Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A room with a view, please

It’s interesting to read the news from this perspective. I mean, when you are the news, or when you are living the news that is being reported, and while all the while you write the news.

On Monday I visited the Khan Yunis refugee camp, the target of many an attack by Israeli forces, to talk to Palestinian refugees there, to hear their thoughts on Israeli disengagement (the subject of a forthcoming article).

It was quite an incongruous-and bleak-scene, as is often the case in Gaza. Crumbling refugee homes with pockmarks the size of apples stand like carcasses in front of the Neve Dekalim settlement, part of the Gush settlement bloc. It is shaded with palm trees, red-roofed Mediterranean style villas, and the unspoilt pristine sands of the Khan Yunis beach, accessible to all but the Palestinians now.

Abo Ahmed is one of the refugees I met. The view from the second floor of his home on the edge of the camp overlooking Neve Dekalim, and an Israeli sniper tower, is to die for (no pun intended). The military base aside, there is nothing but the clear blue of the lonely Khan Yunis Mediterranean. “Nice view, right?” he told me jokingly, the wall behind him pockmarked like a piece of Swiss cheese from the hundreds of Israeli shells and bullets that have hit it. “One of those holes could have been in me”. It’s was the first time Abo Ahmed has been able to enjoy this view since he built is a few years ago.

His neighbours children, living under a zinc-sheet covered with torn blankets, giggled when they saw me. “Please take our picture” asked a little girl, Siham. So I did. Maybe it would help them forget the daily reality they face, that children should never have to face. Overhead, a drone whirred menacingly, and a helicopter gunship cruised the coast. “See those planes, they come and shoot missiles at us,” they explained expertly. Planes they have seen too many times before. War has been their teacher.

Nearby, a group of Palestinians who live in the Mawasi enclave-completed sealed off from the rest of Gaza by israeli forces- sat under a the shade of a handmade palm-leaf canopy waiting for the Tufah checkpoint to open, so they could return home. A day before, 3 of Mawasi's residents were brutally beaten by Jewish settlers form teh Gush bloc.

Meanwhile, the children trotted off into the horizon, dangerously close to the Israeli sniper tower, trying to fly a rustic paper kite one of the older boys folded together. Next to them, a group of boys cooled off in a pool of salty wastewater that pours into a sand pit here from the settlements, the byproduct of an Israeli desalination plant. This is their playground. Soon, the Israelis call the Palestinian DCO to ward them off. And life goes on for Gaza's refugees.

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