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Report from Gaza: Palestinian Journalist Akram al-Satarri on “The Struggle to Survive, Stay Sane”

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We go to Rafah to speak with Palestinian journalist Akram al-Satarri in Gaza as the death toll continues to climb amid Israel’s relentless assault on the territory. The Health Ministry says at least 20 people were killed Thursday as they lined up to receive humanitarian aid, and at least 12 others were killed a day earlier at a U.N. shelter hit by tank shells. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have surrounded the two main hospitals in Khan Younis, stranding thousands of patients and displaced people inside, and evacuated a third hospital. Over 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza and more than 25,000 have been killed in Israel’s assault over the past three months, as the population continues to move further south in a desperate search for safety. “People are dying. People are scared,” says al-Satarri. “There is an eradication attempt that is taking place in Gaza.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Gaza, where the death toll continues to climb and Israel’s relentless assault continues. At least 20 Palestinians were killed today and 150 injured as they were lining up for humanitarian aid in Gaza City, this according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, with the number of casualties expected to rise.

The attack comes one day after a crowded U.N. shelter housing tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis was struck on Wednesday, setting the building on fire. At least 12 people were killed, over 75 wounded, when two tank shells hit the site, according to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA. The Israeli military, the only actor on the ground that has tanks, denied it carried out the strike.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army has surrounded and isolated the two main hospitals in Khan Younis, Nasser and al-Amal, stranding hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced people inside, that again according to UNRWA. A third hospital was evacuated overnight.

In recent days, thousands more Palestinians have rushed to escape further south, crowding into shelters and tent camps near the border with Egypt. Over 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, and more than 25,000 have been killed in Israel’s assault over the past three months.

We go now to Rafah, where we’re joined by Akram al-Satarri, a journalist who’s been covering developments on the ground. He’s joining us from just outside the Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza.

Akram, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you describe what’s happening in Rafah and the reports of what’s happening in Khan Younis?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, the situation in Khan Younis is aggravating in such a very serious way. The bombardment and the targeting around the hospitals that you have just mentioned — al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, in the Khan Younis al-Amal neighborhood; Al-Khair Hospital, that was stormed by the Israeli occupation forces, and people there who are staff were interrogated, and people who are internally displaced people were arrested. Nasser Hospital has been the subject to some massive attacks, and some of those attacks targeted also UNRWA-designated shelters that are located in the immediate vicinity of the Nasser Hospital. The clinic, the UNRWA clinic that is in the heart of Khan Younis refugee camp, was — the area of its vicinity was also targeted.

People were asked to leave their homes. And some of the people who were leaving their homes were reporting about a journey of horror, devastation and imminent death that they have been seeing. They have been reporting about them seeing the people who are dead on the ground, without anyone daring to reach them or to collect their bodies or to try to extend a helping hand for the people who are screaming for help because of their lethal and bloody injuries.

The KYTC, that is run by the UNRWA, and that is also recognized by Israel as a designated shelter and protected shelter, was targeted once again. And now people who are staying in there, who are in thousands, are asked by the Israeli occupation to move from that area towards Rafah area in the very south, which means that there is more targeting underway, which means that they would be afraid and the ones who were killed and injured who were taken to Rafah rather than to Khan Younis because of the fact that the Israeli occupation closed the way between Khan Younis coastal area and Khan Younis refugee camp and Khan Younis downtown. So the situation is aggravating in that way. Hundreds of people are injured. Tens of people are killed.

Also, not far away from Khan Younis, in Gaza City, the people who were waiting in al-Kuwait roundabout were targeted. They were waiting for the humanitarian assistance because the situation in Gaza City and the north is extremely dire. People are already suffering from famine, very lacking situation when it comes to the food supplies and drinkable water. They’re waiting there. Twenty — as you said, 20 were killed, 150 others were injured. The new about this report is that among those 150, there is a very large number of people who are sustaining very critical, life-threatening injuries and who might be reported as killed, which means the number of victims of this bloody attack is expected to rise significantly in the coming hours.

So, the situation continues to feature large-scale bombardment in Khan Younis, displacement of people, destroying of whole blocks and houses, people moving, and they end up targeted when they are moving. Designated shelters that are supposed to be protected, now the people in them are asked to be IDPs once again, given that the IDPs in that area are coming mainly from the north, people who moved from the north to Gaza City, then moved from Gaza City to Gaza central area, then moved from Gaza central area to Khan Younis area. And then, from Khan Younis, they moved to the KYTC, and they are now asked for the fifth or sixth time to leave the area that they were seeking safety in, and to move in a very unsafe path towards the unknown in southern Gaza, in Rafah, which the targeting is still continuous. Number of people who are killed in Rafah is still increasing. And the Gazans, at large, are not aware what the future holds of them, with the number of IDPs reaching 1.9 million Gazans in all different areas, including the coastal area in Khan Younis and the already heavy-populated area in Rafah.

AMY GOODMAN:IDP” is, of course, internally displaced people. Akram, if you can describe the telecommunications blackout and the effect it has on people trying to communicate with each other, find each other, get to hospitals, reporting of injuries? And also, I don’t take for granted that we’re able even to speak to you today in Rafah, in Gaza. And if you can talk about how you both report and take care of your own family?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, if I may speak from a very personal perspective, I personally was under that imminent threat of death in Khan Younis. I lost communication with my family, with my sister, with my nephews and nieces who lost their father. I lost contact with my son. I was wondering how can I possibly survive under the imminent threat of fire.

And when I say an imminent threat of fire and death, I mean that seven people were targeted at the door of our home, the home that was hosting us. And the seven people, no one ambulance could reach them. We were trying to call 111, which is the ambulance services — sorry, 101, which is the ambulance services. We could not get through to them.

The communication blackout looks — it looks like it was intentional for the sake of cutting all communication and cutting the coverage and trying to keep Gaza isolated from the world and keep Gaza voiceless at the time that the Israeli occupation was developing the ground operation and was targeting the different areas in Khan Younis and throughout the Gaza Strip. I lost communication, and I was — and am still — facing significant challenges reporting, moving. And you never know. When you are just driving a car or just driving a taxi, or just even riding an animal-pulled cart, you don’t know whether they are going to target someone who’s walking down the street, someone who’s next to you on that animal-pulled cart, or maybe they would target you. So, it’s very difficult to understand in Gaza what’s coming next. It’s very difficult to predict who they are going to target. It’s very difficult to predict why they are targeting people.

But the bottom line, and the conclusion that we see with our own eyes, that the targeting is thorough, the destruction is larger than ever, and the suffering of the people because of that ongoing policy is unconceivable, unconceivable in the sense that I personally had to move and see the people who are dead and to try to move, and while five or six other houses around me were targeted, while I could see the artillery fire taking out whole house when I was moving in the Khan Younis area and was staying in the area that I was waiting for the situation to be a little bit safer to move, but it turned out the situation was getting from bad to worse, and the targeting was getting heavier. I was staying in the area that is called 111 area, which is a block that was designated by Israel as a safe area. And across from our area was 112 block. But the bombardment was in 111, 112, 107, 48, 86. All the blocks were targeted all at once. And that ground operation seemed to be indiscriminately sending death and destruction all over the area.

So, with that comes, as you have just said, the struggle to survive, to struggle to stay sane under this ever-escalating situation and to look for one minute of peace. I was personally thinking just yesterday that we are wanting some one second of rest and peace, even if that means we would die, even if that means they would take us, even if that means they take our life for the sake of just keeping us peaceful.

So, this is how it unfolded in Gaza, and this is how it continues to unfold. People are dying. People are scared. People are displaced. And they think they are even uprooted intentionally and there is an eradication attempt that is taking place in Gaza. The Israeli occupation has been targeting every single corner in Khan Younis. Khan Younis refugee camp, that is extremely populated and overcrowded, was targeted. When you target one house in one specific area, that means you are likely to affect around 20 to 30 houses, because the areas are very narrow, and the space, that is limited for every house. And targeting one place, explosion in one place means that this explosion, the implication of that explosion, would reach — or, the secondary wave of the explosion would reach around 20 to 30 houses.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you know the reporters that were killed most recently? I mean, the numbers are just astonishing. The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders are all decrying the number, ranging between 80 and 120. But the latest killing of journalists, for example, Wael al-Dahdouh’s son, Hamza al-Dahdouh — did you know Mustafa Thuraya? Did you — I know that Wael has just gotten out of Gaza. He’s head of the —

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: I think we lost the connection.

AMY GOODMAN: — Al Jazeera — and he has now been operated on in Qatar. He’s now at Al Jazeera headquarters. His cameraman, Samer Abudaqa, who died in the attack. These reporters, were they friends of yours?

I think we have just lost Akram. Absolutely amazing that we were able to maintain that length of time in speaking to him in Gaza. He was speaking to us from Rafah. Akram al-Satarri is a Gaza-based journalist, joining us from southern Gaza.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Palestinian tax revenue, Israel is refusing to release it but has made an agreement with Norway to hold it in escrow. What’s happening to Palestinians’ money? We’ll speak with a leading economist in Ramallah. Stay with us.

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