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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Worn-out Gazans fear war
By Katya Adler
BBC News, Beit Lahia, Gaza

Gaza damage
Gazans are waiting for the Israeli military to attack
Beit Lahia in northern Gaza is a poor, dusty and overcrowded town, like all communities in the Gaza Strip. Now it is preparing for war.

Battered-looking cars and donkeys pulling carts negotiate their way with difficulty around mounds of sand piled in the streets.

It is a miserable attempt by local residents to stop the most powerful army in the Middle East.

People here think it is just a matter of time before Israel's tanks come rolling in. They took up positions in southern Gaza earlier in the week.

Rafat al-Kilem, a shopkeeper in Beit Lahia told me he worries constantly about his wife and small children - so much so that he is moving out of their family home to his father's house in central Gaza.

Breaking point

People are jumpy and a bit bleary eyed in Gaza at the moment. They're not getting much sleep.

Israeli jets fly low over this narrow strip of land at night, causing sonic booms. They're not dangerous but they are petrifying, sounding like large explosions.

This is all part of Israel's campaign to pressurise Palestinian leaders - it wants its captured soldier back and for Palestinian militants to stop firing crudely-made rockets at Israeli towns - but to Gazans it feels like collective punishment.

boy and water
Sanctions against Palestine has led to shortages of basic goods

Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip. No food, bottled water or fuel supplies are coming in. There are frequent power cuts.

Israeli helicopter gunships took out Gaza' power station on Tuesday night. Shopkeepers here say they're selling-out of candles and batteries.

Israel has taken measures like these before and shortages were already widespread in Gaza before this week's incursion, though for different reasons.

Tough times

The international community turned off the donor tap in March after the militant Hamas movement formed the Palestinian government.

Now the situation here has undoubtedly got worse.

Israel says it is prepared for a sharp, severe and extended military campaign. There has been no bloodshed so far but armed Palestinian groups say they'll fight Israeli soldiers in the streets.

Gazan families worry about getting caught in the crossfire.

Most here say they support Sunday's attack on an Israeli military post by Palestinian militants but that they wish they hadn't brought a captive Israeli soldier - and all this trouble - back with them to Gaza.


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