The Week the World Remembered Gaza

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Al Jazeera English

The Week the World Remembered Gaza

Nicole Johnston

Out of sight and out of mind.

For almost 3 years the plight of Gaza’s 1.5 million people had gradually faded from view. The international condemnation from Israel’s conduct during the war with Gaza had dimmed.  It seemed Gaza was no longer a story.

And then the Freedom Flotilla set sail from Cyprus.

Suddenly people were interested again. What was really happening in this tiny strip of land – blockaded on land, by sea and in the air – and what was the international community doing about it?

I have been in Gaza for two weeks.

I watched the city’s preparations take shape for the welcoming of the freedom flotilla. There were police drills on the beach and new construction work at the tiny fishing harbour.  But there was always a sense that these preparations could all be in vain.

And in the end – they were.

Israel said the flotilla would not be allowed into Gaza. Even still, people here did not expect such deadly force. Nine activists were killed.

Monday’s welcoming became a day of protest and mourning in Gaza.

All day groups marched through the main gates of the harbour; supporters of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, university students and families.

Gazans were outraged and shocked at the deaths on board the flotilla.

Dr Ahmed Yusuf, from Gaza’s Break the Siege Committee, joined us at the harbour for a live interview.

He called Israel’s actions a "massacre" and denied that there were any weapons on board the ships.

Dr Yusuf also denied that Hamas and the activists had planned a confrontation with the Israelis on the high seas.

Across Gaza city the mosques rang out with special readings from the Koran to mourn those who were killed by Israeli forces.

On Tuesday mosques across the strip called on people to travel to Gaza city and pray at the mourning tents erected on the pier. Bus-loads of people heeded the call. They came from Khan Younis, Rafah and Beit Lahia - praying by the sea and protesting on the peer.

The flotilla failed to break the siege, but it did remind the people of Gaza that they had not been entirely abandoned by the international community.

Hundreds of activists from dozens of countries braved the Israeli blockade in an attempt to bring desperately needed aid and reconstruction material to Gaza.

However the flotilla was also bringing hope. Hope that maybe the siege could be broken and that the international community would take action.

Instead there have been statements, condemnations and resolutions.

And so the siege continues.

The international spotlight is fading away from Gaza, moving onto the United Nations, Turkey, Israel and the US.

And as it fades, the feeling that the world has not forgotten Gaza is also starting to slip away. 

Nicole Johnston is as a Doha based reporter. She has been with the network almost five years with stints in London, Kenya, Jerusalem and Gaza. Prior to Al Jazeera Nicole was a reporter with ABC Australia for 7 years.

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