Sharyn Lock, originally from Australia, has lived in Manchester for a number of years. She is one of a number of international human rights defenders who have travelled on Free Gaza Movement boats since September 2008, in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade.
On Monday 29th November, Ms Lock reported that:
“Last night my group was in Al Awda hospital. One of the targets bombed by Apaches was a mosque near us; the next door shop and house were also destroyed, the rubble collapsing on top of the six daughters of the Belusha family. I watched live footage as they tried to extract the single traumatised little girl who survived. The others were dead. We visited the site this morning, catching a ride back to Gaza city with a driver whose eyes were full of tears.
“In Gaza I went to see the family in the port area who hosted us for Christmas Eve. They told us the entire Gaza coast was shelled all night from about 1am, with the shells apparently coming from Israeli ships too far out at sea to be visible. I could see this happening from the top of Al Awda hospital, counting 14 shells in a row to the little port. Any boats linked to the government were bombed, as well as several which weren't, including that belonging to human rights defender Dr Eyyad Saraj. When the extinguisher boat tried to put out resulting fires, it was bombed. The port offices were bombed.
“The family, whose 6 children range from 4 to 18 years old, spent a frightened night and appeared exhausted. As they talked to me this morning, another missile hit the port across the road. I had not seen the family since the strikes began on Saturday; I spoke to their oldest son and daughter who described being at school when rockets hit the building in the initial strikes. H said he had stayed outside the gate for a last 5 minutes studying for his exam, thus avoiding injury when this happened. Now he doesn't know if the final exams will even happen.
“The children told me their 11 year old cousin had to carry an injured kindergarten child to the hospital when Al Wahda school was hit at the same time. The children's mother is worried about her parents; they live above a money exchange and the rumour is these will be targeted; this has happened twice before. They told me that in another area of Gaza a medical supplies storage building was bombed and the gas station next door to it exploded.”
At the time of writing, over 300 people had been killed in Gaza and 1200 injured in three days of bombing, with UN sources confirming that dozens of the dead were civilians. The Israeli blockade has meant that even before the attacks medical supplies, food and fuel were desperately low.
The Israeli authorities state that the attacks are in retaliation for rocket strikes carried out by Palestinian militants from Gaza, which have killed 5 Israelis in the last 3 years.
The Israeli action has drawn condemnation from around the world, sparking demonstrations as far afield as Australia, Indonesia and the USA. In Manchester, several hundred people attended a protest against the air strikes on Sunday 28th December, and around 70 more took part in a candlelit vigil the following evening, outside the BBC offices on Oxford Road. A larger demonstration is planned for Saturday 3rd January.
This article was first published on the Hive Magazine website, http://www.hivemagazine.co.uk