Air raids on Gaza: "There are no warning sirens or shelters here"

Screengrab of a video showing Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

The Israeli army launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Monday night. Named 'Operation Protective Edge', the Israeli Defence Forces say it is a counter-terrorism operation against Hamas and other militants. But unarmed civilians seem to be the ones suffering the consequences. Our Observer in Gaza told us about the panic sweeping across the region.

As the Israeli offensive continued on Friday, Palestinian militants continued firing rockets deep into the Jewish state. On Wednesday, one of our Observers in Tel Aviv described what it's like for residents living under the constant threat of rocket attacks. But for Palestinians living inside Gaza, our Observer says there are neither warning sirens nor shelters in which to hide.

A missile launched at Yebna, a refugee camp in Rafah.
Contributors

“Even with targeted strikes, it’s impossible to avoid civilian casualties”

Rany Hemaid is a lecturer at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

There is no respite… the jets bomb us all day long and then the raids intensify as soon as night falls. Even right now as I am speaking to you, there are missiles falling not far from my house.

Here, there are no warning sirens. Only the noise of the F-16s warn us that the bombs are close… but we don’t have any bomb shelters anyway. Faced with the choice of being outside in the street or inside your house, you might as well stay at home.

I live in a 7th-floor apartment with my family in northern Gaza. I know that they say that it’s best to go to a lower level during an air raid, but the Israeli rockets are too strong for any precautions like that to actually make a difference. If a building is hit, it’s usually levelled.

We spend days shut up in our homes. We only go out when it is really necessary, like when we have to go look for food. Yesterday, I risked going to a zone where the electricity wasn’t cut off. The streets were empty and most of the shops were closed. The city showed no signs of life.

Because of all the air strikes happening at night, it’s impossible to sleep. We watch the bombs light up the Gaza sky and hope we're not the next target. It’s only at dawn that we manage to get a bit of sleep.

A few seconds after a warning missile, a house was bombed. The cameraman, afraid of continued fire, tells the children to stay back.

“The army warns residents about fifteen seconds before bombing the target”

Israeli military authorities say that their strikes are targeted and that they are only bombing militants who belong to Hamas. Even if you believe that’s what the army is really trying to do, the population density [Editor's note: Gaza has the highest in the world with more than 4,000 residents/km²] means that it is impossible to avoid civilian casualties during these operations, especially when they take place close to refugee camps that are already overpopulated. Moreover, the leaders of Hamas and the al-Qassam brigades are not at home during the air raids. In the best case scenario, their houses are empty. In the worst case scenario, their wives and children are at home. In each case, it’s civilians, not militants, who are killed.

The Israeli army also says that it warns residents before launching a missile at a target. Ok, sometimes they do send out a warning missile before bombing a house or an apartment building but they don’t do it systematically and they give residents less than 15 seconds to hide themselves. Where can you go in such a small amount of time? When they do manage to get out, people stay outside, keeping to the sides of the streets. They wait for the end of the bombardment to go back home, to help their friends and family or, at the very least, to try and save a few possessions.
Israel launched air strikes a week after the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped in the West Bank on 12 June. Blaming Hamas militants for the murders, the Israeli government began raids on the Gaza Strip, which has led to at least 76 deaths and more than 600 wounded in three days. One of the wounded was a journalist for Palestinian news agency Media 24.

Hamas has thus far fired about 550 rockets into Israel, most of which have been intercepted by the Israeli missile defence system 'Iron Dome'. So far, there have been reports of one serious casualty.

This article was written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira).

Comments

Population density

Gaza hasn't the highest population density. This is a myth disseminated by ignorant media.
Macau has 21,190 per km²
Monaco 18,475
Singapore 7,669
Hong Kong 6,557
Gibraltar 4,250

Why NO - Bomb Shelters in Gaza ?

Hamas has been in power in Gaza for 10 years.

I would like to ask them : why there are no Bomb shelters in Gaza ?

Actually there are thousands of bomb shelters in Gaza : but these are for the 'Hamas Elites' and for the fighters and their weapons.

The reality is Hamas actually WANTS that Gaza people to die as 'Martyrs' : so as to embarrass Israel and to gain international sympathy.

That is why they don't build / or let civilians use those shelters.

Thats why most Gaza apartment blocks have had their own basements commandeered by Hamas : so that they can be used (Not as temorary bomb shelters) .. but as storage areas for munitions etc.

And for those who are apologists for Hamas : don't blame Isreal embargo over cement etc...or attmept to claim that Gaza is too poor.

Hamas has not only more then enough concrete, cement, steel etc to build such shelters : they also get $$$$ billions of dollars in aid every year from the international community.

So I ask again :

Where are the Bomb shelters for Gaza Civilians ???

Reaction of Gazans to Hamas

It seems that of all people living in Gaza not a single one actually thinks that what Hamas is doing is wrong, nor do they have bad feelings towards Hamas. All the evil and the deaths come from the Israeli side and all these innocent people are just victims of the evil Jewish State.
Not even other Arabs or Muslims, including Iran, wants to help you out, yet you are asking Western democracies and mostly Christians to help you out, so that your "Government" Hamas can continue its God blessing acts.
Do you even want to say something against Hamas? You as a person in Gaza, all ok with Hamas?

A stupid war

Israelis have 15 seconds to find shelter (sirens warns them) - so do have Palestinians (bomb warns them) to evacuate their house.
Women - if they are at home, know well what to do when this warning occurs.
So what's the purpose of warning that the house will be destroyed?

Is it aimed at destroying houses? Cruel. Not too clever.
What's the purpose of sending rockets to the neighbors - whom I heard pay for the water and electricity - in hope that someone will be hurt.
Not too clever either

Can't people talk? Israel can say: Hey Hamas, we don't like you and it seems you killed lots of Fatah people when you "legally" took power back in 2007. But since we want a peaceful region, let us coexist and we can help you set up a flourishing economy, to help your kids grow in peace and go to University.
Hamas can say: Hey we are not talking to you, you don't exist but we'll ultimately destroy you. But for our kids and families and because life is short, we can listen to what you say.
Impossible scenario? Then why do both sides do all they can to agree on truce?

Hi Here in israel we also

Hi
Here in israel we also have less theb 15 seconds to hide.
Hammas is targeting us the civiliian and wants to kill all jews. Hammas does not want peace. Once Hammas will stop and will accept that this is our home then the poor people of gaza will have great lives and we will live in peace.

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