"Whatever I write describing what is happening here does not let you see the fear inside the little children in our home."
Days of fear, fitful sleep and defiance
GAZA CITY // The day the bombing started, I had spent the morning with my mother at the market when we heard rumours that Gaza might be attacked. We rushed back home, getting there just before the bombs started falling. When the first explosion hit our neighbourhood, my mother and two sisters ran to sit in the middle of the living room of the house. My father was at work and I ran to the door to check out what was going on.
In front of our home there was a very large amount of dust and black cloud, and then the electricity was cut. It was the Arafat police compound that had been attacked with rockets from F-16s, which sent people running, afraid and crying. Then the jets and helicopters covered the sky and they started their attack in the midday rush-hour when students were leaving their schools. For the past week there has been the continuous sound of jets, helicopters and cannons hitting the different areas of the Gaza Strip.
We live between the Islamic University and Al Saraia Military building. About 100 metres in front of our home is the governorate of Gaza and behind our home is the ministry of culture. It was a moment of shock when at 2am F-16 rockets hit the university, which is less than 400m from our home. This is what we face every day and every night. When they attacked the Al Saraia Military building with two rockets, there was another really big explosion.
Whatever I write describing what is happening here does not let you see the fear inside the little children in our home. There are nine people living in the house now that some of our relatives came to live here because their home is beside a mosque threatened to be destroyed. When we hear the attacks we do nothing except sit in the middle of our living room trying to be safe. We keep far away from the windows. It is cold outside here in Gaza, but we keep the windows opened so they do not smash when the explosions hit.
In the past week we had no chance to leave our house. Nobody went to work and nobody went to school. In Gaza City, as in all areas in the Strip, you can barely see a person on the street. I work in the Union of the Cultural Centres and our office is located in a building in front of Al Abbas police station, which was destroyed by a bomb. The blast also destroyed our office. It has no windows, no doors, no curtains, nothing at all that can be used. Even the computers have been destroyed from the impact of the explosions.
Since the bombing started, we barely sleep for more than a few hours because of the planes and the sound of the continuous explosions outside. We are not only afraid for ourselves, but also our friends, our relatives and all of the people and children outside. We sit all day without electricity, and when we get power we use it to charge mobile phones or switch on the water pump to get water in our tanks. One time, we baked bread in our house because the bakeries have no flour and they don't work. Those that happen to have supplies have dozens of people standing in line waiting to get a bag of bread.
After four days, three of my neighbours went to the supermarket at the end of our street. After waiting outside for five minutes they were hit by an F-16 rocket and killed with nine other students who were waiting to catch a bus. My close friend, who lives in an apartment in Tal al Hawa close to the Intelligence Building and the Council of Ministers, is suffering from the cold weather because there are no windows. All the glass in their house has been broken and they have not had electricity and water all week.
Planes are hitting everything outside, including mosques, municipality buildings, universities, schools and hospitals. Even restaurants have been hit and destroyed. We, as all people in the Strip, sit at home, listening to the news on the radio. It has been a very bad week and it has been a massacre. One building was destroyed with more than 16 people inside it and eight of them were children and four were women.
I am sure that whatever happens to us here, as long as we are suffering, losing and being killed, we will remain the winner in the end and will be defending our home until the last person. Muhammad Abu Shaban, 22, studies English and French literature at Al Azhar University. He is a translator and project manager for the Union of the Cultural Centers. He lives in Gaza City with his extended family.