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30 days of war in Gaza: Voices from under the wreckage
Published Tuesday 12/08/2014 (updated) 13/08/2014 17:46
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(EU/ECHO/Fadwa Baroud Abed Rabo)

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Third-year civil engineering student at Gaza University Mohammad Shamali tries to remember what happened moments before he was found under the wreckage.

“I was running from one place to another with my family looking for a safe place, when we finally took shelter in my aunt’s house. My mum and aunt were preparing the iftar a few minutes before sunset when I heard women, children, and men screaming."

Mohammad remembers the screams he heard just before he saw the ceiling falling down on top of him.

"For a second, I remembered the first lesson in civil engineering college where we were taught that ceilings should not fall down. But in Gaza, a place where nothing makes sense and where you start to doubt everything you have been taught, ceilings falling down easily and can end your life and the lives of your loved ones in seconds,” says the 21-year-old.

The Shujaiyya neighborhood in Gaza is an area that had already been subjected to intense bombardment. The incident that Mohammad speaks of took place on July 20 when a marketplace was bombed during a supposed humanitarian ceasefire, which resulted in the death of dozens of civilians.

Mohammad wasn't aware that he spent a full day under the wreckage as ambulances were not able to reach the area due to heavy attacks.

Finally some locals decided to take the risk and look for survivors. Mohammad was counted with the dead bodies at first before he showed signs of life at the al-Shefa Hospital.

“I was told that I spent ten days in the al-Shifa Hospital unconscious before the hospital was hit by Israeli airstrikes. After that I was transferred to Makased Hospital in Jerusalem with other severely wounded cases. Medics are not sure if I will walk again and I cannot feel my legs. I know nothing about the fate of my family, no news from Gaza yet. My body is here in Jerusalem, but my soul is still there in Gaza,” says Mohammad.

For 30 days images and stories of Palestinians trapped under the rubble like Mohammad have increased the concern of the international community about the protection of civilians, and the urgency of finding a final solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

Since the beginning of the current cycle of violence between Israel and Gaza close to 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, most of whom civilians and many of them children. Around 10,000 people have been injured and more than a quarter of the impoverished enclave's 1.8 million residents displaced. Palestinian sources believe there were more fatalities under the wreckage. On the Israeli side, there are currently three civilians dead.

Electricity in Gaza City is available only two hours a day, while large parts of the central Gaza Strip have no electricity at all. According to the Water and Sanitation cluster in Palestine 1.5 million people in Gaza, including the ones residing in displaced persons shelters, have restricted access to water or are without any water at all.

The United Nations has warned of a possible public health crisis in the Gaza Strip as a direct result of the ongoing conflict. UNICEF estimates that 326,000 minors in Gaza are in need of psychological help.

As the needs have risen the EU has allocated a new financial commitment of €5 million to support emergency operations to key humanitarian partners. This brings humanitarian funding made available through the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department to support the Palestinian population of Gaza to about €23.5 million in 2014.

The author is an ECHO communication assistant based in Jerusalem.
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