A Night Under the Bombs in Gaza

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Yves here. I imagine few readers have been in a war zone, and the ones that have were soldiers or attached to the military. I hope those of you who are battle-seasoned recognize how perilous it is for civilians in Gaza, even before factors in years of apartheid-style treatment.

Even though those roles are dangerous and stressful, someone operating in that capacity is regularly mobile, has some intelligence about operations in the area, and normally has safety protections (armaments, air support, other soldiers). Being trapped at home during an attack, particularly at night, is nerve-wracking, even before getting to actually being hit or having someone in your personal circle die or be maimed.

In Vietnam, television helped turn public opinion in the US against the war. It was the first armed conflict where American well removed from the theater got a sense of how brutal war really is and how often civilians are victims. The US learned that lesson and now manages how journalists see and present our wars. Perhaps accounts like this will break though American air-brushing and spur more active opposition to our nation-breaking and support of oppressors.

By Mona AlMsaddar, who has worked as an English teacher in Gaza for more than three years. Originally published at We Are Not Numbers

An explosion following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, 12 May 2021|Nidal Alwaheidi/SOPA Images/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

We are six people sitting in the living room. Each with a phone in hand and earphones in, following the news of what is happening in Gaza and Jerusalem. The most urgent question on everyone’s mind: where will the next bomb hit?

More than 83 Palestinians, among them at least 17 children, have been killed by Israeli bombing on Gaza since 10 May, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israeli raids have targeted civilian buildings, flattening at least three of Gaza’s high rises and making hundreds homeless.

The house feels like it is shaking. At midnight, the sky flares red and my mother nervously tells us to remove our earphones. When we hesitate, she panics and shouts, “Remove them now!” She is afraid the sound of the blaring news and the exploding bombs will harm our ears. Now alarmed ourselves, we all obey, silently looking at each other.

My younger sister, Nesma, a lawyer, suggests we all lay down, out of sight, since the light of the shells is reflecting on our uncle’s house next door. Seconds later, our house feels like it is shaking again, and this time the windows and doors join the party.

After 15 mins, things are calm again, although we can still hear the drones. Nesma offers to make some tea and I say that I will select some nice music to cover the bombing. We need to calm ourselves as well. I play a love song by Umm Kulthum, the iconic Egyptian singer. Even my father sang! “Oh, my little girls, you reminded me of lovely and beautiful days,” he says. My mother smiles into the book she is reading.

Soon, however, the bombing intensifies. Exhausted, my mother tries to catch a little sleep, but to no avail. She is worried about our neighbors, who lost their mother just days ago due to COVID-19. She calls the daughters and chats with them so they won’t be so afraid. But we are all afraid. Still… if the Israeli occupation has taught us anything, it’s how to hide our fears. Panic is contagious.

It is a long and tough night. We cannot sleep. Just before dawn, we have our suhur, the meal Muslims eat during Ramadan before starting the day’s fast. This time, it is only dates, some cheese and tea. Because of the bombing, it was not safe to go to the market. We have to buy food daily because the frequent power outages these days make refrigeration difficult.

My body is so cold. I don’t know why. The weather is warm, yet I am shivering. Maybe it’s because I am suppressing my worries and fears. I layer on clothes, but it doesn’t bring me comfort. I go to my mother and hug her. I finally feel some peace, although not safe.

I put myself to work. First, I rearrange my room so my bed is in the middle – away from any glass that could fly if the windows break. I also open the window and door, to lessen the air pressure and reduce the chance of being hurt by debris. And since I am a fan of the mugs my students give me as gifts, I take them off the shelf so they won’t fall and break. Now maybe my room will ‘survive’.

Then I choose movies, music and books that can fill our days if the attacks continue. I also call my friends and arrange to create ‘rooms’ on social media so we can have virtual sleepovers. I also call my sister, who is married and the mother of a lovely newborn boy who has never heard the sounds of bombing before. I want to make sure she and her son, Ibrabim, are ok. At least he is too young to understand what is happening.

Finally, and this is very important, I vow to avoid all pictures and videos of the bombing and dead bodies. This is my way of protecting myself from the bad dreams that haunted me during previous wars.

Still, I know I can’t ignore them. I am inside the circle. Pray for us.

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  1. Mark Gisleson

    As an American, it shames me that my tax dollars are gifted to the Apartheid nation of Israel to help pay for this terrorism.

    1. Mr. Magoo

      I really have a hard time to see how this continues. I am doubly not sure how American government policy which objected to expanding settlements (Regan era, no less), devolved into this disgrace.

      It was nice to see the turnout for the protest in Chicago. We need more of that.

  2. The Rev Kev

    A lot of this is coming down to media perception. So on the news in Oz you had stories about Israeli drivers who had near runs with protestors and this old Israeli guy asking why this was happening. Yeah, he seemed to have no clue why. The principle I have found here is that Israeli tears are worth more than Palestinian blood. By that, I mean they will not show you slaughtered Palestinians – particularly children – but will show Israeli civilians crying about this or that attack. But this is what we see in the west.

    What do they see in Israel? How about an Arab man being dragged from his car, beaten and set upon by dogs in Bat Yam, Tel-Aviv, and which was aired live by state broadcaster Kan. I wonder if we will see that footage her in the west? During the last rounds of bombings several years ago, Israelis drove up to the hillsides with deck chairs and refreshments to watch the “fireworks”. Such is life in the only democracy in the middle east-


    1. Alex

      The perpetrators of the said lynching have been detained already.

      Funny that you didn’t mention the lynching of a man in Acre by Arabs which happened almost at the same time.

      1. The Rev Kev

        That footage must have been left on the cutting floor to make room for more footage of yet another apartment building being surgically dropped in Gaza. Sorry, but I have no faith in the Israeli justice system to do the right thing with any lynchers, Israeli or Palestinian. The system has been far too corrupted over the decades.

  3. Susan the other

    This is an obscenity. What Gazan was idiotic enough to send a flurry of missiles into Jerusalem? This is not just the peculiar perennial fight over the Gaza strip, but the acceptance by civilians of “bombing and dead bodies.” The long standing conflict between Egypt and Israel over control of Gaza is an item that belongs in the first paragraph. And the determination of the Israelis to push the Palestinians back away from the Mediterranean, enclosing them in a long isolated valley. Instead we get the equivalent of an advertisement for stray and abandoned, injured and starving animals. Shivering in fear and uncertainty. In all of the superficial information we receive there is never a discussion of the massive natgas field just off the coast of Gaza and Egypt. No mention of the maneuverings between Egypt and Israel. No mention of the coalition with the Saudis. Nothing. Because that would require a responsibility to care. To take action.

    1. Carolinian

      How about nobody talks about how Netanyahu starts bombing every time he struggles to stay in power (and avoid his corruption trial)? There is a psychological dimension to all this and not just, as Chomsky would say, all about the oil. The Israelis like to defend settler colonialism by saying it’s no different than what the Americans did to their natives. But this bit of “whataboutism” does not flatter the advocate–particularly during a time when cries of racism are on every lip.

      1. Alex

        That’s very true. It’s not only the corruption trial but also post election coalition negotiations.

      2. sharonsj

        Every Israeli/Palestinian conflict begins with Hamas shooting rockets from Gaza. And that’s been going on long before Netanyahu was in power. And using the term “settler colonialism” negates the three and a half thousand year history of Jews in that area.

        1. Carolinian

          So the events in Jerusalem did not precede the latest round of rockets? Sure about that?

        2. Taurus

          Are the children born blameless? Or are they responsible for the three and a half thousand years of history?

        3. liz

          There is a long history of both peoples and others in that area. Just because the Romans used to control most of Europe should the Italians today assume ownership? Israel waited for the go ahead from the “Great Powers” in 1948 before taking over what they now call Israel on the understanding that half of that land would be under the control of the Palestinians. For the last 70 year they have done their best to oust the Arabs by every overt or underhanded way they can think of. If you have any doubt about their tactics check out “Breaking the Silence” online;verbatim reports from former Israeli army members appalled by what was required of them in “policing” the Occupied territories. Who would stand for that? The rage builds year after year and will never end until Israel acknowledges and adheres to international law.

        4. Keith McClary

          History or Bible stories?

          Are we supposed to believe that the “Jewish” 5% of the Roman Empire’s population was from tiny Judea? More likely these were mostly converts to Judaism from around the Levant. And the Jewish ruling class today is mostly of European descent. The Jewish population of Palestine converted to Christianity (see Wikipedia), and are the ancestors of today’s Palestinians.

  4. Alex

    We also had to spend a few not-so-pleasant hours in the shelter in the last couple of days listening to sirens. There were only a handful of fatalities so far but I’m sure it’s for the want of effort by Hamas.

    1. jrkrideau

      I am sure that people in Gaza would have been in shelters too if Israel let them buy cement and rebar to build them

      1. sharonsj

        If Hamas wanted to provide bomb shelters for the average Gazan, they could have. But they’d rather spend the money on themselves or more rockets. And take note of the fact that Hamas was elected to a four-year term but they’re still in power after 14 years because they refuse to hold general elections (and they’ve been killing off their political opponents meanwhile).

        1. Otis B Driftwood

          I think they would rather Isreal would stop the occupation, stop the blockade, stop stealing their homes and stop mobs from attacking them in the streets.

    2. Temporarily Sane

      You know the primitive Hamas rockets are a response to Israeli violence against Palestinians, right?

      Jewish Israelis cheer as settlers rampage through the streets lynching Palestinians and the border police breaks into Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan prayers and terrorizes worshippers with rubber bullets and flash bang grenades.

      Meanwhile the IDF unleashes advanced American-made weaponry on Gaza, leveling high rise buildings and indiscriminately slaughtering men, women and children.

      And you complain when Hamas shoots back basically using homemade Katyusha rockets? Palestinians are under illegal occupation and have a right to defend themselves.

      American Jews, especially the younger generations, are no longer pro-Israel by default. In the age of ubiquitous camera phones and instant communication everyone can see what is going in Israel/Palestine and everyone can see who the aggressor is.

      Anti-Zionist Jews are often at the forefront, along with with Palestinians of course, in calling out Israeli violence and the Israeli state’s power to intimidate people into silence has been waning for years now. Being Jewish does not obligate one to support a vicious apartheid state that practices ethnic cleansing.

      The Israeli state does not represent diaspora Jews and it is owed no allegiance. Opposing Israeli atrocities and war crimes is not antisemitic. There is no going back to pretending Israel is a victim.

      You can try to guilt trip people and draw false equivalencies (such as equating the IDF’s assault on Gaza with Hamas shooting back using primitive unguided rockets) but these tactics are rapidly losing their effectiveness.

      If Israelis want to live in peace they will have to stop waging war on Palestinians and illegally occupying their land. There is no other way.

  5. Jason

    Narrative control is everything. It’s at the top of the intel guidebooks for taking over any country: Get control of the media apparatus.

    It’s illuminating* to learn the language and paradigms that are used to dehumanize. Just consider the reporting from the If Americans Knew Blog versus the usual narrative:

    Death toll from Gaza (65, including 16 children), Israel (7), and continuing updates

    As Israel continues its attacks on Gaza, and Gazan resistance fighters retaliate, the death toll continues to rise; Israeli rhetoric grows more hawkish; the US stands solidly by Israel’s side.

    A spokesperson for the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza reported that 43% of those killed by Israeli airstrikes were children and women.

    According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about 15 (out of the 65 Gazans killed) were militants


    * If it weren’t such a monstrous situation, I’d use the word “fun” to describe the educational journey you can take in uncovering the language the powerful use. In the example above, the writer is turning the tables

    1. Jason

      I wasn’t able to tweak this post the way I wanted to before my editing time ran out.

      Common words such as “alleged” have powerful effects on the reader, particularly given that many/most people for the most part accept the articles they read at face value, not thinking critically and certainly not doing any serious structural/power analysis of the larger situation.

      Power centers know this intimately and use it to their advantage ruthlessly and shamelessly.

    2. Jason

      In the above example, I highlighted “according to” just to show how this simple phrase introduces doubt, whereas a word like “reported” connotes a more definitive underlying truth to the statement in the reader’s mind.

      In this case, the “according to” is Israel’s representative. Turning the tables.

      The Palestinians are resisting a bully. This is obvious to anyone with even a minimal understanding of the history and facts on the ground. So, even that minimal understanding can never be allowed to be reached. This is done through language and control of the narrative.

    3. Jason

      The always much, much higher number of Palestinians killed are listed first, as opposed to the few Jews who are killed. This is not to elevate one life above the other; rather, to report the true reality.

      Agency is important. A common theme in Israel-centric reporting is to use words that evoke strong emotions in relation to Jewish lives, i.e. a Jewish man was slaughtered by Gazan militants, while 20 Palestinians were lost in the skirmish.

      They weren’t slaughtered by the Jewish Israelis – who never slaughter anyone of course – they were just “lost” in the fighting, and it’s ultimately all their fault anyway.

      It’s so (family blog)ing dehumanizing.

      1. Jason

        A common theme in Israel-centric reporting..

        And I fell into it myself here. This isn’t in fact reporting and shouldn’t be improperly labeled as such.

        It’s straight Hasbara.

  6. Ashburn

    Cell phone videos provided all the fuel needed for the Black Lives Matter movement. I think we will see something similar in the US where the MSM control of the pro-Israel narrative is quickly collapsing. Video of Israel’s terror bombing of its Palestinian concentration camp is now available worldwide.

  7. Jason

    Israel vows that “Gaza will burn”

    “This is just the beginning,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday as Israel’s bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip intensified on its third day.

    Israel’s war cabinet approved plans to broaden the bombing campaign, which has killed dozens of Palestinians so far, including children.

    Israeli ministers were reportedly unanimous in their refusal to accept any ceasefire yet.

    “We will hit them with strikes they have never dreamed of,” Netanyahu said as he announced the assassination of senior Hamas commanders earlier on Wednesday.

    In a recorded address to Palestinians in Gaza, Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz threatened more destruction than he ordered in Gaza in 2014.

    At that time, he was Israel’s chief of staff commanding the 51-day assault that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children.

    “Gaza will burn,” Gantz said in the video, a direct threat to civilians that likely constitutes evidence of premeditated intent to commit war crimes.


        1. Synoia

          10:1, 100:1 – It’s all proportional.

          Equal or Equivalent response has the meaning you seek.

    1. JBird4049

      What happened to the Israeli army? If this truly was about those Palestinian rockets, why doesn’t the government send in their well equipped military on foot to hunt down the actual shooters instead of bombing apartment buildings from the air? I would say that only cowards and murderers deliberately bomb apartment buildings full of children.

    2. WJ

      “Gaza will burn,” Gantz said in the video, a direct threat to civilians that likely constitutes evidence of premeditated intent to commit war crimes.

      This is helpful, because it gives the lie to the notion that Israel is just targeting Hamas and unintentionally and regrettably causing civilian casualties along the way. Israel is punishing the Palestinians as a whole for daring to resist the occupying force. The civilian destruction and deaths are the whole purpose of the Israeli response.

  8. Jason

    Yesterday’s Nicholas Kristoff opinion piece in the NYT is a textbook example of doing damage control for Israeli war crimes while seeming to be coming around to the Palestinian position. He actually says that the occupied Gazans may be the ones committing war crimes! Putting all resistance under the banner of being led by the dreaded “Hamas” is one way to achieve this.


    What of Israel’s “right to” defend itself or even “right to exist?” I think Ian Welsh’ current post sheds much-needed

    I’ll be plain here. As a religious ethnic state which prefers Jews, I do not grant that Israel has the right to exist. (Wonder how many subscriptions that statement just cost me?)

    As a state where everyone has equal rights, it has ever right to exist, and all its residents should be left in peace.

    Palestinians and non Jews like Muslims are humans. As humans they should be treated with the same rights as every other human.

    What is happening right now is that Palestinian homes are being stolen by force. When the law is used (it often isn’t), it applies one set of laws to Palestinians, and another to Israeli Jews.


  9. Paradan

    Ive seen a few claims that Israel is using WP, and unfortunately I’ve seen a couple pictures of small children with terrible burns. The pictures look recent, but I still have no idea when or where they were taken.

    Also saw it mentioned that the apartment towers that have been leveled also contained offices for various media outlets. So there trying to stifle any news coverage of what goes on when they send in the army.

  10. jpr

    The late Patrick Wolfe was an invaluable scholarly resource for peoples with a colonial boot on their neck everywhere. You just need to watch the first 10 minutes of this talk to learn more about “Colonialism”–and the type of it we’re dealing with here (“settler colonialism”, as opposed to “franchise colonialism”)–than you’ll learn anywhere else in a comparable amount of time:



  11. Jokerstein

    A lot of people think Caitlin Johnstone goes over the top in some of her posts. However, read this with an open mind and see if it changes your views at all.

    1. CoryP

      Yeah, her grimly satirical “Palestinian child injured in fist-involved incident with IDF soldier” (paraphrase) article does a good job imitating this kind of language, also commonly used in police violence reporting elsewhere.

  12. Andrew Watts

    “My body is so cold. I don’t know why. The weather is warm, yet I am shivering. Maybe it’s because I am suppressing my worries and fears.”

    The author is suffering from a crash in adrenaline levels. The body can’t maintain the high state of alertness brought about by the sound and fury of war. All it means is that they were brave when it mattered.

  13. Jason

    The IDF is attacking innocent, defenseless women and children with ground troops now. They are moving both their current operation, as well as their long-term plan for the region, forward.

  14. run75441

    I am an XMarine Sergeant who was trained as a crypto tech and worked in various military disciplines. One of those was setting up communications for self propelled 155mm Howitzers. If I slept in the field, you could feel the rounds pass over head. This partial is written from a post I wrote at Slate BOTF in 2009. You will begin to sense what is at stake there:

    “Over a period of 12 days of combat; 17 mosques were hit, 1,000 targets were shelled or bombed, UN run facilities damaged, many private homes hit, and the basic infrastructure of water, electricity, and sanitation impaired. The casualties???

    “37 dead Israelis around the Gaza strip over a 10 year period as compared to ~900 Palestinians in a few weeks.”

    Most were civilians and what the US would call collateral damage in Iraq. The blame of killing civilians is laid at Hamas feet with claims they are hiding amongst civilians. To put this into a US perspective, take the city of Madison, Wisconsin and double the area of it from 67 square miles to 150 square miles. Cram six times Madison’s population of 223,000 into it or 10,000 people per each square mile (150 square miles) or 1 person for every ~2800 square feet or one person for every ~area 50 by 50 feet. Is it hard to believe that civilians will not die in such a congested area when lobbing 155mm howitzers shells into their midst or dropping 500# bombs? The bursting radius of the shells exceeds the area per person. There is no escape. Gaza is little more than a walled in ghetto being brought into submission by war and economic starvation.

    To reinforce its global position and justify its actions, Israel plays the game of “What if?” A specious game, the game of “What If”’ and Israel wants you and the rest of the world to imagine what it would be like to live under the threat” of attack . . . the suggested landing of rockets within reach of your home or business, the psychological threat of constantly having to duck for cover, and having to deal with the Palestinians who wish Israel would disappear off of the face of the earth. 37 Israelis dead over 10 years and ~900 Palestinians in a few weeks.

    We will reap another generation of violence. 20 Israelis dead over 10 years and ~900 Palestinians in a few weeks . . . it makes sense to me. Or does it?

    The rockets have improved in the range they will go and the Israelis have improved their defense. The loss is still of the residents of the Gaza by a predatory nation.

  15. Jason

    There must be loud, persistent calls for all U.S. funding to Israel to cease immediately. AIPAC and all its offshoots and affiliated organizations must register as agents of a foreign power immediately.

    Call your “representatives.” Make a lot of noise.

    This is unconscionable.

  16. Eustachedesaintpierre

    A long time since I read Primo Levi but I do recall him stating that on the whole the tough guys survived the camps & it was they who had been further brutalised that were most evident in the re-birth of Israel & as it sadly appears has been passed down into it’s continued growth. He only survived because he was a latecomer, had help from an Italian prisoner & was useful as a chemist to the German corporation operating in that particular Lager. I think it was during the 1st Gulf War when I became aware of Netanyahu’s existence, a person that I imagine that Levi would liken to Begin.

    ” I distrust success achieved with an unprincipled use of arms. I feel indignant toward those who compare the Israeli generals to Nazi generals, and yet I have to admit that Begin draws such judgments on himself. With dismay I see the solidarity of European countries weakening. I fear that this undertaking, with its frightening cost in lives, will inflict on Judaism a degradation difficult to cure, and will damage its image. I sense in myself, not without surprise, a profound emotional bond to Israel, but not to this Israel “.

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