In March 2009 Linda Frank went to Gaza with a CodePink-organized International Women's Day delegation, which succeeded in entering the Gaza Strip on Mar. 8, 2009.  --  While there, Linda met a young woman in her twenties who gave her a written account of the first day of the recent war.  --  This account, copy-edited here but not abridged, offers a firsthand eyewitness account to a major atrocity.[1]  --  The author prefers to remain nameless....

1.

THE FIRST DAY OF WAR
By Anonymous

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
April 26, 2009

GAZA CITY -- The day before the war, December 26, 2008, I was sitting with my family at night watching TV. This day was the final day for the cease-fire that had been suggested by the Israeli side and it was the decisive day for Hamas government to stop its rockets, although they broke the cease-fire many times without any commitment. We heard also Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, when she was in Cairo, announce from an Arab country that she would attack Gaza, but we did not expect that the attack would be soon and without warning. I had some kind of fear inside myself. I did not show that to my family. Each one of us has his own fear. What we all expected was that they would attack the borders, or that they would increase the siege on Gaza Strip, or maybe assassinate some leaders in the Hamas government. Our imagination about the attack they threatened did not exceed such thoughts. So we spent that night talking and thinking, because we were used to hearing about such threats. Anyway, we did not expect that this would happen.

The 27th of December, I woke up at 8:00 a.m. The situation was calm. I asked my father if he had heard about anything during the night. He told me that everything was okay, and I didn't have to worry. So I left the house at 9:00 a.m., because I had a lot of work to do in my town. I finished my work at ten o'clock, and rode a car to Gaza City, which is 30 km from Khan Yunis. I reached there at 11:00 a.m. I decided to drink some coffee with my friend, who was working in a company beside the Legislative Council and the Arafat Academy for Police (a governmental place). This place is also called the "University District," because of the existence of the Islamic University, Al-Azhar University and Al-Aqsa University, in addition to the many police stations. So I went to my friend's. I stayed there till 11:30.

I decided to leave. My friend told me to stay, because she thought that it was early. I stayed for fifteen minutes, then I decided to leave the place at 11:45, the moment of the attack, the zero hour as I named it. At 11:45 the war started. At this decisive moment all regions in Gaza Strip from north to south were attacked at one moment. At this moment I was on my way walking in the street of Arafat Academy for Police. I heard the first rocket, the second, and the third -- many quick attacks, one after another. At this moment I could see nothing. All that I remember is that I saw the biggest explosion I have ever seen. I started to run away and ran away, but to where? I expected that the second attack would be on the Legislative Council. I was on my way to the Legislative Council at the moment I saw the military planes in the sky at a very low level. I was scared and started to lose consciousness. All that I was thinking of was how to reach a safe place. The sound of bombs and explosions was horrible. The ground was moving up and down. I said: This is not a joke, it is real, the war has started. In a short time all the roads had been closed. All the streets were overcrowded by ambulances and emergency cars. I stopped beside a building, looking at the sky, watching the military planes.

At that moment I lost my ability to move or even to think. People, girls and children, all were shouting, running everywhere. It was the time for students to leave their schools. I thought for awhile that if they started to attack haphazardly they would cause a catastrophe. I reached Al-Shefa hospital. The roads had been closed to ease the movement of the ambulances. I decided to walk in another direction to reach any station to ride a car to the south. I walked a lot, till I felt sick. The attacks increased, and all streets started to be empty of people except the emergency and ambulances cars. I succeeded in finding a car. I rode in a car that was partially full. I asked the driver to hurry up because we expected that they would separate the south from the north by attacking the bridge of Gaza Valley that connects the north with the south; they used to attack it many times with their barbarous attacks. I was worried about my family, sisters, brothers, friends. I tried to phone everyone I knew to be sure that all were safe, but the attacks destroyed the telecommunication net.

My journey to Khan Yunis took three hours, because we did not go along the main street, which is called Salah al-Deen. Instead we used the by-streets, as it was safer to avoid the main street because most of the police stations that had been attacked were located on the main street. Finally I reached home. I fetched my family to share with them my bad feelings. They all were sitting glaring at the screen of the TV, shocked, pale, yellow and horrible faces, sitting like idols. I took a place beside them. The first scene I saw was the Arafat Academy. I really had a shock. The number of martyrs was big. It was about 180 in one place. The scene was horrible. Really it can't be described. Blood everywhere, severed parts, heads, hands, legs, and arms. Scenes couldn't be described. I spent my whole day sitting on a chair in front of the TV. I did not expect in one day to face such catastrophe. Hour after hour the number of martyrs increased and increased.

At 8:30 p.m. I had a call from my sister, who lives in Gaza City. She was sad and angry. We started to talk about what had happened from the morning till this moment. She started to talk about the moment of the attack, when they attacked a police station beside one of the primary schools in the Sheikh Radwan district. She said that the situation was horrible. She was walking beside the fence of that school. She saw the heads of young children, and bags colored with their blood. The painful thing was that child with his blue shirt -- she had taught him once before. He was thrown to the ground, bleeding from all parts, with no legs -- he was shouting and raising his hands, but no one could help. She started to scream: "What did they do? What should we do?" I kept silent and started to cry loudly. The vision was so hard to imagine. She started to lose her breath. I told her: That is enough, please stop talking, I can't take it. I closed my mobile and took my diary and sat in the living room.

Then I decided to write. After one hour, my mother came and asked me to share supper with them. I told her I was not hungry. She left me. I continued writing. That night was the longest I ever seen. From time to time we heard the sound of attacks, rockets from sky, the borders, and the sea. That night we decided to sleep in one room, so we chose as our room a far corner in the house. How silly we were. When I remember that thing I laugh, because rockets do not choose. So we prepared the place. We were five: me, my sister, my brother, and my parents. So I arranged the situation to sleep with my mother on my small bed. My father slept on another bed. Mona, my sister, stayed on her bed. Finally, my brother took a place on the ground. The first night was dark, because they attacked the electricity station with four rockets. And because we were used to staying in the dark, the situation was not new. The new thing was how to close your eyes under the horrible sound of the army planes in the sky, under the bombs every minute, and attacks. I decided to sleep though every thing. I started to pray to God for mercy on us because we did nothing in our lives to be attacked by the strongest power in the world.

The sound of bombing increased and got nearer and nearer. My father told us that we have one God and there is one death, whether by rocket, by car, by gun, there is no difference, and you have to die with your dignity and get rid of your fear. The night was so cold. We opened all the doors and windows. I slept that night with a coat beside a cold wall. I did not sleep till dawn. I was so afraid, but not of death. I was afraid to lose all my family and to be saved from death. So I prayed to my God to be the first not the last. Late in the night I felt that I should go to the toilet, but I was so afraid to go to the toilet and thought that it may be in the moment that I will be there that they will attack the house. So I decided not to go. I suffered a lot in my bed, in addition to my feeling discomfort, I was next to my mother and didn't move left or right because the space wasn't wide enough for two persons. I waited and waited, listening to the small radio all that night. The number of dead was increasing. At this moment I called my Dad, but he was sleepy. I called him again. He answered me: "What is wrong?" I told him: "Stay awake with me, don't sleep, I can't close my eyes." He told me: "Don't say that. God is greater and stronger than Israel, so you have to sleep and calm down." But I didn't. I waited till I saw the light from the window. I started to feel better, because night is full of fear. At six o'clock I went to the toilet, and prayed our usual prayers. My mother went to her room and left the bed for me. I decided to sleep for two hours. I was so tired that I slept a half-hour and then woke up again when I heard a strong attack in Khan Yunis. It was the good morning greeting.