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A Plea from Gaza: Israel Bombing Campaign Is Turning My Homeland into a “Wasteland”

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The Israeli bombing campaign of Gaza has killed at least 222 Palestinians, including 63 children, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects growing international calls for a ceasefire. The Norwegian Refugee Council has revealed 11 of the children killed in Gaza were taking part in a program to help them deal with trauma from growing up in the besieged enclave. At least six residents of Gaza died in Israeli strikes overnight, including the radio journalist Yousef Abu Hussein. In the West Bank, Israeli forces on Tuesday killed at least four Palestinians taking part in a historic general strike to protest Israeli atrocities, which united Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and inside Israel. Israel’s bombing campaign has destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure, from sewage systems to clean drinking water supplies. “Israel is turning Gaza into a wasteland,” says Aya Alghazzawi, a Palestinian activist based in Gaza who writes for We Are Not Numbers.

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StoryMay 21, 2021“We Want Real Dignity and Freedom”: Gazans Welcome Ceasefire But Demand End of Siege & Occupation
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has entered its 10th day as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects growing international calls for a ceasefire. The Israeli bombing campaign has killed at least 222 Palestinians in Gaza, including 63 children. Over 1,500 Palestinians have been injured. Seventy-two thousand people have been displaced.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has revealed 11 of the children killed in Gaza were taking part in a program to help them deal with trauma from growing up in the besieged enclave of Gaza.

At least six residents of Gaza died in Israeli strikes overnight, including the radio journalist Yousef Abu Hussein. Another airstrike destroyed a residential home in Khan Younis where 40 members of the al-Astal family lived. Ahmad al-Astal described the attack.

AHMAD AL-ASTAL: [translated] After we returned from dawn prayer and while it was still dark, we were surprised by a drone rocket, which was followed by an F-16 missile 10 minutes later, taking down the house, while all the surrounding houses sustained damage. … This behind us reflects the humanity in them, demolishing the houses while its inhabitants are inside, people leaving their houses during the night, terrifying children and the elderly. By God, we left with our mother. We couldn’t carry her, but the fear made us carry her. But in spite of all this, we will remain on our lands, and the occupation and those who came with it and those who support it will eventually demise, and the people of Palestine will remain in Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: In the West Bank, Israeli forces Tuesday killed at least four Palestinians taking part in a historic general strike to protest Israeli atrocities. Dozens were arrested. The strike united Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and inside Israel.

Meanwhile, in Israel, the death toll has reached 12 after two migrant workers from Thailand died Tuesday in a rocket fired from Gaza.

Israel’s bombing campaign has destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure, from sewage systems to clean drinking water supplies. At least 50 schools have been damaged. Gaza’s largest bookstore and publishing house, Samir Mansour, was completely destroyed in a bombing. Another Israeli strike destroyed a popular ice cream factory in northern Gaza. Israel also destroyed the offices of a company which used 3D printers to make tourniquets and medical devices. Meanwhile, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has accused Israel of blocking humanitarian aid from entering parts of Gaza.

On the diplomatic front, every member of the European Union — with the exception of Hungary — has called for an immediate ceasefire. But the Biden administration has yet to demand a ceasefire. On Tuesday, President Biden visited an electric vehicle plant in Michigan. He refused to answer a question about Israel from a reporter.

REPORTER: Mr. President, can I ask you a quick question on Israel before you drive away, since it’s so important?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No, you can’t, not unless you get in front of the car as I step on it.

AMY GOODMAN: During the same trip, Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American congresswoman, confronted Biden on the airport tarmac in Detroit. Tlaib has been a vocal critic of U.S. military support for Israel.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Democrat Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has backed down on his plan to push for a delay of a new $735 million in U.S. weapons sales to Israel.

Israel has refused to stop its assault on Gaza, while vowing to track down and kill top Palestinian militants. Earlier today, the Israeli military confirmed it’s unsuccessfully attempted in recent days to assassinate Mohammed Deif, the leader of the armed wing of Hamas. Deif has been in hiding for two decades. Israel killed his wife and infant son in 2014.

This comes as protests continue across the globe to condemn Israel’s bombing of Gaza. In New York, demonstrators rallied outside the offices of Friends of the Israel Defense [Forces] and AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Seven protesters were reportedly arrested outside the United Nations.

We begin today’s show in Gaza, where we’re joined by Aya Alghazzawi, a Palestinian activist based in Gaza who writes for We Are Not Numbers.

Aya, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you describe what’s happening on the ground now?

AYA ALGHAZZAWI: Thank you very much, Amy, for hosting me.

Well, Gaza is witnessing another nightmare, is witnessing another massacre, a genocide, committed by settler-colonial Israel. So, Israel is targeting everybody. Until now, Israel has killed about 219 Palestinians, including 63 children and 36 women and 16 elderly men. Israel sees Palestinians in Gaza as subhuman beings. I mean, just yesterday, Benny Gantz told the prime minister of Israel that nobody, no person, no neighborhood or area is immune and that they are going on with this belligerent war aggressions against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Everything in Gaza is damaged, and literally, Israel is turning Gaza into a wasteland. It targets residential buildings. It targets main roads to make it difficult for ambulances to reach Palestinians injured or places bombed, and even makes it very difficult for the injured people themselves who try to get to hospitals as soon as possible. Everything in the Gaza Strip is in a real catastrophe.

We are very much afraid, and we are living in a constant anxiety and fear, fear for ourselves and our lives, but also fear for our beloved ones. Our children are weeping, and they’re asking, “Why is this happening?” And why are they hearing heavy bombardments and massive explosions all over the Gaza Strip? “Why aren’t we able to sleep?” We haven’t been able to sleep for 10 days now. So, we actually face many difficult questions, that we don’t know how to explain these to our children.

And while people around the world enjoy their human rights for granted, we here in the Gaza Strip have to fight. But this, what is happening in Gaza, is not happening in Gaza in particular, but also this is a part of an uprising that is taking place all over Palestine, whether in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, or even inside the occupied 1948 territories. What we’re witnessing right now in Palestine is a historic moment of national unity, that the Palestinian people are identifying themselves as a one people, one hand, one unit, against one enemy, which is settler-colonial Israel.

And this is not the first time that happens, something like that happens in the Gaza Strip. It actually brings back bitter memories of belligerent aggressions that the Israelis waged against the Gaza Strip in 2008, 2012 and 2014. All of those aggressions claimed thousands of Palestinians and caused injuries to tens of thousands more. Many of them have lifelong disabilities. I myself lost my cousin in the 2008 Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip.

So, we’re just trying to figure this out and how to overcome this trauma that we have been living. And, you know, this is not this time only that we face such brutal conditions of life. Even if we go nonviolently, as happened in the Great Return March in 2018, also we were targeted, and many of us were killed. More than 281 Palestinians were killed. Thousands were maimed by Israeli soldiers and snipers. So, whatever Palestinians are doing, they are being targeted everywhere, whether they’re armed or civilians or any other people. And —


AYA ALGHAZZAWI: — I just can’t go — the fact that — yes?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Aya, I wanted to ask you, in terms of — you write for We Are Not Numbers. And talk about what it feels like to see the headlines referring to Palestinians as statistics. And your analysis of how the outside media is covering or are covering the events that are occurring right now and the Israeli attacks?

AYA ALGHAZZAWI: Yeah, of course. Actually, we are very much disappointed by news outlets, whether by reporting us and the Palestinians killed as mere numbers and statistics or even as portraying the struggle of Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, as two equal sides and that they’re focusing on Hamas and armed factions that approves firing rockets.

But again, returning to your point, we are not numbers. And as a writer for We Are Not Numbers, we have a great mission to do, which we share the stories behind numbers, because Israel does not kill only numbers. They kill our dreams. They kill our struggles, our memories and everything.

One of those stories, for example, is Dr. Shaima’a al-Ouf, who was 21 years old only and in her third year of dental studies. And she was a bride-to-be; she was supposed to be getting married this month. And instead of her, you know, getting pretty and trying her wedding dress, worrying about the invitation list or preparing for her final exams, she was bombed in a al-Wehda Street massacre, in which Israel bombed the entire block without any firing warning. And 42 Palestinians were killed, including 12 women and eight children. Many children, luckily, they were found alive and could be rescued.

Another story, for example, is Suzy Eshkuntana, who’s only 6 years old. She lost her mother and her two brothers and her sister Dana, and now she only has her father.

Another massacre happened with Abu Hatab’s family in al-Shati camp, one of the very — the most densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip. And we have only a 6-month-old baby who could survive the massacre, out of 37 members of his family.

What is happening actually is crazy, and Israel is going so insane in her airstrikes, bombardments or artillery attacks. Everybody in Gaza Strip is a target.

And you know what? The problem is that, you know, we didn’t initiate any of this. Like, we have 28 Palestinian families in the occupied eastern Jerusalem in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood who face the danger of being ethnically cleansed. We’re talking about 500 Palestinians there. And they called upon every Palestinians across the historic Palestine to take part in their acts of resistance. Here in Gaza, we heeded the call, and we took part in this act of resistance.

And then comes Israel and decides to — collectively punishes Palestinians in Gaza. And when we talk about Gaza, we’re talking about 360 square kilometers only, with a population of 2 million Palestinians. So, wherever Israel strikes and hits places, there are people killed, and there are people injured.


AYA ALGHAZZAWI: There are people maimed. Residential homes are flattened to earth, affecting the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, affecting our water supplies, power plants, electricity power plants, even the internet connection. So, the situation in the Gaza Strip is very catastrophic, and we just don’t know when all of this will, you know, come to an end.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to —

AYA ALGHAZZAWI: This is not the —

AMY GOODMAN: Aya, I want to turn to Nadeen Abed al Lateef. She’s a 10-year-old girl in Gaza. The video of her speaking next to a bombed-out section of Gaza City has gone viral.

NADEEN ABED AL LATEEF: I’m always sick. I’m always — I don’t know. I can’t do anything. You see all of this. What do you expect me to do? Fix it? I’m only 10. I can’t even deal with this anymore. I just want to be a doctor or anything to help my people, but I can’t. I’m just a kid. I don’t even know what to do. I get scared, but not really that much. I’d do anything for my people, but I don’t know what to do. I’m just 10. I’m just 10. All of this, when I see it, I literally cry every day, saying to myself, “Why do we deserve this? What did we do to this?” My family said, “They just hate us. They just don’t like us because we are Muslims.” Why does Muslims act for you like that? We’re just kids. We’re just — you see all of the kids around me? They’re just kids. Why would you just send a missile to them and kill them? It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

AMY GOODMAN: That, again, is Nadeen Abed al Lateef. She is 10 years old. The video of her standing next to this bombed-out area of Gaza has gone viral. Aya, as we wrap up, we are not only talking about the bombing of Gaza. This is, of course, on top of the pandemic, that has so seriously devastated Palestine, even as Israel has been hailed as the gold standard for providing vaccines to Israelis. You wrote a piece, “A quarantine inside a quarantine: a coronavirus diary from Gaza.” How does this latest — the bombing of Gaza compound the suffering there?

AYA ALGHAZZAWI: Yeah, thank you. Actually, as people around the world have to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, we have to deal with different kinds of pandemics, mostly Israeli pandemic, which we have been suffering from over the past 73 years, and we’re still suffering from this multi-tiered system of oppression, namely settler colonialism, occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, mass killing and genocide. It’s very much hard for us to continue dealing with the coronavirus and running the medical tests necessary. Just, you know, one of the main laboratories, medical laboratories, have stopped running medical tests for the coronavirus because of the current situation and because of the airstrikes that hit very close to that laboratory. We don’t run any, you know, kittings or any tests anymore.

So, but we have also more difficult situation here to deal with. We don’t worry about the coronavirus nowadays as much as we do regarding the current Israeli aggression, because this is all what we’re thinking of. We are very much traumatized, that we can’t think of anything else. We’re worried about how we can just survive this place. And I didn’t know that I would be still alive and commit to the interview with you. This is the current situation right now. And we’re talking about more than 40,000 Palestinians who took refuge in UNRWA schools. Many children were killed. So, it’s very much difficult to deal with the coronavirus. It makes it very hard for us to deal with.

AMY GOODMAN: Aya Alghazzawi, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian activist based in Gaza who writes for We Are Not Numbers. She responds to media requests by saying, “Hopefully we will still be alive.”

Up next, we go Ramallah in the West Bank to speak with longtime Israeli reporter Amira Hass. Her latest piece, “Gaza Lives Erased: Israel Is Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families on Purpose.” Stay with us.

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Amira Hass: Israeli Bombs Are Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families. It’s No Accident.

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