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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.
 
My thoughts went to my wife, Alaa, so, at dawn, I phoned her. Alaa is nine months pregnant and we evacuated her last week to her parents' place in the western part of the city. As I expected, she was in a state of panic.
 
At 6am, I looked out of the window. The entire neighbourhood was leaving. From a residential complex to the west, they were all leaving, carrying bags, mattresses, blankets, personal belongings. Cars were stuffed full of luggage, and everyone was rushing because the sound of bombing enveloped us.
 
I used to say we would never leave our home, but when you see everyone else on the move, how can you stay? Barely a week since my father was killed by an Israeli air strike on our small northern Gaza farm as the ground invasion began, we were facing another terrible dilemma. I thought of the Samouni family, killed last week while sheltering in a house together, and decided we had to go.
 
I took Alaa's jewellery, my laptop and phone, my notes and papers, and some clothes. My mother, sisters and their children drove away to take shelter at my sister's house. I walked with the people in the street. 
 
Leaving your home like this is pitiful; you feel almost ashamed. But there's no mercy with the Israelis in this operation. Previously, they weren't so harsh on civilians. But now, although they say they target Hamas, it seems they target anyone.
 
I am now at Alaa's parents' house. Here, there are 100 people in a building usually occupied by 20. The whole district is overcrowded as most of those who fled other parts of Gaza have come here. But late on Saturday afternoon, the flyers warning of an escalation started landing along with the bombs. "To the residents of the Gaza Strip," the leaflets read. "The IDF will escalate its operations in the imminent period against the tunnels, military warehouses and terrorist elements all over the Gaza Strip. For your safety and the safety of your family you are required not to remain near terrorist elements, the storage of military means, or close to sites from where terrorist operations are launched."
 
Well, we fled our home because of the militants – or terrorists, as the Israelis call them – but now they were dropping the flyers here too. Gaza is a small place and the Israelis have shut the borders, so we can't escape. Are they simply trying to terrify us further?
 
In the midst of the chaos, I managed to get Alaa to see a nurse, and then to the hospital yesterday. The nurse said Alaa is going into the early stages of labour. Her blood pressure is slightly up, and she's dizzy. At the hospital, the doctor said they may induce her labour on Wednesday. For a few moments, amid the newborn babies in the maternity ward, Alaa forgot our predicament and looked joyful.
 
Before sunset last night, the Israeli forces dropped more leaflets urging people to phone them with information about rocket sites. I hear they are also talking about the endgame. And we, the Palestinians, shouldn't lie to ourselves: they have achieved some of their goals. There are fewer rockets being fired across the border into Israel, and we've heard that six Hamas leaders have fled to Egypt by tunnel.
 
But what they have achieved has been at the expense of the Palestinian civilians. Hundreds of children have been killed or injured. They have seen their parents terrified and powerless to protect them. In the future, who will they turn to for protection? Even if the warplanes are gone by the time our baby arrives later this week, what Israel has done in the past two weeks will keep the flames of this conflict alive for generations to come.

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"Definitely we are from Allah and to Him is our return. O Allah, grant reward in my calamity and grant in its place a good substitute"

Our prayers are with you and all of the people of Gaza.

Please forgive my ignorance. At what point is enough enough? I can't understand why the people in Gaza allow Hamas to continue the rocket attacks that trigger such a predictable response from Israel. Don't get me wrong, Israel's offensive in Gaza is far beyond proportionate and should stop immediately, but at the end of the day, it's irrational to expect that Israel will allow rocket attacks on its villages every day and offer no response.
From what I have read, Hamas has underground headquarters under hospitals and schools. Rockets and arms are stored in hospitals and mosques. Why do Gazan's allow this? I know that hatred of Israel and Zionism goes way back, but is the constant violence worth keeping the dream (and that's all it is) of eliminating Israel alive? If 1948, 56, 67, 73 show nothing else, they show that Israel is not going to suffer military destruction.
Why not force your government to stop the rocket attacks and denounce terrorism? If that were to happen, the borders could be opened and life could return to some normalcy. To see images of wounded and dead children on TV is heartbreaking. Israel certainly holds much of the responsibility for this, but Hamas knows that the rocket attacks will ultimately provoke a response, so they have to accept some of the blame as well.
There is no way that Hamas believes that those rockets are going to win the war. The rocket attacks are annoying, but they are not going to bring Israel to its knees. What is the point? Is there a logical long-term strategy at work here? Or is it just a way to keep fighting? That's senseless. Why does the populace in Gaza allow this to continue, considering the consequences it brings?
I freely admit I have not lived under oppression for my entire life like many of the people in Gaza have, but I can't see how the actions of Hamas are doing any good.

As a father of three, I cannot relate

From our earliest school days, we are taught to see things through the eyes of others, and not simply judge. In conversation of world affairs, I try to draw parallels of our own lives and history to understand and predict outcomes.

For Gaza, I cannot relate.

I see the father carrying a child through blown-up neighborhoods, with two children and a mother in tow. I can't understand in the year 2009, why such a father puts up with such chaos. Maybe in the 1960's angry people that recently lost land would be angry enough to discard the welfare of their children and fire--again--at an enemy; to try...something. By now, don't the citizens of Gaza feel such futility is against the best interest of their children?

Israel acts disproportionately and each new would-be Israeli leader beats his chest to gain office or a reputation as a strong leader. Israel does not hold the moral high ground.

It may be the Hamas' reason to exist is the destruction of Israel, but was that the reason the citizens of Gaza voted for Hamas? In that, I do not understand the average voting citizen of Gaza. After failed attempts by larger military powers over the decades (Syria, Egypt, etc.) to wipe out Israel, the world knows rocket attacks that have made the news this last year are not going to do anything but provoke Israel from responding in its usual disproportionate manner, and wipe out neighborhoods in Gaza. Why do "ordinary citizens" in Gaza now allow Hamas to continue the rocket attacks that will result in their neighborhood being wiped out and their children being homeless?

I know that many cultures have fought on for years after they lost their land or right to rule themselves (Irish, American Indians, and others). But at some point those cultures have found a way to make peace in their eventual situation. There is peace, commerce, and education in Ireland, there is calm and some measure of economic prosperity on Indian reservations in the U.S.A. So, has enough time not yet passed for Palestinians to make some sort of peace with their loss, with their situation? Will it simply take a few more generations?

Or, are there just not many "ordinary" family men left in Gaza? How could hundreds of average adults look at Hamas fighters launching rockets into Israel and not think of the hell that is going to bring their children? How could those rockets take precedent over their kids going to school, playing soccer in a park, becoming doctors, teachers, opening businesses and contributing to society?
I try to imagine myself and my own three kids in a situation that has gone on for decades, and I believe that at some point, I would make the best of the land that I was allowed to hold through international treaty. Allowing rockets from my neighborhood to be fired at an enemy that will respond by wiping out my neighborhood...seems difficult to fathom after decades of such attempts.

I don't need rhetoric about the brutality of Israel; I do believe Israel has made poor decisions over the decades. I am trying to understand the mindset of the average working family with parents that vote and kids that who face death. I don't believe Israels would have wiped out Gaza neighborhoods without those do-nothing rocket attacks. So, what goes through the average non-fighting citizens mind when they see rockets launched and when they support their Hamas government?

Looking for perspective in the U.S.A.

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