*Author’s name changed to protect safety.
Gaza – It was 9:00 p.m. when suddenly artillery shelling intensified. The terrifying sounds of falling bombs continued hinting that something horrible was going to happen. Earlier in day, leaflets were falling from the sky telling residents of the eastern villages of Khan Younis to evacuate. I was wondering where more than 60, 000 people were supposed to go! Well, most of the people stayed home, hoping that things wouldn’t get worse. The Israeli prime minister announced the launch of the ground operation later, which explained the heavy bombardment.
By midnight, people in the targeted areas started to see a strange smoke that had a terrible smell and caused respiratory distress and vomiting. Also at that time, ambulances started to evacuate families, bringing them to the center of Bani Suheila just next to the place where I live. The distance that ambulances had to carry people is less than 2 kilometers, however, bombs were falling in the streets and between the houses.
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Also around midnight, my uncles and their families started to arrive in our building, a process that continued until five o’clock in the morning. A few ambulances evacuated thousands of people to a place that – it was announced earlier – would be targeted! But where could we go, or where should we go?
Years ago, during the Cast Lead offensive on Gaza, people were advised to move to UNRWA schools, and of course they were targeted too by the Israeli attacks. Ironically, even UNRWA headquarters in Gaza sustained some damage!
Air strikes and naval shelling continued, of course, to accompany the artillery bombardment and the ground invasion which started in three different areas, eastern villages of Khan Younis, Rafah and northern areas of Gaza.
Over 100 people were killed in the first 48 hours of the ground invasion. Most of them were civilians killed in their homes, backyards and gardens.
The land invasion caused casualties among the Israeli soldiers, with no clear data. These caused an outrage in Israel, reflected in further cruelty in their bombardment. Overcrowded houses in Shejaya and Toffah areas in Gaza were heavily hit, causing tens of casualties, exact numbers are not known yet. As I write this in early morning, 363 Palestinians were killed and 3,000 were injured, not taking into account the casualties in Shejaya since the beginning of the Protective Edge operation.
The ministry of health talks about a huge catastrophe in the area and more terrible news is to come. UNRWA reported that 85,000 people are displaced. Figures are expected to increase dramatically today.