Theresa McDermott was on Free Gaza's first trip, August 22-28, 2008 when we broke through Israel's siege. She was also on several other trips, was kidnapped on the June, 2009 voyage and thrown into an Israeli prison. She went back to Gaza during the last Israeli attack in November 2012. Below is Part 1 of her interviews with the families in Gaza.
Before I start to tell these accounts I need to say something about the current weather conditions here. It is very cold, there have been continuous very strong winds and heavy rain with absolutely torrential bursts. The ground is saturated and very muddy, many places are flooded. In our comparitively luxurious appartment which has continuous power because it is the building that Save the Children use and therefore has a generator to provide power when the power cuts happen, we are huddled round a heater wearing coats all day because we are so cold. What it's like for families living in desperate conditions with no genrator so having power cuts for much of the day, 8 hours a day, sometimes more due to power rationing, I can't imagine.
THE ABU SAID FAMILY, JOHR EL DYK NEAR GAZA CITY
This is a beautiful farming area just outside Gaza City, the fields are fertile and the farms all look quite prosperous. Naser Abu Said the father of the family told us their story. He said that 3 years ago in spite of the fact that their house was only 300 m from the Israeli security fence on the border their life was good, they felt fairly secure as they had not been attacked in Operation Cast Lead so assumed that the Israelis knew that they were just a farming family living there with no connections to political parties. They were used to bombing all around their area but didn't think that they were going to be targeted.
On the 13th of July 2010 this changed, they were all sitting round drinking tea, when the Israelis mounted an incursion onto their land, the army arrived with tanks and soldiers. At first the tanks shelled around their house injuring his younger sister, then they changed to using the heavy caliber machine guns. His wife realized that one of their children was still outside and went to bring him inside to safety. While she was outside they again shelled around the house using flechette shells killing his wife and injuring his father, their child managed to run to safety inside the house. For 3 hours they were stuck inside the house unable to reach their injured family members before the Israelis eventually allowed them to go out to attend to the injured and bury his wife.
From then until 28th April 2011 they continued to live in their damaged home, but on the 28th April the Israelis came back, everyone was inside the house when they opened fire on the house hitting it directly, injuring 3 of his children and destroying the house. It took an hour this time, calling frantically to the Red Cross and other people before the Israelis allowed them to leave and take the injured children to hospital.
Now the house is partly repaired with a couple of rooms usable, but his children are too afraid to return to it, so his parents and sister are living there in very difficult conditions. He is building a new house around 500m further away from the fence. This has been started,but he does not have enough money to carry on the work so he, his new wife and 6 children are all living in 3 small tents with electricity for half of the day brought by wires from the town and the few posessions they salvaged inside the tents.
This is incredibly hard in the summer but just now during the Winter it must be almost impossible, this last month there has been extremely heavy rain and gale force winds, it's extremely cold. All around the house there is water and the ground has been turned to mud, the tents do not keep out all of the rain, so it's very hard to keep dry and warm, and using the electricity is dangerous.