Yasser Abu Moailek's Letter From Gaza
Three Years On, Israeli Soldiers Still Occupy Gaza Family's Home
Yasser Abu Moailek's Letter From Gaza
For Nafez Abu Nahyeh, the imminent Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is his only chance at regaining his former normal life, one in which he did not have to share his home with the enemy.
Every morning Abu Nahyeh wakes up from a disturbed sleep, as he is reminded of the fact that, for more than three years now, he and his family have always begun the day to the accompaniment of the thuds and rumblings of the Israeli soldiers who occupy their house's rooftop.
"I dream about their disappearance every single day, but when I wake up they're still there, enforcing their positions more than ever. And I know that the nightmare goes on," he said grimly.
On March 6, 2002, Israeli forces seized Abu Nahyeh's 300-square-meter, three-storey house, in which he, his wife and their four children live near the central Gaza Strip town of Deir El Balah.
The soldiers transformed the house into a military outpost, claiming that this measure was necessary to ensure security for the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, approximately 500 meters north of the house.
Abu Nahyeh cannot even begin to imagine that the nearby settlement will soon be evacuated and that the Israeli occupation of Gaza is about to end.
"Only a few days ago [the soldiers] opened big holes in my roof and brought in more heavy guns," he said wearily. "When I asked them what they were doing they ordered me to shut up and go away."
The Abu Nahyehs are prisoners in their own home as the Israeli soldiers do not allow them to leave the house all at once, demanding the presence of at least two residents when someone wants to leave. Neither is the family allowed to go up to the roof without coordinating with the soldiers and obtaining their approval.
In addition, the Abu Nahyehs have been denied access to their nearby agricultural land, because of its proximity to the settlement, and are thus deprived of a significant source of livelihood.
"With every passing day that they occupy the house, I lose hope in the withdrawal. I want them to go away and leave us alone," Abu Nahyeh said, adding that he missed having a normal home life, free of military orders and random gunshots.
"We cannot invite guests to our home anymore and we cannot participate in social events as a family, as some of us always need to stay home to comply with the Israeli orders, and we are also not allowed into the house if we return late at night." Abu Nahyeh said.
Life in the house is also constantly being interrupted by the noise and movements of the heavily armed Israeli soldiers, who use the same staircase the family uses when they go out of the house or change shifts.
Describing their situation as "living in a border crossing", Abu Nahyeh explained that the Israeli soldiers open the house's door for the family members when they return "home", and search all their personal belongings and the things they bring back with them.
"If a guest decides to visit us, we have to inform the soldiers of his name and ID card, and when he arrives, he must undergo a thorough security search, as if he were passing through a military checkpoint," Abu Nahyeh said.
Due to these measures many of the family's friends and relatives have stopped visiting and the family itself has stopped receiving invitations to attend social events, "because either they know we won't be able to attend or there's no one willing to venture into our area to deliver the invitation".
Abu Nahyeh used to own and operate a currency-exchange shop in Deir El Balah, but after the occupation of his house and the strict measures imposed upon his movements, he was obliged to close the shop, incurring immense losses and falling into dire economic conditions.
As a matter of fact, the Abu Nahyeh's situation, while sounding surreal, is actually not such a rare occurrence in the Gaza Strip. The presence of several Palestinian houses around the 21 Jewish settlements throughout the Strip has prompted Israeli forces to either demolish or commandeer these houses and turn them into "free-of-charge" outposts, under security pretenses.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza has asserted that occupying these houses and forcing some residents to stay inside at all times aims to create "human shields" for the occupying soldiers, thereby preventing Palestinian militants from targeting the house due the presence of civilians inside at all times.
With the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza just a couple of weeks away, Abu Nahyeh dares to hope for an end to his nightmare.
"I always feed the hope inside me with the notion that this occupation is ending, sooner or later, and that my family and I will return to our previous life - to the happiness and security we yearn for with every sunrise."