Testimony: Living in Gaza in the shadow of hostilities - the Shahin family, Gaza City

Fathi Shahin, 61

I live in central Gaza City with my wife and my daughter and her two small children, ages six and three. Her husband lives abroad.

Since the start of the attack on Gaza on 14 November 2012, the firing of missiles has not stopped, night or day. At night it actually increases and they fall everywhere, even in areas near our house. They shake the foundations of the house and we feel as if it’s about to fall down on our heads.

The children are not going to school because everything is cancelled. They run around the house all the time and feel suffocated and ask to go outside. Of course we cannot let them go out because the situation is very dangerous. They sleep with their mother because they don’t want to sleep at night in their own beds because of the sound of the missiles. If one of them wants to go to the bathroom, he insists that his mother or grandmother go with him.

My grandson, age three, began wetting his pants, even though previously he would go by himself to the bathroom. His behavior has changed drastically. He stays closer to his mother. When he hears bombing, he grabs her clothing and cries and says he is scared. We try to reassure him, but what can we do when we are all frightened by now, adults and children alike.

The children’s conversation is about the types of missiles and planes. It hurts me so much to hear them talking about these things, instead of games or things they are learning in kindergarten or that they did with their friends. What kind of life do they have with this situation looming over them? We try to keep them busy and distract them from the news and what is happening, but what is happening is stronger. And we, too, want to know what is happening and where the bombs have done damage, and whether there are any signs of a ceasefire. We are in a situation imposed on us and not of our choosing.

Thank God that we live in the city center, because the shops are close by and we can get food. We are afraid that the war will go on and the grocery stores will be emptied and there will be a catastrophe: Where will we be able to get food? Because of the situation, the merchants raise prices. They keep the goods to themselves and can control prices. Most residents of Gaza are laborers or unemployed, and have trouble surviving even in ordinary times. Now it’s much harder.

Only God will help us.

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.