“We’re going to bomb your home in five minutes”

Article published: Monday, November 19th 2012

Many in Manchester will know Adie Mormech as the friendly guy that worked on the Oxford Road bookstall, always quick with a smile regardless of the Manchester rain.  He’s a long way from our streets now, preoccupied with Gaza’s far more dangerous skies. 

A street devastated by an Israeli military airstrike which occurred on 14 November in the neighborhood of Tal el Hawa, city of Gaza, seen on November 16, 2012. Photograph: Anne Paq/Activestills

Adie has been in Gaza since June, as a human rights activist and university lecturer.  Last night, as the fifth day of Israel’s most recent assault on the territory drew to a close, Adie sounded tired and distracted.  “Its at night when they bomb the most”, he said.

I’d been piecing together events in the region from the usual variety of irreconcilable sources, but nothing brought home the chilling, calculated brutality like the snippets of stories Adie recounted.

“They’ve started to target families – big family homes”, he told me.  “I’ve just been to Nasser Street in Gaza city, where they bombed the Al Dalu house directly, with no warning.  An estimated 15 people were inside; eight had been pulled out by the time we arrived.  While we were there another body was pulled out.

“It was a big scene with crowds of people, but then people started running, and a young guy was shouting from behind the ambulances.  People in a house close by had received a text message, saying ‘We’re going to bomb your home in five minutes’.  We got out of there.  The crowd was in danger.”

Israel is, once again, at the vanguard of a new type of warfare, where the arms of the attacker touch mobile phone inboxes before they unleash bloody carnage.  Or not.  Adie wasn’t sure if the house had been hit.  But the psychological intimidation is vicious regardless.  “There are drones above us all the time, and the F16s are flying much lower now,” Adie said.

Last night a relative of a friend of Adie’s was at home when a sonic boom struck.  These thunderous noises occur when planes pass the sound barrier and, although no bombs or ammunition are involved, can cause shattered windows and other damage.  The residents of the building took the boom as a warning and evacuated.  The building was hit and demolished, followed by a nearby mosque.

An explosion from an Israeli air force strike in Gaza City, Saturday, 17 November. Photograph: AP/Hatem Moussa

Adie explained that attacks against civilians have increased today, with the targets apparently being civil servants working for the Hamas administration and their families.  Hamas is not only a designated terrorist organisation, but the elected government of the Gaza Strip, providing ordinary government services.  Evidently, Israel makes no distinction between the fighters in their ranks and non-militants – or their children.

“With this kind of bombing, you feel like you’re in the hands of the Gods”, said Adie, “The extent of the ammunition is so unimaginable that you just don’t know if you’re going to survive or not.  You’re living like a fly, to be swatted.  So you think, OK, there’s no reason to get too stressed about this…”  This attitude is just so typical of Adie that I almost smile.

“But then of course, there’s the moment of panic when the planes are flying low above you.  They’re fucking huge, they shake your whole senses, you’re like a cat in lights, your brain goes numb…”

The horrific shadow of ‘Operation Cast Lead’ hangs over Gaza tonight as it has every night since the attacks four years ago, which left 1,400 Gazans dead, including 350 children.  Adie tells me that every time Israel launches a new offensive people wonder if the killing will be repeated on the same scale.  In March this year around 20 people were killed, in June the same again; both times the population of Gaza braced itself for a similar onslaught.  Tonight the prospects are bleak.

In a speech yesterday President Obama talked of the unacceptability of threats to Israeli civilians with no apparent trace of irony.  He described the recent violence as being “precipitated” by Palestinian rocket fire.  Perhaps he was unaware of the deaths in March and June, or of the Israeli attack on a football playground on 10 November, which instantly killed two children, and a further two civilians when they rushed to the scene.  Perhaps, in this vile numbers game, Palestinian lives simply have little currency.  So the war of words wages on.

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photograph: Watson/AFP/Getty Images

I ask Adie if there is any evidence of white phosphorous being used.  This deadly chemical, which continues to burn through flesh and muscle long after initial contact, was repeatedly fired on the Palestinian people during Cast Lead, in violation of international law.  Adie tells me that they don’t know yet, and won’t know for a few days.  But what is known in the hearts and minds of Palestinian medics is that Israel has a tendency to use new weapons with each new offensive against the Palestinian people.  As Director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society Khalil Abu Foul told Adie, “there’s always been strange new injuries”.

Acutely aware of their apparent status as a weapons testing ground, Gazans do not know what is raining on them, or whether they are likely to be able to treat the injured.  But high-tech weaponry or not, hospitals are running out of basic supplies as a result of the five-year blockade of Gaza’s borders.  Adie says that in the last week, a three-month supply of bandages has been used.

Another repeated feature of Israeli attacks on Gaza is the targeting of medics.  Adie tells me that so far four Red Crescent workers have been injured whilst rescuing people and another two because the building adjacent to the Red Crescent, the Islamic arm of the Red Cross, was hit.  The windows of the intensive care unit in Al Quds hospital have also been smashed due to nearby shelling.  “It’s prohibited,” Adie insists. “Bombing near health centres is against international humanitarian law.”

Adie has spent a lot of time in intensive care, today visiting one of six journalists that were injured following attacks on media buildings.  In the unit where 20-year old cameraman Khader al-Zahhar was recovering from having his leg blown off was a 15 year old girl, Islam Dessy, who had suffered massive brain injuries.  “I don’t think she’s going to make it”, Adie said.

A Gaza solidarity rally in Manchester

These are the people behind the numbers, hidden by farcical political posturing.  The Palestinian Ministry of Health is reported to have estimated 70 Palestinian lives lost so far and more than 680 injured.  Three Israeli deaths have been reported.  Obama pledges US support for Israel’s right to defend itself, claiming to have spoken to all parties in the region – Israel, Egypt, Turkey – to try to resolve the crisis. His failure to mention contact with Palestinian representatives is unexplained but perhaps speaks ominous volumes.

Adie says that, given all the Hamas officials that have just been killed, it’s difficult to imagine that Palestinians will stop the rockets now.  But he is hopeful that mass mobililsation from civil society across the world could “stop these attacks quadrupling… Let’s keep it at a slaughter as opposed to the kind of mad numbers of the Cast Lead attack.”

Adie’s message is clear: “Get on the streets, get on to your MP, spread the message on social media – the Palestinians are using it in a way now that they haven’t before – continuously mobilise… The kind of possibilities that Israel has are boundless in terms of the damage it could inflict on the population here, but I think all these things together could really limit the carnage.”

It hasn’t been confirmed, but Adie expects to be going out with the ambulances tomorrow.  “I’m fine”, he tells me.  I know he’s got an article to write and only had three hours sleep last night, the most he’s had for the last few days, but it’s hard to put the phone down.

Leonie Nimmo

For updates from within the Gaza strip we recommend you follow human rights advocate Adie Mormech @adiemormech and freelance journalist Ruth Michaelson @_Ms_R

More: Features, Interviews

Comments

  1. Perhaps Adie could have a word with Hamas and tell them that if they stop sending rockets into Israel then things in Gaza will get better.

    Comment by Pete on November 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm
  2. ‘Obama pledges US support for Israel’s right to defend itself, claiming to have spoken to all parties in the region – Israel, Egypt, Turkey – to try to resolve the crisis. His failure to mention contact with Palestinian representatives is unexplained but perhaps speaks ominous volumes.’

    Obama’s ‘failure’ to mention contact with the Palestinian government is not unexplained.

    It is easily explained.

    Palestine is governed by Hamas, and the United States regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation and the United States does not negotiate with them for that reason.

    The EU, Japan and Israel have the same policy, as has been general knowledge for years.

    Comment by Pete on November 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm
  3. What is your point Pete? R u trying to justify Israel’s actions? As far as I am aware it is Israel who is the terrorist state.

    Comment by Myth on November 20, 2012 at 12:02 am
  4. I just find it surprising that the author regards the US’s falure to contact the Palestinian leaders in Gaza as unexplained when it is well known, and has been for years, that the US along with the EU , Israel and Japan regard those leaders as terrorists and have a long standing policy of never speaking to them.

    The author seems ignorant of this.

    What else is she ignorant about regarding the Gaza/Israel situation?

    Comment by Pete on November 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm
  5. By the way, I’m sure the 3 Israelis killed by the Hamas rocket would have appreciated a text message warning them of its imminent arrival.

    I know I would under such circumstances.

    Comment by Pete on November 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm
  6. Palestinians killed by Israelis in last 10 yrs: 3,434. Israelis by Palestinians 78.

    Comment by sarah on November 20, 2012 at 8:37 pm
  7. Pete, the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation is a convenient excuse to not negotiate with an elected government (oh and by the way, your attempt to smear the author doesn’t work, she clearly states Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation). If you really were for peace you would be urging full talks with all the involved representative. But the fact that you can read about gross numbers of maimed and dying children and your response be “I’m sure the 3 Israelis killed by the Hamas rocket would have appreciated a text message warning them of its imminent arrival” speaks volumes about the hate in your heart.

    Comment by Sara on November 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm
  8. ‘Palestinians killed by Israelis in last 10 yrs: 3,434. Israelis by Palestinians 78.’

    It’s about time that Hamas realised that firing rockets at Israeli children is only going to mean lots of dead Palestinians.

    Perhaps Hamas should allow new elections. They are long overdue.

    Comment by Pete on November 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm
  9. Perhaps Israel should realise that bombing, subjugating and terrorising Palestinians and nicking their land makes a lot of people quite angry and generates a lot more sympathy for Hamas than they deserve. Like in Ireland with the internments- believe it not, that created more suspected terrorists that it prevented. Logic dictates therefore that injustice is a massive recruitment for militants.
    Besides, you fail to realise that a lot of Palestinians and Israelis regard their politicians in the very same manner that we regard ours. People like you seem to regard Palestinians and Hamas as one and the same like the god-damn Orientalists you are.

    May I suggest therefore, so called Pete, that before you go around emitting all this self-righteous drivel about who deserves death, you should try reading a book or something…? (Preferably not the bible).

    Comment by sarah on November 26, 2012 at 1:28 am
  10. I wonder if the fact that there is only one pro-Israeli troll posting in response to this article indicates that it is now largely internally recognised that their previous tactics on websites that seek to promote the truth are fundamentally counterproductive. Pete – I suggest you focus your efforts on the BBC, Murdoch Media and the Evening Standard.

    If only Palestinians had precision-guided weapons systems and the communication infrastructure that would enable them to send text messages to the damned. I’d like to say that I agree with you on that point, but I don’t. Death, or narrowly avoiding it, is not the answer, not matter who is calling the shots. I’d like to draw your attention to the non-violent direct action movement in Palestine, that is frequently subjected to violent assauts by the Israeli military, which includes teenagers and reservists that I’m sure are not too keen on the prospect of a ground invasion of Gaza.

    My guess is that you live in the US and have served in the Israeli Occupation Forces, and you’re a bit out of the loop.

    Comment by Observer on November 27, 2012 at 1:32 am