The Most Harrowing, Heart-Breaking Dispatches from Palestinians in Gaza
A relative of Shahed Qishtah, a nine-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in an Israeli strike while playing, leaves the Kamal Adwan hospital where he brought her in Beit Lahia after on July 22, 2014 in the norhtern Gaza Strip
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As Israeli forces bombard the Gaza Strip by air, land, and sea, some 1.8 million Palestinians are largely stuck inside their homes, shaken by relentless explosions, wondering if and when their turn to die will come. When death does strike, international media will recalculate the tally of the dead, dropping names if those in question are old or children, but otherwise leave untold the stories of their time alive on the crowded sliver of land they called home. Isolated and with nowhere to flee, many Palestinians in Gaza use social media to make an otherwise-impossible connection with the outside world, carving out virtual space for their existence while their physical surroundings implode in their midst.
"I tweet, therefore I am,” writes 24-year-old Muhammed Suliman. Under the bombs, tweets are a way for Muhammed to notify himself and others that he has survived the offensive thus far.
I read names of victims killed yesterday. I hope I won't recognize any. I don't. I close my eyes to sleep. A missile fall. A blast. A tweet.
— Mohammed Suliman (@imPalestine) July 14, 2014
When Israel began its latest large-scale aerial offensive on Gaza on July 7, Muhammad switched from mostly Arabic-language tweets to exclusively English, and started contributing to online discourse on the conflict as a commentator. These early tweets leave out the first person, discussing the situation in general. But on the third day of the assault, as the death toll passes 70, something in Muhammed’s tone changes. His Twitter feed becomes a sort of diary, a poetic outpouring in the face of fear, a human response reflecting the uncertainty of survival.
I sit near a window, next to my wife who finally fell asleep. I hear drones buzzing overhead coupled with birds chirping. I anticipate a blast
The blast has come. Sooner than I thought. War experience enables you to expect next blast. I extend my hand to my wife, and she takes it.
Muhammed’s tweets become a narration of his life and the lives and deaths of other Palestinians in Gaza. His feed reads like a nail-biting and heart-pumping novel, or a collection of visceral haikus, only this isn’t literature but a compressed report of Muhammed’s observations, thoughts, and feelings. Real apocalyptic scenes squeezed through the filter of social media.
Petrified, my ears buzz and don't seem to recover. Leila's stomach starts hurting. Each blast sounds louder and more horrifying. Death nears
I've lost my words. Bombs rain down on my area. Behind the dining table, Leila and I sit close to each other. Death is what we are tweeting.
On other days, Muhammed’s fears subside or at least are allowed to be morphed into dark comedy. The World Cup, which is about to start its semi-final matches as the air offensive begins, provides a distraction for the bombs, something to think about besides impending death. Until a beach cafe full of soccer fans is bombed by Israel, killing eight, seemingly all civilians.
Israel's bombardment of Gaza is similar to Germany thrashing Brazil in the semi finals. Think of Palestinian violence as Brazil's one goal.
8 killed while watching the World Cup semi final. They surely ruled out the possibility of being targeted. We're not a threat, they thought.
Muhammed tweets stories that are only reported otherwise in international media as numbers, the only notable exceptions being the above and the case of four children being bombed on a beach, which he tweets about as well.
Anas, 17, posts on Facebook, 'I'm too tired, shell our home so I can get some sleep.' A while later, his home is shelled. He sleeps forever.