Empty streets and lowered curtains: As Islamic Jihad and Israel clash, Gaza feels like a ghost town and residents of the war-torn enclave feel like they are reliving the same scenes over and over again.
On Friday afternoon, as it does every week for the weekly day of rest, the Gaza Corniche, one of the few breaths of fresh air in the overcrowded territory, was still packed with people.
Less than 24 hours later, this long avenue along the Mediterranean Sea is deserted. The many cafes have closed their doors, the street vendors have stayed at home.
There isn’t a living soul in the city center either. The only inhabitants who venture outside their homes examine the damage of the raids, the broken glass on the ground and the scars of fires.
“We lived in peace and suddenly the bombardments began on Friday afternoon”, testifies Mohammed Hamami, 40, “taken by surprise” by the Israeli “aggression” on Gaza, a territory of 2.3 million inhabitants under strict Israeli blockade since 2007.
The Israeli army says it is carrying out a “preventive” operation in Gaza. It says it only targets Islamic Jihad, the territory’s second largest armed group after the ruling Hamas. Fifteen fighters were killed, according to Israel. Local authorities report 11 dead and more than 80 injured.
Among the victims, a five-year-old girl, Alaa Kaddoum. Her family buried her after the raid that targeted her residential neighborhood in Gaza, still wearing her matching pink T-shirt with the ribbon tangled in her curly hair.
“Enough, enough!” says Mr. Hamami. “We live in fear of the (Israeli) occupation. Every month or every year a war takes place,” he breathes, as Israel and armed groups in Gaza have waged four wars since 2007.
The last, in May 2021, left 260 dead in eleven days on the Palestinian side, including fighters, and 14 dead in Israel, including a soldier, according to local authorities.
“This last escalation brings back images of fear, anxiety, the feeling that we are alone”, explains Dounia Alamal Ismaïl, a resident of the city center who did not sleep a night because of the incessant noise. explosions and air raids.
“I hope that this escalation will not turn into a bigger confrontation and that Egyptian mediation will manage to restore calm,” she adds.
According to Egyptian sources, Cairo, a historical intermediary between Israel and the Palestinians, including the armed groups in Gaza, is trying to establish a mediation. But for the inhabitants on the ground, the hour is with the desolation.
In Jabalia, in the north of the enclave wedged between Egypt, the Mediterranean and Israel, Fouad Farajallah inspects his house. His living room has turned into a jumble of sheet metal and rubble, the fan still miraculously hangs on a piece of ceiling.
“I was sitting on the couch with my wife and children and suddenly everything fell apart,” he told AFP. “My wife’s hand was broken and my son was hit by shrapnel.”
And in the air, when silence seems to return between two shots, it is the constant whistling of the “zannana”, the Israeli drones which observe everything from the sky, which take over.