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Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Eyewitness: 'We live with worry'

BBC journalist and Gaza resident Hamada Abu Qammar reports from Gaza as Israeli ground forces clash with Hamas fighters:

Smoke caused by explosions over Gaza City - 04/01/09
There is a constant din of warfare

Last night where I live, in the central part of the Gaza Strip, we could hear bombing, artillery fire and also shooting from helicopters.

I was watching from the top of my brother's house. It was terrifying. I also went out into the streets in our area. It was virtually empty of people.

We are worried about air strikes, particularly because the Israelis have warned a family near us that they are planning to destroy their house.

People here were shocked, panicked and terrified from the first air strikes a week ago.

Now some of them are evacuating their houses, not just in the north, but in other places too if they live near to Hamas compounds or mosques.

I've seen some of them moving, they usually go to relatives and neighbours.

Smoke cover

I just spoke to one of my cousins. He lives 200-300m (300 yards) from Jebaliya refugee camp. He said there are many militants on the ground, ready to exchange fire with the troops who are not far away on Salahuddin Road, the main north-south road.

He said the militants were making a lot of smoke to cover their movements.

I have been trying to stop my children crying - I try to keep them playing

He said there were snipers, special forces and Israeli tanks, near the most densely populated camp in the Gaza Strip.

If they enter the camp, people there are really worried the situation will deteriorate even more.

He has two children and there are more than 15 people staying in the house. They have one small bedroom and they are all staying in there, trying to keep themselves safe. They are very afraid.

Another of my cousins also lives in the camp. One of the neighbours heard on local radio that he had been killed, but I couldn't confirm it because I couldn't reach them.

A lot of the phones, especially in the north, are not working. It's a very difficult situation, but what can we do? I can't even go to the BBC office, the Israeli troops have divided the Gaza Strip.

These things will make life very difficult for families in Gaza, especially if they are trying to keep in touch with each other.

We live with worry. The whole of last night, there was no way to sleep under the bombardment and there was no way to contact our relatives. I have two sisters in Jebaliya refugee camp, and they too are trying to evacuate their house.

I have been trying to stop my children crying. I try to keep them playing, I am with them now. I just want them to ignore what's going on around them. They slept some of the night, but the sounds of the bombardment keep waking them up.

I told him it was far away - but even now my son is telling me he can see two helicopters above us. He is six. He knows the difference between helicopters, drones, F16s... all of them.

Israel is not currently permitting international journalists to cross into Gaza

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