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Grieving Palestinians struggle on

The funerals of the five Baloosha siblings, 29 December 2008
Five sisters were killed when the Jabaliya camp was hit

By Hamada Abu Qammar
BBC News, Gaza City

"I was sleeping with my sisters and suddenly I woke up," Reem Baloosha, 13, told me, describing the night two days ago when her five sisters were killed in an Israeli air strike.

"I found myself under the rubble, the stones were crushing me. I looked around, my sister was under the rubble, she was dead."

I visited the family in Jabaliya refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip.

The whole house is a pile of rubble. There is nothing but dust and stones, with a few girls' clothes and school books.

The parents do not even have photos of their dead daughters, all their pictures were lost under the rubble.

Their father, Anwar, was sitting in a mourning tent. Their mother is in total shock. She is barely conscious. They seem to be too shocked even to cry.

A destroyed building in Jabaliya camp, 29 December 2008
Buildings were reduced to rubble in the Jabaliya camp

"If they were making rockets, I wouldn't be sad like this, but they were waiting for electricity, to study for their exams. I have eight daughters, five of them have been killed," Mr Baloosha told me.

People in Shifa hospital in Gaza City are in real misery too.

There are lots of young people who are injured, people who have lost parts of their arms or legs, or who are hooked up to drips and tubes and cannot be moved from intensive care.

Hundreds of people are coming to visit their relatives. Some of them stay in the hospital overnight, sleeping on the floor, or on chairs, or they just don't sleep.

If you look at their eyes, you can see they haven't slept for days.

Last night it was really cold, and there was heavy rain in Gaza City. Some of the hospital windows were damaged and have been covered with plastic, sheets or just left open.

There is no heating. The staff just cover the patients with sheets and blankets.

We have never seen a situation like this, in all the history of Palestinians
Mostaja Abbas
Gaza resident
I have also been to the west of the city. There was a huge queue outside one of the bakeries - children, men and old women were all standing outside waiting for bread.

Some humanitarian aid has been coming into Gaza, but many people do not have flour or cooking gas in their homes to make bread.

Hossein Saad, 56, told me that a few years ago he used to work in Israel, but now he has no job to earn money to provide for the 13 people in his house.

"I don't have flour or gas, I don't have anything in the house," he said.

"Before you ask about what there is to buy in Gaza, you have to ask whether people have money or not to buy anything," he said.

Hossein Saad, Palestinian resident
Hossein Saad says he has no money to provide for the 13 people in his home
This morning I went out into Gaza City's central square, which is usually really crowded with people and cars from all over Gaza. It was very quiet.

There were just a few stalls selling canned meat and cheese, and gasoline lamps.

Mostaja Abbas, 55, who came to buy a new wick for his lamp, said 12 members of his family had spent the past few days squashed into one room.

"We think it's the safest area, far from windows," he said.

"We have never seen a situation like this, in all the history of Palestinians," he said.

Ayman Atalla, 38, a father of three, said he was afraid to be in the streets.

"For days I didn't go out. We can't guarantee where the next strike could be - I could be caught in one."

He said he had been telling his children it was raining during yesterday's bombing raids.

"I was telling them this is thunder, don't worry, don't be afraid," he said.

Israel is not currently permitting international journalists to cross into Gaza.



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