talking of going to my aunt’s house, in the middle of the refugee camp, but ‘boom’ and they were hitting around that house too. There is no safe place. Everywhere is a target. This is a very hard decision, Jonathan,” she said.
“Anyway,” she said, “my Dad refuses to leave. He doesn’t want to just go to another refugee camp. In 1948 our family was forced to move from Beer Sheva [now a southern Israeli city, in the Negev desert]. Dad learned a lesson. He says ‘We will never move again.
“‘If they kill us here, that is our destiny,’ he says. ‘You really do not want to leave your place.’
“To me,” Adeem said, “Gaza will always be beautiful, with wonderful people. It’s not Gaza’s fault that the barbaric enemy has given the world this terrible image of Gaza. Gaza is where we belong now.
“Something’s changed this time,” she continued – meaning that if feels different from the other two Gaza conflicts in the past five years. “There is an amazing determination to survive. But I feel like this is the last battle. Either the people of Gaza live in dignity or you [she means the Israelis] kill us.
“They have already killed Gaza, by seven years of siege. No one can do anything. We are locked in. We have to live in dignity. We cannot continue to live like animals in a cage.
“We are the same as other people, everywhere… in London, in Canada, in Australia. We need to live freely. We need to move freely. We want to live like others who live in freedom. But now, I feel like this is a war against life itself. But Gaza will always be beautiful for me.”
By the end of our conversation, the tears were rolling down my cheeks. I am left with overwhelming sense of powerlessness. I so desperately want to help, but there is absolutely nothing I can do, as Adeem runs out of food and water and battery power.