Gaza returning to ‘normality’ in the face of destruction and anxiety

One week on from the beginning of the ceasefire, the streets in Gaza are busy again and there is an air of returning to normality. Yet, as Amnesty International’s fact-finding team in Gaza has witnessed, many people now are busy trying to repair the damage caused during the three-week long war that began on 27 December. In its latest post on Amnesty International’s Livewire blog, the team described how, as people try to put their lives back together, the threat of renewed conflict is all too real. The ceasefire has now officially run out, and there is anxiety about what will happen next. On Sunday, the team visited Jabalia refugee camp, north of Gaza, one of the most densely populated urban areas in one of the most densely populated places on the planet, with high apartment blocks squeezed into narrow streets. The team visited many homes that had been hit by weapons that should never be used in built-up areas. As the team took the testimony of an elderly woman who had sustained a broken leg and other injuries in an Israeli attack on her house, the children of the house returned unexpectedly. Schools had sent the children home early because flights over Gaza by Israeli F-16 war planes had sparked fears of a possible resumption of Israeli bombardments. Right it the middle of Jabalia, the team visited a nine-storey building that was home to more than 100 people. During the three-week conflict, it was hit by bullets and a white phosphorus 155mm artillery shell that had caused large blast holes in the walls and caused a fire in the room next to where a six-month-old baby was sleeping. A missile also killed five people, including a wheelchair-bound 72-year-old man, and injured nine others. In other attacks on a nearby house, a 28-year-old mother of five young children was killed in a missile strike as she was hanging out the washing on the roof of her home. Her seven-year-old daughter was a few steps away and witnessed the attack. In yet another house, two brothers aged three and four were killed and their two brothers aged seven and eight were seriously injured, when two tank shells exploded through the wall of the room where they were playing. “It is impossible to comprehend how anyone could doubt that such attacks on so tightly packed a residential area as Jabalia would be likely to cause many deaths and injuries.” Donatella Rovera wrote in the blog post.