We Just Spoke to People in Israel and Palestine About the Gaza Crisis
Security forces from the Palestinian Authority look on as Palestinians protest the Israeli bombing of Gaza. The crowd gathered in Qalandia, the main checkpoint for people looking to pass from the West Bank into Israel.
As you may have read on VICE.com this morning, last night Israeli fighter jets rained down missiles upon Gaza. The assault came in retaliation to a week of rocket attacks on Israeli territory by Hamas, to which Israeli forces responded by assassinating the leader of Hamas's military wing, Ahmed al-Jabari, with a missile. The end result is that the Gaza Strip is likely to be plunged into war yet again, one that many other nations in the Middle East and beyond may find themselves getting dragged into. Since al-Jabari's assassination, another 300 missiles have been fired into Israel from Gaza and Israeli missiles continue to bombard the Strip.
Hamas have long held off firing on Tel Aviv, aware that to do so may provoke a full-scale war between Palestine and Israel. However, a couple of hours ago, air raid sirens sounded in the city for the first time in two decades, forcing residents to take cover as Palestinian militants tried to hit Tel Aviv with missiles fired from Gaza. It appears that the missiles missed Tel Aviv, one landing in the sea and another falling short just outside the city, but as of yet, no one's certain what effect that's going to have on the conflict. You struggle to imagine that it'd be a positive one.
VICE currently has film crews in both Tel Aviv and the Palestinian West Bank, so they put us in touch with sources in both places to find out exactly what's happening.
First up, an anonymous source in Tel Aviv, who spoke to us about the missile attacks that may or may not have been targeted at the city.
VICE: Does Tel Aviv feel like it’s under attack?
Anonymous source in Tel Aviv: It’s actually kind of fine here. We haven’t seen any damage, and when the press say “missile,” it’s not a missile, it’s really very crude. It’s not even a bomb; it’s something full of old bits of pipe and scaffolding that sort of falls and breaks. It will kill what it lands on, it might damage a house, but it’s not hugely dangerous. And they’re not targeted missiles, so they’re not very accurate either.
What’s the general mood on the street?
The attitude of the Israeli people seems to say: “Hamas think that’s gonna hurt us? They can’t touch us.” There’s actually a bit of Jewish pride and joviality about it, but mainly everyone’s been totally normal. There’s no hysteria, and whenever you ask people what’s going on, they’re just like “Look, they’re not really going to bomb Tel Aviv because Hamas knows that this is our Achilles' heel and that would be it; we’d fucking nuke them.”
OK, well the BBC says they just did, or at least appear to have tried to.
Yes, but no one in Tel Aviv is taking those ones seriously. Like I said, Israelis are laughing because of how crudely designed, inaccurate, and harmless they are. They're seen as pathetic, laughable, empty threats. That said, if they really start to cause damage then yes, the general opinion is that Israel will retaliate with a vengeance, AKA all-out war.
Jesus. Have you been told to go to a bomb shelter?
No, but if we do have to go to a bomb shelter, apparently there’s one about a minute-and-a-half away.
Have you seen more members of the Israel Defense Forces since the attacks?
No. The only IDF we have seen were just off-duty people, very casual, the girls have got their uniforms on with their handbags over it and stuff. Out of the IDF that we’ve seen, none of them have been engaged. You wouldn’t have known that there was anything going on, to be honest.
Do you think everybody’s so calm because they’re used to this kind of environment, or because they genuinely don’t feel threatened by Hamas?
Well that’s the thing, because they’re not used to it, and the last time anything like this happened was many years ago. So I don’t know, maybe people are a bit in denial, because they know that the rockets aren’t very effective. What’s clear is that they really believe the last thing that Hamas is actually going to do is fuck up Tel Aviv, because they know that that means out-and-out war.
How has it been over the past few days?
Last night when it was really kicking off, I sat outside a cafe and there were people smoking weed and cycling around on their bicycles with baskets full of grapefruits. Absolutely everything is carrying on as normal. Well, people are calling each other to make sure that everything’s OK, but that’s it. Of the rockets that came close-ish, one of them went into the sea and one of them landed in an undeveloped area. They’re not even explosive. We’ve been speaking to people about what they were going to do tonight. People still go out, the bars will still be open, clubs will still be full.
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An Israeli air strike hits the earth in Gaza
Next we spoke to an anonymous source in the West Bank, who told us about the protests that have sparked up there in the past couple of days.
VICE: Hey, what's happening over there? What are the repercussions of the Gaza attacks in the West Bank?
Anonymous source in the West Bank: We heard that everything had escalated in Gaza yesterday and that the Israelis were firing more regularly. The rockets kept coming in and people here in Ramallah felt the need to take to the streets, so a lot of people gathered in the main square and moved from there.
Where were they going?
They started chanting that they wanted to go all the way to Bethel, which is a settlement just outside Ramallah. On the way there, they were chanting that they want unity for the three factions in Palestine: Fatah, Hamas, and The Popular Front.
Who was marching?
Oh, it was everyone. Everyone was there together; men, women, the elderly, and children. It was quite fascinating to see everyone together like that on the streets. They kept walking towards Bethel and I didn't know what was going to happen. I was kind of scared, because I knew if people actually did reach Bethel they'd have been met with Israelis firing live ammunition at them.
They didn't make it there, though, right?
No, on the way—surely enough—the Palestinian Authority (PA) showed up like they always do, stopped the crowds, formed a line on the main road, and didn't let anyone pass. The crowd stuck around, though. They were shouting at the soldiers and trying to humiliate and shame them, asking them whose side they were on.
How did the soldiers react?
They kept quiet and let the people talk. It was non-violent: They didn't want to attack anyone and the crowd wasn't interested in starting a fight with the soldiers. They just wanted to discuss these issues —they wanted to feel that they have agency. They stayed there for three or four hours and you could see that the soldiers were being affected by it—getting embarrassed, almost—which was gratifying. Even the slightest sign that soldiers had been affected satisfied the people there. I was happy to see that and happy that no one got hurt.
What happened today?
Today we saw more people walking around and chanting, but you could hear the anger in their voices this time. They're fed up with how things are, so they were saying stuff like: "We hope those rockets hit Tel Aviv." And, you know, I can understand where they're coming from. The Israelis are taking really fierce measures and people in Gaza are suffering. There are a lot dead already and they don't want it to continue, so they're angry.
Do you think protests in the West Bank might get violent tomorrow, if this is the way people are going?
Well, we've heard that people have been preparing for tomorrow—laying tires and stuff—up by the main checkpoint already. The bigger protests normally happen on a Friday. After prayers, they go out, take to the streets, and march. Their destination tomorrow will be the main checkpoint, Qalandia. It's probably going to be violent, but no more so than other protests out here. People will throw some stones, then the Israeli police will attack with tear gas and rubber bullets. I don't think it'll go any further tomorrow—at least I hope it doesn't. But things don't look good, all-in-all: people are dying and it looks like there's a war coming.
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Our team out in the West Bank told me they're planning on leaving as early as possible in the morning, in order to avoid any potential troubles at the checkpoint. We'll see how they got on in the film they're making out there, set for release as soon as they can get home and edit it all together.
More on the Israel-Palestine conflict: