Saturday, June 16, 2007

'We couldn't leave our home. You don't know who is your enemy'

Saturday June 16, 2007
The Guardian

Mowaffaq Alami, 35, lives in an apartment in Gaza City with his wife Suha, his son Ismail, two, and his 16-month-old daughter Maya. He has a degree in sociology and psychology from Bethlehem University and runs the Gaza office of One Voice, an initiative that works to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


We spent the night at my mother-in-law's eating dinner. We left around midnight and it was already clear on the street that something was going to happen. Militants were moving all around our area, which is called al-Nasser. My mother-in-law lives in an apartment about 100 metres away in a compound of 10 high-rise buildings. There are about 30 families living here, as well as a Fatah spokesman called Maher Miqdad. He's been wanted by Hamas since they won elections last year and there's always trouble there.


By morning no one was allowed to move on the streets. It was very dangerous. We could hear Kalashnikovs, rockets, bombs, all kinds of weapons. When we spoke to my mother-in-law, we could hear the fighting. Maher Miqdad's people were in his apartment, and Hamas men were on the roof of two buildings nearby shooting at him. Their weapons are made locally and they're not very accurate. Often they miss and other people get hurt or their houses get damaged. We call them stupid weapons.

We couldn't leave our home. Everything was closed, you don't know who is your enemy in the street.

Fortunately it was near the beginning of the month so everyone had just received their salary and had stocked up on food. Our electricity was down from the first night. I was only in contact with people on my cellphone and the batteries soon ran out. But at least it wasn't too hot, maybe God is still standing with our people because the weather, at least, was acceptable.

I have a transistor radio and we followed the radio stations: there are two that are close to Fatah and one close to Hamas. In some ways the propaganda war is more dangerous; it's something that attacks you psychologically. At home the family told me not to listen to the Hamas station. But I want to listen to both sides.


I received many calls from my mother-in-law's compound. The Hamas militants didn't allow ambulances to enter to take the injured away. We couldn't do anything, except to stay in contact with them. The next day the Hamas militants started to search all the homes in that compound, looking for weapons. It was a chance for some of the families to leave, so my mother-in-law, her two daughters and two other families who have elderly parents came to our place.

It was my first chance to go outside. I had enough for me, my wife and the kids, but now we were 13 people and I needed more food and pillows and blankets. Most shops were closed but I knew one man who lives next door to a factory selling pillows and I asked him to open just for me. Then I found a supermarket that was open and I bought the food. I borrowed a friend's car. I was stopped six or seven times at checkpoints. They looked in the car, opened the doors and I said: "Peace be with you. Do whatever you want" and they let me go.


My friends gave us a picture from the street. It was Hamas in control. They were promised by their leaders: this is the day to change your life, become an official, have an office. They had something religious to fight for that they believed in. While on the other side, what were they defending? Who were they fighting for?

I was jailed once in 1990 during the first intifada because of my activity in the Fatah movement, but then I changed by way of resisting to non-violence. I believe that's all we have. Weapons don't help end the conflict, they destroy our hope of having a state. These militias are mainly against the ordinary people, not against the occupation.


We could hear the fighting at the intelligence headquarters near the beach. They were on the roof shooting and no one could stop them. We heard that Maher Miqdad, the Fatah spokesman, left his home on Wednesday night undercover. But we don't know what happened to him. Later, I passed by his home. The building was completely burned and all the windows and doors nearby were smashed.

Later that night, after the main compound of the Palestinian security forces fell to Hamas, I went out. I needed some bread and more water. I went to the security forces compound to have a look and there were militants there and young people looking around. It was quieter on the streets.


Things were quiet again, as if everything was over. Regular life returned, with just one question: what next? People are afraid, they want a clear message.

If Hamas wants an Islamic state, OK. But give me an answer about every-thing: political life, social life, civil society? They talk about victory; we talk about war crimes. And it's not just Hamas, but Fatah too. What's happened here is not so different to what is happening in Lebanon and Iraq. It is a tragedy, but because we love Gaza, we stay. I will never think about leaving.


At 2:01 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Pretty sad how the Palestinians think G-d's on their side. And yet, they're the ones always in the news murdering, maiming, hurting people, whether it's a Jew or one of their own.


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