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A Palestinian family huddles together in Gaza City

As the assault on Hamas intensifies, 20 relatives try to find some calm in a three-bedroom apartment.

By Safwat al-Kahlout / January 6, 2009

The Wait for Bread: Gazans lined up outside a bakery Monday as Israel continued its ground assault against Hamas militants.

Mohammed Salem/Reuters

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The Israeli drones are driving me crazy. I go outside only to buy food, water, and medicine, or to recharge my cellphone at a nearby mosque that is powered by generators. Inside my Gaza City apartment, electricity and phone lines are out. Heat is a luxury. We sleep with the windows open in case an Israeli shell lands nearby, which would shatter the glass.

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All around Gaza City, this coastal strip's largest urban area, fighting has intensified since Israel launched its ground invasion Saturday. So far, even though more than 530 Gazans have been killed and 2,000 wounded in the conflict, support for Hamas does not appear to be weakening.

At the long bread lines, customers listen to their transistor radios while they wait. When they hear of a Hamas missile striking Israel, cheering begins. Others lash out at Arab states because of their alleged cooperation with Israel, some trade stories about the wounded, the dead, and worsening life for Gazans since the start of the assault, now in its 10th day.

Many Gazans see no end in sight and say that unless there are high numbers of Israeli casualties, nothing will change despite the increasing calls for a cease-fire. They say: If the Palestinians are the only ones dying, no one will care.

The sound of fighting could be heard throughout the city Monday even as those efforts to forge a diplomatic solution moved ahead across the border in Israel. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Middle East special envoy Tony Blair called for a cease-fire and Hamas is sending a delegation to Egypt for talks.

But Israel has been steadfast in its resolve. On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "Hamas has so far sustained a very heavy blow from us, but we have yet to achieve our objective, and therefore the operation continues."

Since Saturday, when troops crossed the border, more than 20 family members – an aunt, uncle, four cousins, and their families – have been sharing our three bedroom apartment.

My cousin Anas reached our house following the invasion.

"Where is all the rest of the family?" I asked him after he entered, referring to my uncle and the rest of his kids. Anas responded that they tried to flee, but the situation was too difficult. Only after two hours did my uncle, Abu Khaled, reach my house with four of his five children.