Israel-Gaza conflict: One year on


Thursday is the first anniversary of the start of the eight-day conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence, which it says was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza, with the killing of a Hamas military leader. Israel subsequently carried out hundreds of air strikes on the territory, while Hamas and other groups fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

According to the United Nations, a total of 174 Palestinians were killed, at least 168 of them by Israeli military action, including 101 believed to have been civilians. Hamas' health ministry says 185 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Two Israeli soldiers and four Israeli civilians were killed by rocket or mortar fire from Gaza, the Israeli authorities say.

Here, residents of Gaza and southern Israel speak about their experiences during and after the conflict.

Abu Mohammed, hairdresser, Zeitoun, Gaza

At this time last year it was very difficult. Some of my worst memories are of seeing dead bodies being transported by donkey because ambulances couldn't reach the areas hit by Israeli air strikes.

Now it is calm, but the political and economic situation affects us.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt is closed. There are almost no goods coming from Egypt through the tunnels [under the border]. Gaza has almost no exports, and unemployment is high. This affects me because people spend little money and they don't come to me to get a haircut.

People in Gaza have got used to occasional air strikes. We expect another war or outbreak of violence at any time. When that happens, we know we must just try to look for a safe place to stay and protect our families.

Abu Youssef, shopkeeper, central Gaza

Last year, we saw sad times and we went through some very hard days, but in the end it wasn't as bad as the 2008-9 war.

It was strange, almost like a movie: a war that lasted just a week. We were left asking why and how it happened.

Now the security situation is fine. But a year on, our quality of life is going backwards.

We face the misery of lack of power. I can't run my generator because there is no fuel. Food gets ruined in the fridges. Children have no light to do their homework. It's all pressure and I feel angry that I can't find a solution for my family.

I don't think there will be another war at this stage, but I hope if Israel attacks us then Egypt will open up for us. The Egyptians won't reopen the smuggling tunnels but they could bring in humanitarian aid through the border crossing.

Salwa, mother of seven, Jabalya refugee camp

The most difficult times last year were fleeing the house during the explosions to look for a safe place to stay.

There is no security here in Gaza. In fact things go from bad to worse.

One year on from all the violence, prices are higher and we live through very difficult circumstances.

People expect another war and often talk about it. As soon as any fighting starts I plan to leave my house and go to a safer place again because my neighbourhood would be on the front-line if there was a ground operation.

At the same time, I pray that our political and economic situation will improve. If only the crossings would reopen fully and we had more trade, the young people could find jobs and we could live in stability like people in any country around the world.

Kobi Levy, Ashdod, southern Israel

We went through a tough time [last year] with rockets day and night. After four days we ran away to the north [of Israel] to a hotel.

I have three children. They were very scared. They weren't able to go outside and play because they had to stay at home near the shelter all the time.

I remember we heard a missile exploding above our house as we live near the Iron Dome [missile defence] battery. I remember the sirens. The children always remember.

Now it's very quiet in Ashdod, but I don't think it will last. I think that in a few months they will start shooting at us again. Nothing can be done to prevent it from happening. They will always find a reason to shoot at us because they don't want us here. It's quite simple.

Yerachmiel Simon, Kiryat Malachi, southern Israel

A rocket fell in my neighbourhood in the building next to where I used to live. My neighbours were killed. They were three people who I grew up with.

Afterwards, every siren scared me. Still today, wherever I am, especially if I'm in an open area, I think about where I will run if I hear a siren.

I don't feel so secure or confident any more. It's just a matter of time before another rocket falls and then it will be the same again - how many will die here? How many there?

Nothing has changed. The Palestinians hate us. They want to conquer us. Until that changes - and it never will - this will keep happening.

I don't see a solution right now. The method of giving away land and having talks isn't working and it never will. I think we have to be stronger. As soon as people attack us, we have to defend ourselves and fight back with all our power. That way they will think twice before attacking us again.

Beverly Jamil, travel agent, Ashkelon, southern Israel

At the travel agency we have no safe room, so [last year] we would come in and do what work we had to do very quickly and then leave. Our children were at home so we had to make sure they were looked after. I'm also a volunteer medic and ambulance driver so I was on call constantly.

Now it's quiet. I'm hoping it's going to last but it can easily go back to explosions and rockets. I want my children to grow up calm and happy, and it's the same for people living in Gaza.

I feel pretty safe, until the first siren goes off. I was in London in April and I was walking down Oxford Street and a police car went past with its siren blaring and I had to remind myself: "Wait a minute, I'm in England. This is not a code red siren telling me to take cover."

There isn't hope until things are sorted out properly and there's a final peace solution on the table. I can see things flaring up again. All you need is one rotten apple and it will ruin the whole barrel.

By Erica Chernofsky in southern Israel, and Hamada Abu-Qamar in Gaza