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​​Israel’s War on Children: Fadi Abu Shammalah on Horrific Ordeal Facing Kids in Gaza, Including His Own

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In Part 2 of our interview with Fadi Abu Shammalah, the head of Gaza’s General Union of Cultural Centers, he describes how his three children were finally able to flee to Cairo this morning. He is now working to secure safe passage for more than a dozen family members still stuck behind the blockade. “The international community are silent. And a lot of them are supporting it,” Abu Shammalah says.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And we are rejoined by Fadi Abu Shammalah from Cairo. Fadi, we understand that your kids, your three kids, and wife just got through Rafah into Egypt just before this broadcast, as you were attempting to get them out. Can you talk about their situation and how you’re trying to get into the United States at this point? You are Just Vision’s outreach associate in Gaza and the executive director of Gaza’s General Union of Cultural Centers.

FADI ABU SHAMMALAH: Yeah, I will start answering this question by saying that the trip and the journey that my kids had to go through, it start from October 9, when we decided to evacuate our home from Gaza City into my parents’ home in Khan Younis. And working in journalism and speaking up about — for the Palestinian people and all the massacres and genocide that is going on on the ground by the Israeli commission, we reached a point that I have to evacuate. I had to, sorry, leave Gaza Strip, because there was like really a risk over my family, because Israel, until that day — I’m talking about November 14 — until that date, around 61 journalists have been killed. My family felt that they are in dangers and they might be bombed anytime. That’s made me have to sleep in my car for one time, the night before I leave Gaza Strip. And I thought that by traveling to Cairo, I will be able to help my family to evacuate. I mean, my name only was on the list of November 2. I mean the U.S. list of November 2. So, but it wasn’t — it didn’t happen. That’s what I want to say.

Then, on December 5, the Israeli commission did throw leaflets asking the people of Khan Younis to evacuate to Shaboura refugee camps, which is in Rafah city. And the next day — before the next day they have to evacuate, like after seven hours, I figured out that they arrived safe to Rafah city. It wasn’t easy for me, like, to be waiting, because I knew in the news that they were bombing in the streets, I mean, the same streets that they are using to evacuate to Rafah city.

The next day, on December 6, while I don’t have connection with my wife and my kids, I get — I knew that from the news that the Israeli commission bombed in the Shaboura refugee camp, exactly where is my family are evacuating. And to get more, like, orientation about this refugee — it’s just only 15 kilometers square. It’s a very small neighborhood. And it consists of also old building. And there is a very high risk that all these buildings will be demolished because of this bombing. For two hours and a half, I was waiting any sign that my family are alive. I had to go through the news of WhatsApp thread to look for my kids’ photo. I had to look into the photos of the killed children, because I knew that there’s 20 women and kids were killed in this bombing. I had to open the photos and zoom in to determine if one of these photos is one of my kids. It wasn’t easy for me at all, like, to have these 2.5, two hours and a half, waiting any sign that my family alive. It was in the end. But even so, the next night and the next night and the next night, they have daily bombing in Shaboura and in Rafah city. This is the place that exactly Israeli commission said it is a safe area, as exactly they said that the Palestinian people from Gaza City have to evacuate to Khan Younis, they considered Khan Younis as a safe area, and then they asked us to evacuate to Rafah.

My kids have to go through all of this. They have to be in — by the way, yes, you are right, my kids are coming to me to Cairo, but the three of them, they are sick. I will move them immediately once I hold them. I will move them to the hospital because they are very sick. There is no clean water. They don’t have healthy food there. It’s horrible. I’m happy that my kids are coming to my hug, that I’m going to hold them, but I’m so devastated about the hundreds of the thousands of the kids in Gaza Strip. They have to go through all these circumstances.

And the international community are silent. And a lot of them are supporting it. Like, as Paul Pillar said, that Biden is a partner in making the biggest human disaster that the world is witnessing since 500 years ago. This is the situation that the kids and the women have to go through it, that they don’t have food to eat, clean water to drink. My kids have infection in their mouth, in their stomach. They are very thin. My wife has to send me photos for them after I asked her many times, “Send me photos of my kids.” I was shocked. They are not my kids at all. I just left them for one month, and they are completely changed.

I will do my best to get them recovered and get better health and get better food. But what about the other people in Gaza Strip, the other kids, the women who are not — who don’t find milk for their kids? My wife couldn’t find antibiotic for my kids. Only antibiotic. Antibiotic. I mean, this is the most simple medicine that you should have in any place in the world. Even in the jungle you will find antibiotic and painkiller. I will do my best with my kids, for sure. But I’m very devastated, very sad about 2.3 millions of Palestinians who are pushed into the south of Gaza Strip.

I would say that, yeah, my kids, we made it. They are coming to Cairo like in five, six, seven hours. Whatever, I don’t care. They are coming to my hug again. And I’m going to — all of us are going to travel to U.S. for five months, starting from January until the end of May. I was so lucky to get a fellowship from an American organization. But the majority of the people do not have this chance and do not have this privilege to do the same.

This is injustice at all. It’s insane at all. What is happening there cannot be explained, cannot be discussed, I mean, in a normal conversation. We need millions of cameras. I always keep saying that every Palestinian family has its own story, and every member of every Palestinian family has his only — his or her own story, because everyone has a story that is full of tears, full of fear, full of being scared, full of hunger.

We are being fighted by making us starving, as the Human Rights Watch have said, I think, yesterday or early today. Yes, Israel is fighting us by food. They are preventing us to get food. The number of the trucks that’s of humanitarian aid that should be allowed to enter Gaza, it’s nothing. We need much, doubles. We need thousands of trucks to enter Gaza, 24 hours, until three months, until we get a balance, at least for the food only. We will need at least 10 years to reconstruct and rebuild the destroyed Gaza Strip.

That is the real face of the Israeli occupation by — and Palestinian people will never forgive the world. The Nakba in 1948, it happened while there is no cameras, there is no TVs like now. But now the international community are silent. I do thanks, of course, and appreciate all the demonstration and the marches that went to the streets in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We think that it’s not still enough. We need from you more pressure against the international community, against your leaders, especially the U.S. administration. They have to stop supporting Israel by providing them the military that we are being killed by it. They have to stop financially support Israel, or at least asking Israel — or at least, I mean, preventing of issuing veto in the Security Council when the Palestinian people need only humanitarian ceasefire.

AMY GOODMAN: Fadi Abu Shammalah, I want to thank you so much for being with us. In fact, our next segment, we’re going to look at that Human Rights Watch report with its author, yes, the report called “Israel: Starvation Used as Weapon of War in Gaza.” Fadi, I want to thank you for being with us, Fadi Abu Shammalah, Just Vision’s outreach associate, usually in Gaza, now in Cairo, executive director of Gaza’s General Union of Cultural Centers, will be reuniting with his three children and wife in just a few hours, then soon coming to the United States. We want to thank civil rights attorney Sophia Akbar and Narmin Abushaban, Palestinian American attempting to expedite her request to rescue her siblings and their families from Gaza. Her mother died there while waiting to get out, as did her uncle.

Coming up, Human Rights Watch. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Riot in Lagos” by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The Japanese musician and activist passed away this year.

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Starvation as a Weapon of War: Human Rights Watch Denounces Israel for Denying Gaza Access to Food

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