Soon after shameful attacks killed six in southern Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that militants would pay “a very heavy price.” And then his warplanes proceeded to pound civilian areas with missiles. So far nine Palestinians—including two children—have been killed, and dozens injured. Retaliatory strikes have not always been limited to sought-after militants but have also affected the more vulnerable and punishable civilian population.
Ahmed Sourani, from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, a Grassroots International partner near Gaza City, said that they were getting shelled from both sides, even though it is not yet clear who was responsible for the attacks in Israel. “We are very scared about this escalation,” he admitted. “Last night my children slept in my bed.” Sourani explained that the areas in Gaza threatened by attack had not been declared, so it’s anyone’s guess whose living room window will be shattered by a deadly weapon. Memories of the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead attacks that killed more than 1,300 Gazans are still raw.
This new round of attacks comes as Muslim Palestinians prepare for the last 10 days of Ramadan, culminating in Eid, the holiest day in their calendar. Usually, this time is spent shopping and preparing for festivities—activities that pump life into a debilitated economy and lift spirits for a struggling population. But this year in Gaza, families rush to buy food, essentials and gas, and then huddle together indoors. “We were expecting to spend these last days in peace,” said Sourani with a sigh, “but now we listen to the news all night, expecting to be bombed.”
In addition, this attack targeted both the sewage treatment plant and an adjacent electricity generating station in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The damage to the sewage treatment facility recalls the time when one sewage treatment pool gave way and flooded a village in 2008, killing five. Construction supplies to fix these structures are often blacklisted by Israel. Sourani reported that there is now no electricity in the central part of Gaza.
On-again off-again access through the border with Egypt is currently off, with the border on lockdown—preventing anyone from accessing the Strip and effectively jailing those inside who want to get out. For those living in the densely populated Rafah district near Egypt, it’s even more dangerous since the Israeli military has ramped up their bombing campaign on the tunnels that have acted as a lifeline for the people of Gaza.
Some are concerned that these factors, combined with Israel’s complete control of border terminals could result in a serious food shortage. “We don’t have food stocks in Gaza,” said Ra’ed Fattouh, the Gaza City-based Coordinator for Commercial Crossings. Fattouh explained that staples like flour, rice, cooking oil, and animal fodder are delivered through the Kerem Shalom crossing via Israel on a daily basis. The conveyor belt there has been slowed or stopped in the past, and there’s no reason to think it will not happen again. “If Israel closes this crossing, we will have no food,” said Fattouh. The father of four hopes all the best for his children, but when it comes to reality he admitted that he fears for their future.
On the West Bank, Palestinians expressed outrage against the attacks in Gaza. New calls for protests against the killings and conditions there have been issued. Jamal Juma’ from the Stop the Wall Campaign, also a Grassroots International partner, called the bombing of Gaza and killing of civilians crimes against humanity that must be stopped. “Israel must stop taking revenge against civilians in Gaza every time they are attacked,” he said.