I will never forget last year, it was 27 December 2010. People in South Africa were still in the festive mood when the chilling news tore threw South African homes. More than 1,300 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed during 22 days of Israeli shelling from sea, air and land. Each day I would be glued to my receiver and weep. Palestinians in Gaza had nowhere to run as the border has been closed for two years, with disastrous consequences for the 1.5 million in habitants of Gaza — the majority of them children and refugees. Trapped in a hell hole. They called for help while they were being slaughtered.
Israel claimed as they always do, that it was targeting Hamas armed fighters, however, field investigations by the Gaza-based human rights organization Al Mezan show that United Nations-administered schools, mosques, universities, emergency medical crews, private homes and other civilian objects have all been in Israel’s sights.
Among those killed on the first day of bombing, when more than 100 tons of bombs were dropped on the tiny coastal enclave, included police officers on their graduation day, school children heading home after a day of study, and other Gazans killed without warning as they were conducting their normal business.
Entire families have been wiped out during the air strikes and shelling, including that of Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan who was executed along with his family in their home in a Gaza refugee camp. More than 40 were killed on 6 January 2010 (during Israel’s ground offensive) when Israeli forces shelled the United Nations-administered Fakhoura school in the Jabalia refugee camp, where families who had been displaced by the bombing were seeking shelter.
The International Committee of the Red Cross protested Israeli forces preventing them from evacuating casualties. Some victims died because Gaza’s hospitals — already chronically short of medicines and supplies due to the Israeli siege — were unable to cope with the scale of the attack.
The bloody operation in Gaza came after the expiration of a six-month-long ceasefire between Israel and resistance groups in Gaza, including Hamas. Israel had broken the ceasefire on 4 November, when it executed six Palestinians in Gaza whom it said was digging tunnels to Israel. Five months before the ceasefire, Hamas had refrained from firing rockets and prevented other groups from doing so. However, Israel failed to ease the nearly two-year-long embargo on the Gaza Strip that has crippled economic life and brought the area to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
Gaza hospitals were unable to cope with the situation as Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip for a year and a half has prevented the importing of medical supplies and equipment. As the mortuaries filled to capacity, corpses lined the hallways of Gaza hospitals. Hospitals were forced to turn away many of the injured due to the lack of space and supplies.
The massive air strikes came after a food crisis broke out in Gaza, as Israel’s banning of imports into the Strip have depleted stocks of flour and cooking gas, causing some bakeries — the few still in operation — to resort to baking bread made out of animal feed. On 18 December 2010, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) was forced to stop its food aid delivery to 750,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip.
This is Israel’s collective punishment on the Gaza Strip. How could a nation that has suffered the holocaust do the same to another nation? How could apartheid possibly uplift people of a country?
We come from there. I was born in the apartheid era, so were my parents. After years of oppression in South Africa, who ever thought the day would come when non-whites would rule?
People of Palestine, South Africa weeps for you! Don’t ever think that you are forgotten. We may not stand beside you but Wallaah! We are with you. “BirRooh BidDamm, Nafdeeki Yaa Felesteen! With our soul and our blood, we sacrifice for you Palestine!”