Blogging Gaza

As the Israeli offensive on Gaza continues into its third week, residents of the Strip and activists working in the territory are increasingly telling their accounts of the war on the blogosphere. With limited media coverage coming from the streets of Gaza, these blog contributors are redefining war zone reportage.
Blogs like Gaza08 are telling personal stories often lost in the death toll numbers.

BEIRUT, January 12, 2009 (MENASSAT) — "In my house we can't get basic needs. No food. No bread. No fuel.  …..There is no safe place we can go. We cannot communicate with our relatives and friends—networks are down as missiles rain on our homes, mosques and even hospitals. Our life is centered around the burials of those who have died, our martyrs. At night our camp, teh Jabalya refugee camp, is a ghost town, with no sounds other than those of Israeli military aircraft."

These are the words of Mohammed Fares Al Majdalawi, a student and aspiring filmmaker living in Gaza with his family. His story, "Gazans are living in a river of blood," was recently featured on the blog Notes from Palestine,  an online platform where the staff of the NGO Middle East Children's Alliance in Palestine share their stories.

"Am I dead? I ask myself

Despite the ongoing military offensive and the little or no electricity in Gaza, an increasing number of residents, NGO workers, and activists in Gaza have turned to the Internet to get their message out.

On Moments of Gaza, a group of activists and human rights workers, many of them affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, are blogging the crisis around the clock.

One of the contributors is 21-year-old rights activist Natalie Abou Shakra from Lebanon. In December last year, she defied her country's travel ban and arrived in Gaza on a humanitarian aid ship—just a week before the beginning of the Israeli offensive.

[MENASSAT's Olfat Haddad in Gaza interviewed Abou Shakra upon her arrival in the strip.]

Since then, Abou Shakra has been blogging her experiences of the war on Moments of Gaza.

On January 10, she wrote: "As I left, Sitt Wafaa gave me some bread to take with me to eat… I go outside, and "BOMB"… I fly… They bombed the adjacent building… I shield myself from dust… the ringing in my ears is deafening… dust covers my hair… I hear Sitt Wafaa scream my name… Am I dead, I ask myself? No, I can still smell my dirty clothes… I am alive… and the smell of dirt if wonderful… I am alive…"

For the past few weeks Gaza has had very little electricity and many households are reported to be without water and gas in the cold of winter. On January 10, Said Abdelwahed, Professor at the English department at Gaza's Al-Azhar University, was able to enjoy a moment of excitement over the sudden return of electricity to his home—even as the Israeli fighter jets buzzed above them.

"My family and I have been surprised by the electric power for the first time after 15 days of utter darkness! It was a moment of excitement for the children. Now they are not scared though aircrafts are over us! Also, we can watch some TV channels but others are jammed," wrote Abdelwahed.

"Dead bodies that no one can get to"

But the joy was short-lived. On January 12, Abdelwahed wrote that a children's hospital to the east of Gaza was targeted the day before as well as another UNRWA-run school.

He also claimed that there are piles of bodies lying around in Gaza that no one can access because of Israel's control of the area.

"Seven people have been reported dead today! The toll has exceeded 900 and what has not been mentioned in the official reports and the media is that there are dead bodies in the outskirts of Gaza but no one can reach them as they are in areas controlled by the Israeli army!" he wrote.

Peaceman and Hopeman

Three weeks into the war, Israeli blogger Hopeman in Sderot does not talk much anymore to his blogging partner Peaceman, who lives less than a mile away from him in the Sajaia refugee camp in Gaza.

For the past year, the two have been running the blog Life must go on in Sderot and Gaza, on which they share their stories about their lives in two places so near in distance but yet so far from one another in reality.

Since the beginning of the offensive on Gaza, less and less has been heard from Peaceman.  And Hopeman is worried.

"Peaceman and I have been in very little contact since. He is out of electricity 99% of the time and cannot charge his cell phone. Added to that is the fact that reception of cell phones from Gaza is almost nil. He has to be in a high and exposed place to talk. This endangers him so we have had very little contact," he wrote.

After a six-day long silence, Peaceman finally reappeared on January 7. He had been without power for almost a week.

"It is hard to describe what is going on in Gaza, a terrible disaster, where the aircraft do not distinguish between civilians and military and children, no water, electricity. We didn't have electricity since 6 days, and today was the first day to have it, that's why I have chance to write this quickly," Peaceman wrote on the blog.

In the same post, Peaceman echoed what almost every Gaza blog demands: an immediate halt to all military action in Gaza and a better humanitarian situation for the people of Gaza.

"We have said from the beginning that violence will bring more violence. I hope the world will understand that there are people want to live safe with dignity and peace. I hope I will have the chance to write you again."

Other Gaza blogs:

From Gaza,with love

In Gaza

Raising Yousuf and Nour: diary of a Palestinian mother

Gaza strip under Fire/ Sunshine

Apart from the blogs, a number of Gaza-related channels have been set up at the micro blogging site Twitter.