Sunday, 20 May 2007

The Beach

We can’t stand to be locked up inside anymore. Youssuf, Laila’s son, is going crazy. He’s restless and frustrated. We get in the car, and head to the beach.

There’s a thin haze over everything, the air is moist and sand sticks to everything. Spray covers my glasses and camera lens. I walk towards a family in the distance, sitting around a sheesha pipe, with their horse tied to a caravan. The beautiful animal bears its teeth and paces back and forth, still tied by rope to the caravan’s frame. Her owner holds her head and turns it towards my camera as I take a few pictures of the animal, his back silhouetted by the sun setting over the Mediterranean. Here, it seems you could stand on the beach and always be safe. Nothing could touch you. No bullets would reach here, no Israeli air strikes would target the beach. The water is choppy behind us, “the sea is big,” they say in Arabic.

Behind us, rows of brightly coloured plastic chairs are stacked on tables, flags snap in the wind. Yesterday was peaceful in the city, today too, but still no one is out. People are still afraid. Israeli attacks can distract Gazans for a while, but the gunmen are still roaming the streets. Roadblocks have been removed, it’s true, but the shopkeeper below my building tells Laila a gang came into his shop this morning, threatening to shoot him, and ordered him to shut his shop. But he stayed open.

Now the rules have changed again. Israel hits the house of Khalil El-Hayya, but he’s not home. 8 of his family are killed. Khalil is a Hamas’ lawyer, a member of Parliament, not a fighter. What Israel calls a “non-military target.” His non-military home and non-military family now lie shredded on the streets of Gaza City.

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