Times of Oman
Aug 31, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 07:48 AM GMT
Untold suffering in Gaza City
July 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A Palestinian inspects a damaged house which police said was hit by an Israeli shelling that killed eight members from Al Qassas family, among them four children, in Gaza City, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Muscat: Dawoud is a husband and father of four in his mid-30s who lives in Gaza City. He has Palestinian friends in Oman who are afraid for his safety and that of the other people who call Gaza home.

This is natural since by now, more than 500 have been killed in the two weeks of Israeli attacks. The Times of Oman spoke to Dawoud to fully understand what life under siege and constant attacks are like. For his safety, his full name and workplace has been withheld.

"We are accustomed to war, but with this intensity, I am more worried than I used to be. It is the most difficult war I have ever experienced. Everyone, even those much older than me, is saying this. "Over the last 12 days, life has changed 180°. First of all, everyone is now staying home in Gaza. No one goes to work, so banks are closed, institutions are closed, government agencies are closed. Everyone is advised to stay home. This is difficult because I'm not a person who is accustomed to staying at home for several days at a stretch.

"We do not sleep at night at home because the intensity of the shelling and shooting is more at night. This really weakens the body, because you are going against the nature of your body. We stay awake all night, watching the news whenever we have internet available. Now we have another problem, shortages of gas and electricity every day. Today I purchased a small battery-operated satellite radio to get the information.

"Usually we get some sleep from 6am to 11am. I sleep with the kids in the corridor of my apartment. I try to be far away from the windows. I like to have walls on all sides, because many children got severely injured from the shrapnel from the glass windows falling on them. I have four children, and my sister-in-law and her family joined us two days ago, so we have seven children now actually in the apartment.

"A big challenge for me and my wife is to distract the children. They keep asking what the noise is. Sometimes the house shakes. We try to tell them it is only training and it is rockets but it is far away from our house. I try to go to the shop to get candies to distract them sometimes. There are lots of things we do to try keep the kids calm and live a normal life.

"You also have to keep up with the basic needs of the children. Every day I endanger myself. I don't use my car. I just walk across the street to go and buy some bread, some vegetables and other things. You have to keep the children alive at the end of the day.

"For many people, it's not easy, but my salary is a bit better so I have some extra things. I have a spare gas cylinder in my house, so I manage to cook without problems. I store food for a few days which not everyone is able to do," he added.

In Gaza life is a nightmare, living in peace a dream
"In the last two days, we have had severe electricity problems, so we paid extra money at the building where I live to have the generator turned on for two and half hours every day. This is a replacement for the electricity line that comes from the city. We use it to heat the water, or to get the refrigerator to work a bit.

"Usually in the afternoon, I don't go outside the house. I stay home. We read the Holy Quran. We sit together until the time we have iftar, the one meal we have in the day. We try to share food with the neighbours' children and talk to them. Sometimes the bombings escalate during this time, but luckily we have electricity at this time because of the generator, so I switch the TV on and raise the volume to distract the children from the bombing.

Very sad
"At the taraweeh prayer time, I look out of the window of my house and try to judge the situation myself. If I can hear people moving in the street, I go to the mosque to catch the evening prayer and also to meet people and hear the news. The evening prayer passes off very quickly. It's very sad. In the city you don't see anybody walking after 10pm. For the past 12 days, I never dared to walk outside after 10pm. It's very risky. The noise of the airplanes gets louder and the movement of individuals becomes minimal. I am afraid to be shelled by a drone in case they are suspicious of my movements.

"In the building where we live, which has 13 families in a five-storey building, it was suggested that to recharge and change their mood, we would visit every single apartment, one every night. The heads of families go every single night after 10pm to one of the apartments. Since we can't go outside, we do internal visits. We spend an hour exchanging news, drinking coffee and then everyone goes home. We have flashlights.

"To be frank with you, no one is safe, but you can categorise the city into what is most safe, a bit safe, risky, and more risky. There is a tiny margin where you can identify if you can live there or if you have to leave. No one is safe, including my house, but we categorise it as safer than others. Most of my family is in Rafah, which is also very densely populated, and even today, 12 people were killed where my family lives. I call them every single day and they call me as well. Whenever I hear on the radio about attacks in Rafah, I call them, and when they hear about shells next to my house, they call me.

Just in case
"The situation is very tough. We keep thinking of how we will evacuate the apartment in case something happens. I divide the roles between myself and my family.  You carry this kid, I will carry these two together, and try to carry the bags. We have an essential bag of documents that contains our certificates, contracts and other such things. I keep it ready in a leather bag just next to the apartment door so I can grab it quickly. We have an internal emergency situation, trying to be focused and listening to the news.

"I want you to picture what has been happening all these days. It's the sound of bombing and the house shaking all day. It's really, really horrific. Sometimes it's very close. That's the difference between this time and last time, in 2012. Some people think the Israelis are using new bombs that make more noise. Yesterday they used F16s to make sonic noise over the cities which was very scary. Sometimes it comes without ammunition and then all of a sudden it comes again - BAM! - with a bombing. You can't imagine the noise.

Worst night

"The worst was last night. A massive cleansing took place in Al Shajaya Refugee Camp. I will not exaggerate if I tell you that last night every other second there was a heavy bomb from the tanks across the east side of the Gaza Strip. I am a few kilometres away from the east and when I look out of my window I see dark all around with smoke billowing across the city. Really, it's a massacre.

"It's so frustrating for us. It affects our psychology. How will we have a future? How will we build ourselves? For instance, I am a person who loves to travel. I lost a PhD opportunity in the USA because the border was closed. I have lost opportunities to participate in conferences. It's really hard to live like others. I dream sometimes of living in peace, like any other family."

To get in touch: sarah@timesofoman.com

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