Bearing Witness

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GAZA CITY -- I left Cairo on Friday morning, trying to get into Gaza by all means possible. Other journalists and I went first to the border, but we were rejected by Egyptian intelligence. So we had to lay low in Rafah and get smuggled in through a tunnel. We were told at the time that Israel was targeting the tunnels -- I mean, they always target them, but during a war you can imagine they do that more frequently.

We had a long wait on the Egyptian side of Rafah. Many of the tunnel owners were trying to make us pay crazy amounts of money, and we would just say, "you know, we can't afford that." Meanwhile, we started talking to some friends inside Gaza, who were able to get us permission from Hamas to enter. Even if you make it through a tunnel, you still have to do what they call "coordination" with what Hamas calls its "tunnel authority."

We had almost given up hope when one of the tunnel owners in Rafah obliged us. We got in near the end of the day on Saturday, Nov. 17, and we went directly to Rafah hospital -- earlier that day, five people had been killed in Gaza, including three children and a militant on a motorcycle. We went to see the dead bodies. Drones overhead were buzzing in the background, completely non-stop. They are very annoying at first, but then you sort of get used to it and it becomes a bit unusual when they're not there.

Bombing here usually occurs on two phases. First, a drone fires a rocket, which is sort of a sign for owners to leave. Ten minutes later, an Israeli F-16 comes swooping over and blows up the whole place. This builds some sort of anticipation and anxiety for what's coming. Some people take cover, but interestingly most people go nearby to watch it happen right in front of them.

Other journalists and I then went to Gaza City. Since we arrived, we have witnessed the two deadliest days of bombing, I think. It's getting worse. We were here when the al-Dallo family was massacred: Nine members of the family, including six children. We've largely laid low at night when the bombing gets most intense, and spent the day mostly at hospitals or destroyed families' houses.

There is extreme support for the resistance here. Even people who have always been critical of Hamas -- at times like this, there is always such support. When people hear a rocket fire into Israel, they shout "This is our rocket!" On Monday, Nov. 19, we heard children whistling -- a kind of cheering -- at a rocket that had left the area toward Israel. But even if people here feel they're winning despite the death toll, they still just want it to be over. They don't want this to drag on and fear it will get worse.

Above, three children from the al-Dallo family, killed in an Israeli airstrike on Nov. 18, lay swathed in Palestinian flags.


A man lies on a gurney at Rafah hospital. He was a fighter, though I don't know exactly which group he belonged to. The doctor told us he was targeted by a drone while driving his motorcycle. He was killed on the day we arrived in Rafah, on Nov. 17.

This is the motorcycle that the fighter was on when he was targeted. The bike was lying there, and a kid was just watching the scene around us. It was strange: everything except the body was there. His shoes, some clothes, even the remnants of a Pepsi can -- maybe he was drinking it at the time of the attack.


This is Anis, he was eight months old. I spoke to his family, and they said he was killed by the shock when a house opposite them was bombed. His body doesn't bear scars, but the family said the bombing was too loud and violent, and that he died as a result.


This is one of the resistance fighters -- they call them murabitoun here, which would translate to "watchers." They stay on the borders all night and look out for any movement. We were able to go out and meet them -- they came in civilian clothes and masks, and they all held these Kalashnikovs. They were very, very cheerful, for some reason.


This is an ambulance worker in Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza. He was inspecting damage to a house that was double bombed -- hit by a drone, then a jet. He and his colleagues went to the scene right after it was leveled by an F-16, looking in the rubbles for any casualties.


That is Layal -- she is three years old, and lives in Rafah refugee camp with her family. We also met her father, who works in the hospital of the camp. I tried to make a little chitchat with Layal. I remember asking her if she gets scared of shelling, and she said "no." To which her dad said, "She is such a liar."


This is a "gathering" -- they don't like calling it a funeral -- for one of the al-Qassam fighters [the members of Hamas's military wing]. The fighter's picture is in the background. After the burial, this is what they do -- all the people gather together; they eat dates and drink coffee.


In Rafah, which is kind of worse than Gaza City because it's shut down almost 24 hours a day, the only places that have signs of life, ironically, are cemeteries. This is one of those cemeteries -- many of the people buried here, I was told, are people killed by Israeli airstrikes. This is the burial of someone who was killed when a rocket hit his house -- a five-story building that was completely demolished.


A Palestinian mourner sits quietly beside a grave in Gaza.


These were two houses belonging to the Abu Nodeira family. On Nov. 18, they were notified that their house would be bombed -- all of them evacuated, except one, who was sleeping and did not get out in time. He was killed. Inside the house, there was a library that seemed almost perfectly arranged -- there was barely any effect from the explosion.


Children pose for the camera in Gaza City.


Buildings lay in rubble as dusk settles on the Gaza Strip.

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