Testimony: Living in Gaza in the shadow of hostilities - the Farawneh family in Sheikh Ajlin Neighborhood, western Gaza City

'Abed a-Nasser 'Awni Farawneh, aged 45

I am married, with five children. My eldest son is 16 and the youngest, three years old. We live in the Sheikh Ajlin neighborhood in Gaza City. I am the director of the statistics department of the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Prisoners.

The situation near our house is relatively quiet because we are far from most of the places that were bombed, in eastern and central Gaza City. Nonetheless, places near us were also bombed, among others the Ministry of the Interior, and there are clouds of smoke in the area. We do feel the shock wave and also hear the more distant bombings. We are all feeling the emotional strain.

Since the attack began, on the evening of Wednesday 14 November 2012, and through this morning, I have not left the house and I feel caged. Emotionally I am in bad shape; I don’t want to risk going outside and also I can’t leave the younger children, who are afraid, and I’m trying to give them some sense of security. This morning I went out for the first time to buy food.

Most of the shops are closed because of the situation and it is difficult to purchase basic necessities. We don’t really know what is happening, even nearby, and we get updates only through the media. Late yesterday afternoon a bomb fell about 200 meters from our house, and the windows in the neighborhood shattered. More than ten of our own windows shattered. They can’t be repaired at this point so, for now, I covered them with plastic sheeting until things calm down and we can repair them.

Meantime we have more or less the same supply of electricity as before the attack – meaning not continuously, but only 16 hours a day. Yesterday there was a breakdown because of the bombings so there was another three-hour outage. The water supply depends on the electricity, which runs the pumps. So far, there has been water, but we don’t know what may happen.

Due to the situation people are trying to stock up on food. Shops still have supplies but the shop owners are afraid to open because of the bombing. This problem could get worse later. Fortunately we generally buy a week’s supply of food, so we still have something to eat. If things go on this way, we will have a problem. Some people rely on daily income and don’t buy in advance, and their situation is much worse. God help them.

Right now we have half a canister of gas, with about 6 kg, and another empty canister. There’s no way to refill them right now. If things go on this way, we won’t be able to cook. When I went out this morning, I looked for an open supermarket to buy basic necessities like bread, milk products, cheese and rice that had begun to run out. I found only a few small grocery stores selling children’s candy and some beverages and cleaning supplies.

The bakeries, too, are hardly working now. Today I was able to get one kilo of pita bread, but we are a household of eight people so this will barely be enough for one day. We can bake bread at home, but that depends on having gas and electricity.

The children are frightened and are sleeping with us at night. The bombings keep them awake and when they do fall asleep, they have nightmares and wake up in a panic. It’s hard to be shut in at home and sometimes I let them play in the yard under the awning.

Since we don’t have electricity all the time, we listen to the radio on the cellphone. It’s quiet outside, with almost no movement. People are trying not to leave the house.

My daughter Maha, 12 years old, has leukemia. She underwent a bone marrow transplant at Ichilov hospital and her condition is good now, but tomorrow, Sunday, 18 November 2012, she is supposed to be at Ichilov for a checkup, but now it’s impossible to coordinate it because of the closure on Gaza. If something happens to her, I don’t know how I will get her to treatment, and the hospitals now are mainly accepting the wounded, because of the situation.

I’m finding it impossible to work now, of course. We are focused on getting through this in one piece and hoping for a long term ceasefire.

'Abed a-Nasser 'Awni Farawneh, aged 45, married and father of five, is the manager of the statistics sections in the Prisoners Ministry of the Palestinian Authority. His testimony was taken by Iyad Hadad on 17 November 2012 by telephone.

Concerning testimonies about the "Pillar of Defense" campaign:

With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors. Given the urgency of informing the public about events in Gaza, B’Tselem has decided to publish the information now available. When the military campaign ends, B’Tselem will supplement these reports as needed.