Diary account from the Gaza Strip, February 21, 2009.
A big storm had been going-off in the Mediterranean all night, the wind howled through the empty Commodore hotel. I had been the only guest in there for weeks. The Government of Israel had banned almost anyone from entering or leaving Gaza since the start of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008. The Egyptians had followed the Israeli lead, it was the same on both sides of the inescapable borders, for most punters anyway.
All the windows in my room had been blown out by an IDF warship only a a few months before and had been covered in plastic sheeting. The storm had ripped the sheeting covering my window, the entire room was wet and smelled of dampness, the rain poured in soaking everything. There was no hot water, no power, no people. The hotel felt like a scene from The Shining, except there were more people in the film; it was a miserable fucking place.
Outside the palm trees that lined the dead streets were bending in the wind, there was a fuel shortage, no vehicles were moving, it was like time had time stood still. Everyone was indoors and had been for months. The harbour was full of fishing boats crashing around in the waves and again no sign of life. The sky was turning from dark blue to black, the rain kept coming, the white-water pounded the newly extended harbour walls which were made from the hardcore of strategically bombed-out parts of city. It was dark, overcast and right in the middle of a depression.
The beach was empty, there were a few disused fishing trawlers covered in sand. Boats were as useful buried in the sand in Gaza as they were productive at sea. Lifeguard towers went unused for years, barbed-wire fencing bordered the beach areas which ran from the land to the sea. A beachside kids play area was buried in the sand and redundant of children. Sandstorm winds blasted in by the westerly gale, the only signs of life were a few Hamas soldiers looking for something interesting to do, like stop some Scotsman with a camera walking on the beach, little did I know I was going to be there for a lot longer and things would start to get very interesting.