Violence in Gaza

Palestinians fired rockets and bombs into southern Israel. Israeli forces responded by firing on Gaza. MW �now the news reports make it sound like a warzone. What's it really like there?� QL �it's relatively quiet during the day. The economic situation is such that many people are in doors, shops are shut, there are also several days mourning declared because of the attacks that started on Tuesday. Just after night fell here I heard scattered gunfire. It's hard always to say whether that could be fighting between Fatah and Hamas factions between the Palestinian side or whether it could possibly be the beginning of an Israeli incursion. Listening across to the Hamas security radio frequency you hear them discussing things and possible missiles coming in to hit them. I've seen unmanned drone plans flying over, Israeli planes, so people are tense but it doesn't feel like an active battlezone most of the time.� MW �why are the Palestinians staging these attacks in Israel? They're actually pretty ineffective and provoke some pretty serious retaliation.� QL �I've been asking that question of people. These mortars almost always miss, these Kasam rockets have landed in city centers but very rarely do more than cause people to become pretty frightened. As a strategic decision it doesn't have to seem much value. The answer I've gotten really is that people here in Gaza feel under siege, they feel very angry about the Israeli incursions which of course cause a lot more fatalities than their rockets and they're striking back with the only thing they have on hand which are these homemade rockets. The factions here probably have more effective weapons. Every once in a while, a Katusha, which is a much more long range, will come out of the Gaza Strip. But at the moment and recently, until the last couple of days, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, had been holding back. in the last few days after their leader's son was killed, the second son to be killed in this fighting, they started launching these rockets and mortars.� MW �is that to say that if Hamas wanted to it could throw the switch on these rocket attacks and just stop them?� QL �That's not completely clear either. Islamic Jihad, another more militant faction here in Gaza, fires a lot of them. Hamas itself has more militant members and more moderate members, it's not clear they could completely halt them. The problem is on their side, they'll say that we've halted or close enough to halted. One Hamas representative said to me the other day, we've stopped the rockets, we've only been firing mortars, as if this were going to somehow convince the Israelis that they meant peace. On the Israeli side, the government knows that these rockets don't do much damage but it's intolerable to the government of Israel that these rockets should be fired. And of course there was sniper fire out of here early in the week that killed an Ecuadorian visitor to Israel.� MW �what is the experience like for you just being in Gaza? I hear just even getting into Gaza sounds pretty surreal.� QL �getting into Gaza involves a lot of turnstyles and automated gates. On the Israeli side, it involves a huge border crossing, like you might find crossing a huge entryway from Canada to the US or from Mexico to the US. it's very slick and it's very new, in the last two years. And then you step across into a long corral, a maze of covered walkways that used to be full of people trying to gain access into Israel. People for business or family reasons crossing. Now it's mostly empty and you walk through a long concrete corridor. There's nothing on the other side, there's no Palestinian post to receive you and you step out into a wasted land. the other day when I crossed, there were Palestinians still out in the wreckage from the recent violence here and the violence going back to the Israeli withdrawal in 2005. They were inside the ruins with sledgehammers beating the concrete to find the reinforcing wire which they can salvage literally for pennies a pound. And they're also risking their lives to do it, they go into a no man's land to get these scraps and quite often the Israelis will shoot at them if they get too close to the border.� MW �So what's that done to the Palestinians' morale who walk that gauntlet every day?� QL �well no one's walking through there at the moment, almost no one is getting in or out. There are a couple hundred businessmen who have permission to go across, some politicians can cross. But regular Palestinians, no one is getting out, so it's empty there right now and Gazans feel trapped. You talk to people who say they haven't left in two years. It's a very small strip of land. it's one of the most populated, most densely populated, if not the most densely populated on earth and you can feel the siege mentality. People say they're living in a prison.�