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Palestinian Territories

Living with fear in Gaza

The fighting between Hamas and Israel has been going on for a week, and in Gaza City, people are living with constant fear. Hardly anywhere is safe and all hopes are pinned on cease-fire talks.

Gaza is a ghost town. In the usually bustling city right on the Mediterranean, life stands still. The Oma Al-Mukthar Boulevard, usually alive with people, is empty. Most shops are closed and whoever doesn't absolutely have to go out, doesn't. The eerie silence is repeatedly shattered by loud detonations, usually followed ambulance sirens.

Like most people in the city, the Galadja familiy has no other option but to wait. In the living room they sit together.

"You can't sleep, you never feel safe," 16-year-old son Mohamed said. "I'm afraid the entire time."

Next year, Mohamed said he wants to finish school but this now seems a distant future, "How can study, in this situation."

"Night attacks are the worst"

The adults can only attempt to give the perception of safety.

"Of course I'm afraid, but I have to remain strong so that my children don't sense that," said Rana Galadja, who is seven months pregnant. "When they attack during the night it's the worst. It's just horrible."

An Israeli soldier evacuates a young girl (photo: DANNY SASSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The death toll in Gaza keeps rising as the international community is pushing for a ceasefire

The destruction of the city that just about recovered from the last war in 2008, can be witnessed everywhere. The police station, the interior ministry, the soccer stadium and many other places are in ruins. The Israeli military attacks Hamas structures and hopes to diminish their military resources.

Populated with some 1.6 million people, the violence also affect civilians in the densely populated Gaza Strip. As the number of casualties rises and negotiations over a cease-fire continue without results, people in Gaza have to fear that the number of people killed and injured will keep rising for days to come.

No shelters or bunkers

Asmaa Alghoul just returned to Gaza from a short journey to the United States. The mother of two is a blogger and activist. About a year ago, the actions of the group "Gaza Youth Breaks Out" made the headlines. The group of young people had fiercely criticized the Hamas government.

"We are like puppets in this conflict, it's really bad," Alghoul said. It's a very brutal war, she adds, and there are no bomb shelters or bunkers in Gaza. Then there is the general insecurity about how long the war will last.

Politically, Hamas benefits from the conflict, she added.

"Even people who don't stand behind Hamas, now realize that they have to stick together," Alghoul said. "Israel cannot simply resort to attacking Gaza and terrorizing the entire population."

Then there's another explosion that shakes the walls of the hotel. Shortly afterwards as hissing sound. Militants are firing off a rocket from the heart of a densely populated residential area. The militants too don't consider the civilian population. Because in return, Israel attacks the sites from where the rockets have been fired.

While the attacks continue, so do the efforts to broker a cease-fire. And when night falls, Mohamed Galadja is even more afraid than during the day.

"The Israelis are destroying everything," he said. "In this situation, how can I see a future?"

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