Gaza Israel Conflict: Civilians On Both Sides Talk About Rocket And Missile Attacks

'Every Time I Hear The Sound Of Shelling I Expect To Die'

As the military strikes and political rhetoric in Gaza and Israel escalate, it is the civilians on both sides that bear the brunt of the violence.

Around 550 rockets have been fired into Israel and 600 targets have been hit inside Gaza since Wednesday, leaving 20 Palestinians and three Israelis dead.

Adele Raemer is a teacher in Kibbutz Nirim, less than two kilometres away from the border with Gaza.

The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza

"The last few days have been pretty surrealistic," says Raemer, talking by phone to The Huffington Post UK.

"We are so close (to Gaza) that they shoot mortars at us. The mortars don't come with a warning."

Israel's Iron Dome defence system only targets long-range rockets meaning the Kibbutz is at the whim of incoming rounds.

Her only protection is a safe room in her house.

"I was able to walk my dogs this morning without being caught by any alarms. Just after was like a barrage of five alarms, running back and forth, I just stayed in the safe room."

As she speaks an explosion can be heard in the background: "You hear that? One just hit!"

Raemer also works as a medical clown in a Tel Aviv hospital that treats a number of children from Gaza. 'It's hard to find a picture of me where I'm not wearing a red nose!'

When Raemer is lucky enough to get warning of an incoming attack, she hopes that she is close to a shelter: "We have about 10 seconds," she says.

"I'm not terrified, I've been feeling, perhaps unrealistically, safe in my safe room.

"I'm hoping it's as safe as I really believe it is."

Explosions aside, the Kibbutz has been much quieter since Wednesday. Raemer said: "Many, many, many families, especially with children have left. The place has quite emptied out. I don't have children, I'm here with my two dogs and this is my home. I don't want to go any place else.

"When we had (operation) Cast Lead (the Israeli land invasion of Gaza) in 2009, I did leave. I had just become a widow and I was certainly not emotionally strong enough to have the wherewithall to be here.

"I would not want to be anywhere but here right now. I'm in my own space and I know whats going on, I can do my laundry and I don't have to rely on anyone."

Raemer with the remains of a militant rocket fired into Israel

The normally bustling community has ground to a halt. The constant threat of attacks means that those who have remained are in a limbo, waiting for normality to return.

Raemer says: "I have a lot of work that I could be doing. I'm a teacher and I could be preparing online activities so the kids can go on and do them but I really don't think many would have the concentration ability to do anything.

"I could be doing a whole lot of work but concentrating is really hard."

When asked what she thinks of the people firing at her she says, with a certain degree of understatement, that "it's not very nice of them to be doing that".

She adds: "I put my trust in my government to do what they have to in order to help me live my life. If it's got to be done by guns or if its got to be done by… I'm not there, who am I to say.

"I'm not a decision maker. I do not envy them and their jobs are a lot of responsibility. I'm not going to criticise or say anything like that because to do so wouldn't be very... fair of me I think. "

On the other side of the border, in Gaza City, Maha Shahwan has tried her best to continue her work as a journalist.

Speaking to The Huffington Post she says: "On the first day of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, I was working with my colleagues in the newspaper (Alresalah) when Israeli warplanes bombed a car belonging to the Hamas leader (Ahmed Jabari).

Shahwan outside Downing Street on a trip to London earlier this year when she was presented with an Inquirer Awards for investigative journalism at the Foreign Office

"The explosion caused the whole area to shake and there were several injuries.

"Our Editorial Director told us to return to our homes because our lives were at risk. Our organisation was bombed twice, but we completed our reports."

Shahwan lives with her parents and three brothers aged 21, 20 and 13.

She says: "Every time I hear the sound of shelling I expect to die. I'm both scared and strong together.

"I fear for my family from death, and when my brother goes out on the streets I am kept worried all the time.

"I sit in a safe place at home, pray and ask God to protect us."

Shahwan took this photo in a Gaza hospital shortly after Wednesday's attacks

The constant explosions are taking their toll on her younger brother who "cries all the time and sleeps next to my mother."

Shahwan is resolute when asked abut the situation in Gaza and its future. She says: "Israel is seeking to exert a psychological war and war against the Gaza Strip, but citizens have the will and the determination to remain steadfast defenders of their cause.

"I ask the whole world to stand with the Palestinian people to attain their rights and defend the innocent Palestinians. I hope that Israel stops the attack and prevents their massive missiles from hitting the Gaza Strip."

Back on the other side of the border, Raemer has a rather unique worry: "I'm running low on Rescue Remedy.

"I have two dogs. One gets very upset when there are explosions and hyperventilates.

"I have a little bottle of rescue remedy and I give her a couple of drops, it calms her down."

Despite the animosity on both sides and the sheer complexity of the conflict, Raemer reduces it down rather eloquently.

"We all want the same thing. Safety for our children, health, food on the table. That's the bottom line."


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