x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Israel etches images of horror in Gazans' minds

Gaza diary: "The new day started with the sounds of explosions and air strikes."

GAZA CITY // The new day started with the sounds of explosions and air strikes. We sat at home and do not venture outside, knowing the Israeli attacks continue. We spend our time beside the radio listening to the news. The electricity has been out so the food we have in the refrigerator has been spoiling. Monday night was the worst. As in the previous days since the military strikes began, we were at home sitting beside the gas heater in the living room, listening to the radio when the show started.

Suddenly, an F-16 flew overhead, looking for its target. Our house is less than 200 metres from the Al Saraia government building, and it was the target. The plane hit the building with 15 rockets. I have never seen such a thing before. The attacks were horrible. Our house shook. Walls and doors seemed on the verge of collapsing. My two sisters hid behind the wall in the middle of the room; my parents sat beside me not moving. I covered my head with a blanket.

The strikes broke some windows, and the flashes of explosions lit up the sky and the house. Silence soon enveloped everything. Nothing was moving. After a while, my father and I went to open the front door. We could see nothing. Clouds of dust smothered everything. Documents from the demolished Al Saraia building were floating in the air. All plants and trees, cars and windows and water tanks were covered with the windblown dust and the residue of the destroyed building.

It was indeed the worst night ever - the sound of explosions, the number of rockets used, the way they hit. It felt as if a massacre had taken place. Everyone I talked to in the neighbourhood said it was shocking. Nothing in their houses was left unscathed. A friend who lives opposite the Al Saraya building said two of the children in the house had been injured, with one child suffering a broken hand.

Another friend living in front of the beach said that the Israeli helicopters had dropped leaflets warning the people living there to evacuate their houses and leave the area. But no one could have envisioned this. Previously Israel had attacked Al Saraia with two rockets. That was frightening enough. Monday night's strike will not be forgotten. The same might be true of tonight and the next night. That is the fear we are living with.

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 Centres. He lives in Gaza City with his family.