Thursday 21 October, 10pm. The road is dark. Few lights. Twenty five miles—border to Gaza City. Thousands—tens upon tens of thousands. Waving, cheering, running. Dense. Children run in front of the ambulance—frightening. It’s happening to all vehicles. Olive branches thrown in.
I put a clenched fist out of the window. I now have only one arm. Every hand grabbed. Vehicles now naked of flags. Motorbikes weave. Three or four to each bike. Honking, honking and more honking.
“Welcome—welcome to Gaza,” they shout. “Galloway, Galloway,” they shout. A man presses my face close to his as if to embrace me, “Do not forget us.” Enthusiasm, energy, vibrant, infectious.
But this is not about aid. For some we may as well have been carrying fresh air. This is about us—from 30 different countries. The world outside cares, we care, we are on their side.
They do not want to be alone in their fight. International solidarity. Wonderful. Why do they keep smiling? This place is a bomb site. Because the bombs fell here. When it is not a bomb site it is a building site. A derelict building site. No cranes, no materials. Except re-usable rubble.
String, wire and sellotape are very popular for mending cars, bikes and electrical appliances.
A bus with its windscreen held together with sellotape gives a little tour.
Residential blocks—maybe eight or ten in a line machine-gunned by helicopter gunships (seems to be top two floors only) .
Pot shots at mosques—minarets blown off.
There can be no mistake. The Juhor Ad-Dik school looks like a school. The school children look like school children. Bombed. Children murdered.
It is unrelenting. Fisherman who can’t fish—even close to shore. Today two little fishing boats not far from shore harassed by gunboat. It circles the tiny boats trying to capsize them. They leave.
Farmers cannot farm. Except small crops that do not obscure the line of vision. No man’s land is Palestinian land.
Speak to a man in the street. I ask his occupation. Physiotherapist. Helps the war injured. In the clinic are volunteer helpers—on crutches. Except Mrs Raja Morta Ja, 43 years old. One leg. Zimmer frame.
Her son was killed by the same bomb. She needs complicated surgery. I ask if I can help the clinic with a small donation.
The regulations prevent cash donations directly to charities. But I can give to Mrs Morta Ja. I do. Not so much, we have many cases. I have more but they have to bring people—can I wait?
Mohammad Mosa Joma. 32 years old. Third day of the war. Heard a bomb near his uncle’s home—went to help. Another bomb. Ten dead—his cousin Fatima and her nine-month old son. Only Mohammad survives. Right leg amputated above the knee: “I want peace, but Gaza will not fall down.”
Mohammed Handan Abu Genema. 19 years old. Lives close to the border. Went to fetch food. Silent plane. Bomb. Both legs amputated.
Mohammed Kaloob. In 2001 he was 12 years old. Threw stones. Shot four times in both legs. Right leg amputated. His friend Mohammed Sherri, 12, killed.
Ateya Mesba Al-Areny. 47 years old. Went to collect water with his brother Raba. Silent plane—no pilot—bomb. Leg amputated. Brother dead. Ateya has eight children. Five boys and three girls.
Nadda Hassan. Five years old. Mother Mona lives near border—pregnant in 2005. Shelling and gas. Nadda has many deformities.
Islam Al-Araj. One year old. Her mother Nabawiya pregnant and inhales white phosphorus. Nabawiya’s three brothers, Rashid, Walid, Tallal killed. Their wives also killed.
Joseph Rehan. Six years old. Bomb hit his home. Left arm amputated. Shrapnel in his head. Nervous, incontinent. Hears planes—is afraid.
No doom and gloom at this clinic. They have a sideline: weddings for amputees and the injured in the building. No charge. Permanent joy.