IT WAS DARK and Jehan couldn’t see anything, although she could sense
something happening outside her apartment. Jehan, a mother of five children
from Jabalia a populated town just North of Gaza city, had been woken when
the firing started. All the children went into her room and she could hear the
building shake. Too afraid to move, they lay totally still while shells exploded
blowing out the electricity, water supply, and telephone junction box in the building; immediately putting everything into total darkness.
For what felt like an eternity, there was a lull in the explosions, Jehan
looked out of her window to see that the whole area was surrounded by tanks,
bulldozers, and shadows of heavily armed soldiers. Then shots were fired at her
window, the children started screaming with fear. Orders were given to her from
a loudspeaker on a Merkava tank in both Arabic and Hebrew:‘You have fifteen
minutes to collect your things and leave the building immediately.’ I told the
children to get dressed and pack what they could carry, it was pitch black, we
managed to pack hardly anything in the suitcases. My husband and I walked outside the building, search lights almost blinded us, then we were told to leave the area. We walked for hours with hundreds of other families into Gaza where we were told to go to the UNRWA school building. The conditions there were terrible, but we were frightened and needed to take shelter. We had only been there for a week, then it was was bombed.
We stayed in the school for twenty-two days, not sleeping for the sounds
of F16's, and the constant sound’s of bombs going off. One night my daughter asked me‘why has the sky has turned white mummy?’ My seven year-old daughter wets the bed now, the children could not understand what was happening.
Eventually, the IDF withdrew and we went back to our house in Jabalia. When I saw the state of it I nearly had a heart attack. There was nothing left, everything had been burned, sandbags covered the windows, and there was anti Arab graffiti on the walls. Some of the rooms were black with scorch marks, scarred with bullet holes, hundreds of empty ammunition shells were
all over the floor. I suppose we were lucky that our house had not been bulldozed, like some of our neighbours.