My daughter Somaya's birth is the first light in this darkness
independent minds
faresakram

It has been the bloodiest, most violent day yet here in Gaza City. Israeli tanks came in from the south, shelling and bombing in the residential areas. But even with this death, bloodshed and chaos all around us, we are filled with joy. Twelve days after my father was killed by an Israeli airstrike, our first baby has been born, healthy at 3.8 kilos, with dark hair, just exactly as her mother wanted. I couldn't believe my eyes, seeing her for the first time. I kissed and hugged her softly. She cried when I took her in my arms. 

On Wednesday evening as Alaa was in labour, there were signs of hope for an end to the conflict; we heard reports that Hamas had accepted the Egyptian plan for a ceasefire. "Perhaps our baby, and peace, would arrive together," I thought.

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They killed Akram and now they’re destroying the few belongings he left behind
independent minds
faresakram
The sound of explosions and clashes boomed all night and into the early hours and we guessed that Israeli foot soldiers were trying to press on deeper into the city from the south. Whenever the firing salvoes paused for few seconds, we could hear the tank engines. The Gaza Strip was already pretty small before this conflict began, but it has got even smaller after being divided into three isolated sections by the Israeli army.
 
 
In the past 17 days of the onslaught, there hasn’t been a night without heavy strikes on Gaza, but last night, the shelling never stopped for more than a few seconds and aircraft, artillery cannons and gunboats fired their missiles into Gaza all at the same time.
 
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I rushed home in the ceasefire. Our baby's due tomorrow
independent minds
faresakram

The temporary ceasefire was earlier yesterday, running from 10am until 1pm, so I used the time to rush back to the family house we've evacuated, to pick up blankets, toothbrushes and clothes. I found our area in the al-Karama district of Gaza City completely deserted except for a few people who had gone to inspect their homes. Some of the houses had been set on fire in the overnight clashes.

 

I managed to bring back things for the baby: washing products, shampoo, but because it was such a rush, I forgot a lot of things we needed.

I'm supposed to become a father for the first time tomorrow. Alaa, my wife, has a lot of pain and is very tired. We finally got blood pressure medication for her, from an UNWRA clinic. Inshallah, everything will be all right on Wednesday. The problem for Alaa, or for any woman about to give birth in Gaza, is that the Israelis don't announce their true intentions.

 

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Soon we'll have nowhere left to run. Nowhere in Gaza is safe
independent minds
faresakram
 We've left our home. Like 60,000 other Gazans, we've taken our belongings and fled. Once again, we've become displaced people. Soon, there will be nowhere to run to, since nowhere in Gaza is safe. In the early hours of Saturday, the bombing got louder and closer to our home, and the rattle of machine-gun fire became more intense. The tanks were not far off.
 
As I lay in the dark, I heard the sound of small-arms fire and voices in the street outside. Since the Israeli offensive began, our city streets have been deserted during the hours of darkness; even the dogs that usually annoy us with their all-night barking have vanished. The voices were Palestinian militants: "Stay close to the wall!" "Go by the wall!", I could hear them shouting to each other. I didn't dare go to the window, fearing snipers, but tried listening to the radio. The FM stations run by Palestinian factions had no information, just talk about the "heroic actions" of their militants.
 
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Three fleeting hours of respite – so we rushed out looking for bread
independent minds
faresakram
From 1pm, life started returning to the streets. Israel stopped the bombing and shelling briefly after 12 days to allow humanitarian supplies in, and to allow us to stock up on food. People emerged from their houses, many to the hospitals to look for injured family members or the bodies of dead loved ones.
 
 
Most people headed for the bakeries, others rushed around with empty containers looking for drinking water. I joined a queue in front of a bakery but unfortunately returned without a single loaf since the bread ran out before it was my turn. Going to the green market was disappointing; there weren't enough vegetables. There were onions and cucumbers but tomatoes, the one thing everyone wants, were scarce. Nor was there any eggplant. There was something on sale that we don't use so much here: sweet pepper, considered a luxury because it's expensive. 
 
 
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I heard the news... it's time to evacuate my pregnant wife
independent minds
faresakram
Things are getting worse by the day. The streets here in Gaza City have been empty. It's dangerous to go on the balcony but if you risk looking out you can see columns of black smoke rising from the north. The sound of automatic machine gun fire from the Apache helicopters I find most terrifying.

Overnight, it seems the Israeli tanks progressed further into Gaza, and now we've heard about the tank shelling at a UN school in Jabalya camp killing more than 30 people. I found out about that when the electricity resumed for a short time in the evening and I was able to get online. I'm appalled but not surprised: if you have tanks on high ground to the east of Jabalya firing down on such a densely populated area, this kind of bloodshed can be expected.
 
 
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People are fleeing the north on donkey carts
independent minds
faresakram
When we woke up yesterday morning there were people on the streets for the first time in days. Whole families, girls, women, fathers, children. They appeared to be coming from the north of the Gaza Strip, fleeing their homes. The majority were walking, some were on donkey carts. There were a few cars and trucks but each had up to 10 people crushed inside. They were carrying their belongings, such things as mattresses and bed covers.

My grandfather who lives with us, watched for a while and said: "This is exactly like the immigration of Palestinians into Gaza in 1948". 
 
Overnight there were more air strikes, heavy-artillery shelling and the tanks have been coming deeper into Gaza. So you can't blame people for seeking safety. 
 
 
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