GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories – Gazan teenager Mohammed Najib said on Friday that Israel’s bombardment of the coastal enclave and the barrages of rockets unleashed by Palestinian armed groups was like “watching a horror movie”.
Najib, 16, has had a frontline view of the battles raging since Monday from his family home in Rimal, a neighbourhood close to the centre of Gaza City.
Fireballs have lit up the night sky over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as Israel and Palestinian armed groups battle, with tower buildings levelled in massive Israeli air strikes.
One of the targets was the 14-storey Al Shuruq building, not far from Najib’s home.
“It was horrifying” to see it collapse on Wednesday, Najib said.
“This crazy bombardment is like an electronic video game, it’s like watching a horror movie,” he said.
Najib said he was just “a child” during the last large-scale confrontation between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups in 2014.
“We used to hide under the staircase when there was bombardment but now… there is no place to hide.”
Now, he is even afraid to go to the bathroom in case the bombardment starts. “I’m afraid of dying inside the bathroom,” he said.
Since Monday, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, pounded it with hundreds of mortar rounds and massed troops around the enclave ready for a possible ground offensive.
Palestinian armed groups have launched more than 2,000 rockets at Israeli cities and towns from Gaza.
At least 122 people have been killed in the densely-populated coastal enclave, and nine on the Israeli side.
Among those killed in Gaza were several Hamas leaders but the Palestinian Islamist group has remained defiant.
‘Terrified of the night’
Najib’s fears are shared by young and old in Gaza.
“I used to like to stay up at night, but now I hate it,” because that is when Israeli air strikes pound Gaza and Palestinian militants fire rockets, said Dima Tallal, 17.
“The last four days I hardly slept, I am terrified like never before,” she added.
The escalation was triggered by a weekend of unrest at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
The unrest, in which riot police repeatedly clashed with Palestinians, was driven by anger over the looming evictions of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
The violence has marred celebrations for Eid Al Fitr which started on Thursday, marking the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Families usually gather to share huge meals while children and young people receive new clothes and gifts for Eid after a month of sacrifices.
Ahmad Fatoum, 16, said this Eid “was sad”.
“We don’t deserve this. Israel is destroying homes and towers. Our fields where we grow grapes and figs were shelled and our house shook as if it had been struck by an earthquake,” he said.
‘It’s a real war’
His grandmother, Umm Jalal, 76, said she had lived through many conflicts. But “this is the most violent bombardment ever”, she said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Netanyahu is a criminal because he is killing children and destroying their homes,” she protested.
The Gaza death toll includes 31 children, according to Hamas authorities.
Thursday night was one of the most violent, said Jassar Fayyad, a young man whose Gaza home has been reduced to rubble in an Israeli raid.
“We heard explosions… They hit 10 consecutive times without warning… [and] the power went out,” he said.
Fayyad, who wore a bloodied T-shirt, said four family members were wounded, some severely, including his father “who lost both of his feet”.
“This is not an escalation, this is a real war,” said the teenager.
By Adel Zaanoun