Published in the pages of the newspaper, the news of the Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip does not give the dimension of the tragedy experienced today by the Palestinians in this territory of the Mediterranean.
Gaza has an area of 365 square kilometers, or the equivalent of a quarter of the city of São Paulo. Two million people live there, making the strip one of the most populous places in the world. It is an overpopulated, impoverished territory, without access to the most basic infrastructures.
When Israel bombs Gaza, as it is now, there is nowhere to flee. Israel controls land borders to the north and east, while Egypt prevents passage to the south. In addition, Israel dominates air and land space, making Gaza under siege.
This is where, in recent days, a combination of planes and tanks has been bombing. At least 119 people were killed, including 31 children, according to information from the Gaza authorities. There are already 830 injured. The UN also estimates that more than 200 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza. A 12-story building collapsed.
With no means of leaving the territory, hundreds of people seek refuge in schools. Footage from Thursday evening (13) shows residents of Shejaiya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City fleeing their homes on foot, some of them carrying their children on their knees.
Israel justifies the attacks as a response to the more than 1,600 rockets that the radical Palestinian faction Hamas – which controls the Gaza Strip – has fired since the violence began this week. At night, the Tel Aviv sky was scarred by rockets, like a deadly meteor shower. According to Israeli officials, eight people have died in the country, including two children and a soldier. Its detractors, on the other hand, point out the disproportionate nature of the reprisals.
In addition to the disparity in military might, there is another explanation for the difference in the death toll in Gaza and Israel. Israel has a defense system known as the Iron Dome, which intercepts most of the missiles launched by Hamas. In addition, Israeli cities have shelters in residential buildings and public spaces. Alerted by sirens, the Israelis took refuge in these places. It is also a very dramatic situation, in particular for the communities close to the Gaza border, where the inhabitants have a few seconds to take refuge. Sirens traumatize children.
This wave of violence, which affects both sides, began with protests against the eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The situation worsened when Israeli security forces attacked protesters inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest mosque. The radical faction of Hamas, considered terrorist by the United States, has given Israel an ultimatum to withdraw its forces from Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa. With the Israeli refusal, Hamas began firing hundreds of rockets at the Tel Aviv area. This is what triggered the start of the Israeli bombing.
The fear is that the situation will deteriorate until it turns into another war, like the one in 2014, which left more than 2,000 dead. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said Hamas will “pay a high price” for its actions, indicating a continuation or worsening of the crisis. At the same time, the international community is reacting slowly. The UN Security Council is only due to meet on Sunday – and despite resistance from the United States, which was against it – to discuss the issue.
For those who are bombed, a minute late is already too late.