By Anas Baba
Gaza, Oct 9 (EFE).- Cornered by relentless and unpredictable Israeli shelling, civilians in the Gaza Strip find nowhere to be safe, as shells hit homes, mosques, ambulances, and even the hospital surroundings on the third day of the new war between Hamas and Israel.
Huge plumes of black smoke billowing over buildings in many parts of the area are the trail of destruction left by Israeli artillery as it lays siege to the Palestinian enclave by air, land, and sea.
After the roar of the impacts, entire families emerge with children and pets bathed in dust and blood. Many others, living and dead, are trapped under the ruins.
“Suddenly, the rockets passed over our heads. There were 20 people in my house. They hit at least three or four houses in the neighborhood. They smashed everything,” said Ahmad Tartouri, a 48-year-old Gazan and father of five, his face covered with soot and a bleeding leg.
“These are not normal attacks. They target civilians. Where there are civilian houses, they attack. Where there are children and women, they attack,” he added.
THE WAR NO ONE EXPECTED
The exchange of aerial shells has not stopped since the surprise outbreak of war on Saturday between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement: the Israeli army has bombed more than 1,000 targets, while the militiamen have launched more than 4,400 rockets that have reached as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
At least 560 Gazans have been killed and another 2,900 wounded in this escalation, while in Israel, more than 800 have been killed and 2,600 wounded.
Israel was surprised on Saturday morning with a massive offensive by Hamas – a movement considered terrorist by Israel, the US, and the EU – which, in addition to rockets, included the infiltration into Israeli territory of an unspecified number of militiamen, who massacred civilians and kidnapped more than 100 people, apparently to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners.
On Saturday, Israel declared a state of war. It launched a counter-attack with air, naval, and ground shells on the Gaza Strip and hunting militiamen in Israeli territory.
Sitting on a rusty chair outside the emergency room of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, a woman with a frightened and exhausted expression cradles her nine-month-old baby as her two young children cuddle with her.
Her husband was injured when a neighboring house was shelled. She sought shelter at her sister’s home, but as their neighborhood was attacked, they fled to the hospital for a haven.
“Fleeing attacks in a hospital may sound crazy, but here you escape physical destruction,” Fatenah, who does not want to reveal her last name, tells EFE.
“However, you get caught up in an emotional shock. The wailing of the wounded and the ceaseless passing of lifeless bodies are a constant reminder of the horrors taking place,” she explained.
“I have no more lies to tell my children to reassure them,” she laments.
Authorities in the Palestinian enclave have reported that the Israeli attacks are indiscriminate and without prior warning to the civilian inhabitants, contrary to what they usually do in other escalations.
According to OCHA (UN Humanitarian Office) data, more than 123,500 Gazans are internally displaced by the bombardments, and more than 74,000 are sheltered in 64 UN schools throughout the Strip.
Israel has maintained an air, land, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave, which, with a population of 2.3 million, has only one power plant that needs fuel to operate and supply hospitals, homes and shelters.
But Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered on Monday a total blockade of the Strip, leaving it without electricity, food, and fuel supplies, as a retaliatory measure against the “barbaric terrorists” of Hamas.
Hours later, the Gaza Strip’s Ministry of Health declared a medical catastrophe: hospitals are struggling to cope with the relentless influx of casualties amid looming shortages of supplies and energy. Israeli shelling disabled the only hospital in Beit Hanoun.
In addition, Israeli forces have bombed and destroyed nine ambulances since the beginning of the war, and this Monday attacked Rafah, the border crossing with Egypt through which humanitarian aid was arriving.
They are also shelling the homes of relatives of any Palestinian linked to Hamas.
The insecurity is widespread in the enclave: mosques, military installations, and government buildings are all under attack. EFE