Gaza bloggers relay crisis to outside world

The Israeli offensive in Gaza reached its 18th day with Israel continuing to block access to the region for foreign journalists. But bloggers in Gaza are chronicling the conflict with firsthand accounts of their experiences, giving outsiders a look at the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Safa Joudeh, blogging at Lamentations - Gaza, described the effect that living amid the conflict has had on her family.

Our entire lives [are] now one long chaotic stream of existence: waiting in line each morning to fill up containers with water from the only working tap on the ground floor of our building, baking homemade bread from the depleting supply of flour we managed to obtain a few days into the offensive, turning on the power generator for 30 to 50 minutes in the evening to charge phones and watch the news....
We are now unable to distinguish joy from fear. My 11-year old sister laughs as she imagines how people all over the world watch the horrific events taking place in the Gaza Strip. "[It's] like we are a scary movie. I'm sure people eat popcorn as they watch," she says. My 12- and 14-year old brothers act out scenes from our reality while quoting ... their favorite video game, and we laugh hysterically at their performance. Moments later we tense up at the sound of a violent, close by earthquake-like explosion, and resume our laughter when the building stops shaking.

Many of the bloggers in Gaza have focused on what they say is the Israeli use of phosphorus weapons. Blogger Said Abdelwahed, an English teacher at Al Azhar University, writes on the blog Moments of Gaza that Israeli troops used the weapons in a ground offensive in the early morning hours Tuesday.

In addition to their tanks and heliocapters, they used [phosphorus weapons] that lighted the whole area! They burnt two places; [a] carpentery and a home, and damaged others. Last night's attack was tougher than the first one which was executed three days back ... People were scared, thus many more families escaped the whole area to other areas inside Gaza city, but in the end where to go ... It's all targets and bombings.

At the blog Tales to Tell, an activist and volunteer in Gaza wrote Sunday that the shells smell like sewage.

Last night I stayed near Al Quds [Hospital] but at a friend’s house - they have no water. It was another night of heavy shelling, with shells falling near the hospital, constant rockets, and Apache shooting. By the early hours of the morning there was shooting between the Israeli army and the Palestinian resistance very near, so that local people were coming to take refuge in the hospital. They left in the morning, but a steady stream of people, escaping their houses near the fighting, began to trickle past Al Quds.

Eva Bartlett, an activist and medic working in Gaza, chronicles the difficulties of medical workers trying to evacuate the dead and wounded at In Gaza. She wrote that Israeli forces shot at a group of medics attempting to retrieve a body in Dawwar Zimmo.

[Medics] Hassan al-Attal and Jamal had gotten out of the ambulance, a clearly-marked 101 ambulance, and approached the corpse lying in the middle of the street. They wore their ... uniforms – Hassan’s was bright red with reflective tape, Jamal’s bright orange and white, also with reflective tape – and approached slowly ... the medics picked up the dead man, put him on the stretcher and began the retreat towards the ambulance...The shots cracked out, rapidly but evidently a targeted sniper’s shot, not a machine gun. Incredibly, Hassan and Jamal continued to try to evacuate the body, running with the dead man, before finally dropping the [stretcher] and fleeing for their lives.

But frequent shelling and power outages make blogging difficult. Mr. Abdelwahed wrote that he used a small generator to power his laptop computer during 15 days without electricity, during which phones were also not reliable.

Three days back, the electricity company maintained some transformers and wires so that we had electricity again.... However, it is still that the electric power shuts off between now and then; some other times we receive elecrticity for 2-3 hours, and other times the electric current continues for 10 hours or more.
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