Rafah, in the south, was hit first, before sundown and 7 were killed, including a child and the leader of the Popular Resistance Committee. Then we got reports of tanks on the border, and by the time iftar (the breaking of the fast at sundown during Ramadan) came around, we were all braced for more. F16s and drones were overhead all evening, but that was it. Nothing more. I spent most of the night staring at my screen between conversations with friends....tweeting and Facebooking trying to make sure someone....anyone....was paying attention when all hell broke loose. I was fighting off rumors about an UNRWA evacuation and then trying to confirm whether or not the US embassy in Tel Aviv had told Americans to leave Gaza....the former not being true and the latter being true.
Finally, just before midnight, my friends walked me home from the cafe we were hanging out at, and within 20 minutes, the bombing had begun. As soon as I opened my computer, I was reading reports of strikes all over Gaza, but especially in Gaza City. Then the electricity went out and suddenly BOOM! boom boom! I shreeked in terror as I felt a gush of air rush through the window I had cracked open hours before (thank God!!) and felt the ground shake under me. Still shaking, I grabbed my phone, called one of my friends and proceeded to just go "holy shit! that was so close! holy shit!" repeatedly as we both laughed. He was laughing with me out of amusement because this was normal to him and I was laughing out of panic because I didn't know what else to do and desperately didn't want to cry. I knew in that moment, why people here are so angry with Israel and with the US. If nothing else, this was terrifying! And try having it happen repeatedly just because some jerk you don't even know decided to fire off a rocket or carry out some pointless attack in the southern part of Israel....and not be able to run away from it. We're trapped here. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
I'd felt strikes before, but nothing so close that I felt the air pressure go nuts and thought the windows would explode. It finally hit me what it was like to be here. I watched the images unfold on TV of women and children, covered in dust, being brought into the ER of Shifa Hospital, where I had been just a couple days ago collecting information and conducting interviews for a piece on the health crisis. It was surreal in a way....but it also left me feeling frustratingly helpless. I'm here. I'm an American, on the ground, in Gaza, as it's being bombed like mad, and there was absolutely nothing I could do. I could tweet. I could report. I could absorb it all. But that was it. What could I have possibly done to save the life of the 13 year old who died 15 minutes from where I live? What could I have done to comfort the mother I saw screaming on TV carrying her injured child to an ambulance? All I have for now are my words. So please take them, share them, and understand that innocent lives are being lost. Every Palestinian killed today is a human being too. One life lost is too many. I don't care who you believe is right or wrong. This is life and death.....there's no room for politics anymore.
My most retweeted tweet tonight....