A cousin of mine in Gaza City recounted to me his experience under Israeli assault over the course of the last few days. He explained how the shelling had affected him and his family and how anxiety levels were high as Gazans prepared for an onslaught reminiscent of the one that happened almost four years ago.
This evening I found an opportunity to get in touch with Fahed, a cousin just one year younger than me but who has been tried and tested far more than I ever will be. I asked him to give me a status update. He would only ask how my family was doing in the States, as if this was a casual talk with nothing going on in the background.
But by now, Israel had been striking Gaza for seven days beginning on Thursday, November 7, after an Israeli air strike killed a 12-year-old boy playing soccer in the streets. The attack had broken a two-week lull in violence.
Armed militias in Gaza responded with crude rocket fire while the Israeli military expanded its operation and continued the air strikes, taking down building after building and killing upwards of 10 civilians, including children, reports say.
An Egypt-brokered ceasefire went into effect but it only lasted two days before Israel launched a targeted assassination of Ahmad Jabari, a commanding officer of Hamas’s military wing. The strike had effectively broken the ceasefire and the violence erupted just as quickly.
Over the course of the day, the Israeli military launched dozens of air strikes in conjunction with a shelling campaign that mobilized warships just off of Gaza’s coasts. Meanwhile, resistance militias resumed rocket fire.
Fahed recounted how furious Gazans were that Israel had broken the ceasefire and embarked on a bombing campaign that saturated Gaza’s skies with fighter jets, attack helicopters, and armed drones. In a matter of hours, over 30 had been injured and the death toll reached at least 8 confirmed victims, including a 3-year-old child and an 11-month-old child.
I asked Fahed for more. This is when he broke the news. His home in the Al-Sabra neighborhood in northern Gaza City had suffered extensive damage. A missile landed in his neighbor’s home, he said, and injured two boys. The impact damaged his home.
His brother also relayed a similar experience. Fahed’s brother runs a cell phone shop (he can be found in the fourth to last image of this photo set) not far from the home that was damaged. His store faced a similar fate. It too requires extensive repairs. This means Fahed’s brother won’t be able to work, which means he’ll be even more unable to pay for the repairs unless he does them himself.
But that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge since he already has substantial experience. Four years ago, Fahed’s brother had to make repairs on his own home and on the home of his fiancé at the time. Her house had been converted to a temporary recreational hangout spot and field hospital for invading Israeli troops, it appears.
Fahed described his surroundings. The streets were empty. It was around 5 AM. The sound of the explosions and the blazes of the jets kept him awake. People were tense. I reminded him to stay away from windows, as if he didn’t know. He told me not to worry and that he wasn’t even at home in the first place. He had visited his sister who lives in another part of Gaza City. She had been crying and shaking uncontrollably for hours, he said, out of fear that a shell might land on her home. I guess some people can never get used to air invasions.
I asked Fahed to keep describing. He shared the photographs placed throughout this piece. The one of the young boy was taken by our other cousin, a nurse-in-training at Al-Shifa Hospital. The two small ones came from Fahed’s cell phone. He joked that if he had a proper camera, he’d spend his time outside, braving the missiles as if he isn’t doing that already and documenting whatever he could.
About one hour after we first spoke, the sounds of jet engines muffled for a bit. He seized the opportunity to sleep. Goodnight, cousin-friend-hero.