Gaza Awareness Event in Southport

Southport and Formby Friends of Palestine were in Chapel Street on Sunday, to spread awareness of the tragic situation in Gaza. A stall was set up with written information for people to take away. Leaflets for the emergency appeal for Gaza from the charity, ‘Medical Aid for Palestine’ were handed out as well as a factsheet on Gaza.

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Peter Reilly, former teacher at Christ the King school, who helped organise the event, stated, “Some of the information leaflets were to counter Israeli propaganda echoed by the main stream media, such as the claim that current conflict had been started by Hamas firing rockets into Israel, whereas Hamas fired those rockets in revenge for Israeli air strikes which killed and wounded Palestinians several hours earlier”. He added, “The media has also stubbornly failed to report the context of the conflict – the harsh siege of Gaza, which is illegal collective punishment, and the continuing oppressive occupation of Palestine”. Peter expressed concern that the media, especially the BBC, has been focusing their sympathy on Israeli families whose lives had been inconvenienced by the Hamas rockets, instead of Gazan families who faced dreadful loss of lives and calamity.

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At the event was Hazem Araj, whose family, like most of the Gazan population, were expelled in 1948 from their villages in what is now Israel, and have been living in a refugee camp in Gaza ever since. They had lived in Sawasir, which was one of 500 Palestinian villages which were totally destroyed, wiped off the map, to make way for new Jewish towns, such as Ashkelon.

Four of his relatives were killed in their house by the Israeli bombardment of Shajaia where the entire neighbourhood was razed to the ground. People could not reach the dead and wounded buried under the rubble, for several days after the bombing. Ambulances trying to reach them were shot at. A youth guiding a camera man in the ruins was shot by an Israeli sniper, and as he lay injured was then shot dead. The video was shown in the media.

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Hazen told ‘on the spot’ reporter that his family were fortunate compared to others. “The family home in Rafah sustained only minor damage when a neighbour’s house was struck by a missile, with shrapnel and the force of impact damaging their home while they were there”.

Hazen’s story was one of thousands, many being much worse. He told of entire families being wiped out. One family of 17 was bombed and buried under rubble. The only survivor was a 4 day old child, but died later, in hospital, during a power failure.

Hazen added, “However, despite the devastations we hear stories of hope, love and laughter. My brother attended a defiant wedding celebration yesterday in one of the UN schools being used as a refuge in Rafah”.

The video shows Hazen Araj being interviewed by Peter Reilly.

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