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January 9th, 2009
09:47 AM ET

We Are the Lucky Ones

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/08/osama.damo.gaza.save.jpg caption="Osama Damo, deputy Gaza program manager for Save the Children"]

Editor’s Note: Osama Damo is deputy Gaza program manager for Save the Children. He and his wife have been displaced twice since the conflict began; their apartment has suffered damage in the fighting. Currently they are living in a three-bedroom apartment in Gaza City with their two children and 13 other members of their extended family, including four children ages 7, 3, 18-months and 10-months-old.

Osama Damo
Save the Children, Gaza

Tuesday we had artillery tank fire in the area. It was one of our worst days. You can’t describe the noise, the fear inside of you. And the children are screaming.

You don’t know what to do. Do you stay? Do you try to leave and find somewhere safe? Is there any safe place? Can you protect everyone? Anyone? Everyone has a different idea about what to do — some grabbing belongings and preparing to run, others yelling that we have to remain.

Your mind stops working. But in the end, we are paralyzed.

The whole situation in the house is deteriorating. We cannot sleep at night — bombs shake the building. The children are upset all day long, and their mothers are doing what they can to comfort them. When there is an explosion, they say, "Don’t worry. It’s just a birthday bomb. People are celebrating."

We have run out of drinking water but are fairly certain that we can get more from aid organizations that deliver water to local shelters whenever possible.

Under normal circumstances, water trucks move through the streets and sell water to local residents. Nearly 80 percent of all tap water isn't safe - according to World Health Organization (WHO) standards. And right now, one-third of the Gaza population has no access to water and is reliant on humanitarian aid deliveries.

We are in a very lucky home. In other places, the story is darker, much darker. Others are sitting in the dark, frightened, with nothing to eat or drink, and in harm’s way with no one to help. At least we still have food. Our family is safe. When one of the children became ill, we were able to find a doctor and get medicine. And my wife and I both work for international organizations that are doing what they can to take care of us.

We are the lucky ones.


Filed under: Crisis in Gaza
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Mark

    The actions of israel are hard to understand. If you beleive Israel's interest are with protecting their citizens, their moves are mind bogling. When you accept that the leaders of israel care more about their hatred of muslim people then the saftey of their own people, every action by Israel makes sense. They try to accelerate the conflict while appearing as innocent as possible. They asked the U.S. permision to use Iraq airspace to drop bombs in Iran. They know a move like that would bring the entire region to a full out war. That could not possible be in the best interest of innocent lives on either side of the conflict.

    We all know that the leaders of palistine act with hate. But so do those in Israel. The only difference is, Israel has more money, military and leverage with the international world.

    January 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  2. Michael

    there is action and reaction!
    if you slap me i slap you! – violence and more violence continous to a bitter end for both sides. hamas are a terrorist-organization; no question!

    the weapons of hamas is not the same caliber as that of israels army.
    how do you explain that all of these children-civilians killing (now more than 800?) and bombing a un-school, damaged buildings used by one of red cross partners and bomb some ambulances...

    as a christian, i’m ashamed by the fact, the world do nothing to stop this horrible war...

    greetings from switzerland

    January 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  3. Karen D

    Hamas was firing rockets ( mostly pretty useless homemade things) into southern Isreal because Isreal has had them under a 18 month economic stranglehold. And yes, to the lady in Georgia they did smuggle in food and medicine but that is pretty hard to do in dirt tunnels for 1.5 million people. We all should be asking why Isreal has bared foreign journalists into Gaza except for a few especially given a tour by the Isreali army..... might it be to try to hise Isreali war crimes?

    January 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  4. Donald

    Two sides are at war.
    The war was started by Hamas firing rockets.
    Wars end when one side wins.
    When Japan attaked America, the United States demanded total surrender. We fire bombed Tokyo, we nuked cities until the Japanese turned over the total control of thier country.
    Israel is just asking Hamas to quit lobbing over some cheap made rockets.
    It could be a lot worse for the people of Gaza.
    Maybe next time Hamas security forces can try to prevent the rocket crews instead of cheering them on.

    January 11, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  5. Eran

    @Dawn

    During the truce there was a single Israeli military action to destroy a tunnel with no one getting killed on either side.

    Please, Dawn, if your argument is that Hamas said... then please let it go.

    January 10, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  6. Steve G

    You should immediately tell your local Hamas representative (he's the one in the mask firing at Israelis from below your balcony), that he and his friends should:
    1)recognize the right of Israel to exist
    2)quit threatening to murder every Jew on Earth
    3)stop firing rockets at equally vulnerable children in Israel.

    Then you will have quiet, safety, good food, jobs and not have to live under the guns of violent Sharia terrorists.

    January 10, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  7. Maxim G.

    I think what people need to understand is that this is pure hatred on both sides. For an example, a couple of years ago, my mom who is Jewish was talking to one of her co-workers who is Muslim, and the man said that they can be friends in the United States, but if they were in the Middle East they would be enemies. If you know your history, this hatred goes back at least 2000 years. When the citizens choose President Bush as our leader, we took his accomplishments as long as with his mistakes on to our shoulders. There are plenty of countries that are not happy with the United States. When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001 it responded with a war against Iraq and Afghanistan. As many people know there was another agenda for the United States into attacking Iraq, however the attack on Afghanistan was specifically aimed at Al-Quaida, the terrorist group responsible for attacks on September 11, 2001. No one stopped the United States from responding. In this case, Israel has been living under the sound of sirens, their eldest children are taught to use their bodies as shields to protect the young. Hamas was elected to represent the Palestinians in Gaza by the Palestinian people. Now they suffer under Hamas rule, and they try to put blame on others. They chose that group because they want Israel wiped out as much as Hamas, and some of those so called "innocent" people are helping Hamas. It's intersting to see that when women and children are used as suicide bombers, no one says they feel bad. Does anyone in the Middle East feel bad that they children are used this way, or do they accept it? Are they proud of their children? When a country protects itself and innocent people die, people say thats horrible, but when a country allows children to be suicide bombers, thats accepted? What about the hatred that is taught in some of these schools by Hamas? What about the families that are forced to be suicide bombers by Hamas? Do people know that if a family member refuses Hamas, the whole family is killed. That to me more sounds like 1945 Germany, or any other Nazi occupied area. The hatred is deep, it needs to be washed out, but the only way to start this process is wiping out Hamas.

    January 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  8. Maggy

    Cindy and Sam are absolutely correct. Sadly for the Palestinians, they have had one "leader" after another that was nore concerned with stealing humanitarian funds meant for infrastructure, food and medical supplies and using it for personal gain or weapons. No one wishes this kind of misery on the innocents, but if those same people have not risen up an objected to their "leaders" inflicting terror on the innocent citizens of Israel, are they really innocent. Where was the outcry from other governments, from people like Mr. Damo when children in Sderot were awakened night after night to the sound of air raid sirens and rushed into safe rooms (or forced to sleep in shelters for the night). Do you think that these children do not suffer and that their mothers do not try to comfort them? I don't remember the president of France rushing to the middle east to save those children. And I don't recall seeing a daily barrage of photos showing the rockets or the damaged buildings in Israel or pictures of those who have been hit by those rockets.

    How quickly we forget that when there were fewer checkpoints and no wall, there were dead children blown up on buses on their way to school or the families who buried the children whose wedding turned into carnage when one of the innocents strapped on a bomb and blew up the restaurant. Or the Seder that turned into a hell on earth when another bomber chose that nonmilitary target to carry out his "innocent" plan. When we count the victims, we should be very careful and when we point fingers, we should know the facts.

    January 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  9. Vicky, Ottawa, ON

    Osama, Thank you for your work with Save the Children in such a difficult setting. I regret that it has put you and your family, especially your children, in harm's way. Your ability to maintain a thankful perspective in such a dangerous situation is remarkable. I think your story speaks to the trauma and fear experienced in both Israel and Gaza, though those of you in Gaza are additionally living with limited resources. I hope and pray that peace comes soon for both sides, and that children in both Gaza and Israel will be able to grow up in a region where there is more safety and stability.

    January 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  10. Alan

    For Cindy,
    Let's see if you can look at the situation from another point of view. You live in Georgia, but because of all the Jewish people who were killed in World War II, we took your property in Georgia and forcefully moved you to a reservation in Mississippi. You have no right to leave without the permission of the people who forced you out. I suppose you would just say, "Oh well, there's nothing I can do except this form of slavery, because if I don't, I'll be a "terrorist". As I look back on the history of the world, only one rule holds true as to who, in the end, will win or lose; it is always the side that is morally right that wins in the end. Unfortunately, I will probably not live to see who that may be, but if I was going to bet, I would put my money on Palestine.

    January 9, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  11. Zoe

    We recognize now the ineffectiveness of the U.N. and one wonders why we subsidize it.???

    We recognize that Israel holds itself immune to Red Cross Censure and also defiant to the demand for free press coverage, for what is now quite clealry a war on Gazans, for Israeli political purposes...Who is to be the most agressive top dog ...Why no press? Isn't that obvious?

    With drones and ultra-superior equipment paid for by the American Government wallet. It is essentially, allowing and accomplice to a genocide.

    This aggression by Israel is way beyond what is a reasonable
    response... and the world knows it and sees it. This action will place American and American interests at greater risk as it solidifies the world of
    Islam.

    Israel is bombing, starving and denying aid to women, children and others with indifference and impunity.

    We need the US government to call it what it is and stop worrying about future voting blocs. There are many ways to a two country solutions...Murdering huge groups of human beings en masse....isn't one of them.

    January 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  12. Dawn

    To Cindy ...
    Again the other side of the story which is Hamas said that during the truce the IDF went inside Gaza several times and killed 40 Palestinians which prompted the rocket attacks.

    The anxiety and fear that you speak of is exaggerated and minimal when compared to what the Gazans have been going through for the past 18 months not to mention the last 14 days.

    According to your scenario, if Al-Qaeda relocated to Mexico and started launching homemade rockets into Texas, Would the us punish all the people of Mexico because of that? Would the US bomb schools, shelters, churches and temples in Mexico? It's not 1945 anymore cindy.

    And regarding the rockets i'm really baffled. With all the technology that Israel has, it still cannot detect the location where the rockets are being launched from?
    Even without technology, with a simple projectile equation given the speed and the point of landing a physics undergrad can determine the location of launching with acceptable error margin.

    Just remember that Gaza has 1.6 million people, ignore the fact that they are Palestinians, and that half of the population are children, remember that those are the ones who are being killed and not the militants, and that's according to the Red Cross and the UN agencies.

    January 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  13. Christina

    I agree with Cindy!

    January 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  14. Cindy

    @ Dawn...the point is that the Hamas rockets are meant to cause fear and anxiety to the Israeli people and if it kills or harms anyone that is a plus.

    So just because they don't kill anyone does that mean Israel should just sit back and take it? Would the U.S. sit back and take it if al-qaeda moved into Mexico and lobbed homemade bombs into Texas? Come on...we all know that answer. So why should it be any different for Israel. They are protecting their people just like we would be.

    Cindy...Ga.

    January 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  15. Dawn

    Cindy & Sam what you're saying is the one sided propaganda that they feed us here. During the truce the IDF killed 40 Palestinians inside Gaza, however we'll never hear that side of the story. The rockets, the premitive ( more like fireworks) than rockets that you said hamas launched how many Israelis did it kill?? None.
    During this offensive 765 Palestininans were killed half of which are civilians. Can you with all honesty say that this is all Hamas's fault?
    The bombing of the school is Hamas's fault?
    The bombing of the mosques while people are playing?
    The bombing of UN aid trucks?
    The bombing of five ambulances?
    Give me a break!!!

    January 9, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  16. Cindy

    @ sam...Hamas built the tunnels to smuggle in arms and other weapons not to try to fix the country. And if they truly wanted to help their country and fix the water system well they had six months of a cease fire in which Hamas did absolutely nothing to help the citizens of Gaza! If they can get weapons then they can get aid...did they!? NOPE!!

    Cindy...Ga.

    January 9, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  17. sam

    Osama may god be with you and your family .

    i think osama i have to respond to cindy , my dear friend cindy you need to check your facts first . The water system you are talking about can be fixed , if israel stop boming the system , also Hamas was elected by the people to govern , but Israel and united stated didnt like the result so they blocked the incoming funds to that goverment , they controlled the water the electricty and the air space . so i think under these conditions no goverment in the world can run a country . Hamas tried to run the country by through the tunnles to allow goods and money .

    January 9, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  18. Kathleen

    I have to agree with Cindy. This is a terrible thing for you and my heart goes out to you, but you have to put the blame on Hamas. They are the ones disregarding international law and placing rockets and weapons in homes, schools, and Mosques. People need to rise up against Hamas and elect a govt that will abide by peace agreements.

    January 9, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  19. Cindy

    Osama,
    Sorry to hear of your plight. But it is Hamas' fault that this fighting is going on. The are the ones that kept bombing Israel until they retaliated. And if they truly cared about their people they would have done something to fix the water system that you can't drink from. Obviously they don't care enough too!

    I feel sorry for you all that are stuck there and hope that you stay safe and sound and that the fighting ends soon.

    Cindy...Ga.

    January 9, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  20. May L.-Tennessee

    I would encourage anyone of us here in the US to read this article the next time we complain about how tough things are here. Granted, many of us are barely scraping by fiancially and there are many worries for all of us, but we should be very thankful we do not have to spend our days running for cover and wondering as each day dawns if it will be our last.

    January 9, 2009 at 10:12 am |