If you haven't been following the news, the situation in Gaza is deteriorating. A tenuous truce between Hamas, other Palestinian factions, and Israel has broken down in recent days. It's lead to incursions, rocket attacks, tank shelling, mortar fire, air strikes, and a growing number of wounded and dead. Neither side seems willing to back down. With Netanyahu threatening an escalation, it's hard to guess where things will end, and when I'll be able to leave Gaza. The border could be closed for some time.
I talked about my "Jawa" phone on Facebook a few days ago, but it bears mentioning here. I picked up a local cell and sim card, primarily to receive SMS alerts from the Gaza NGO Safety Office (GANSO). Their text messages warn of reported attacks, both outgoing and incoming, so that areas can be avoided. It's truly an invaluable service.
On the average day so far, I see around two or three SMS alerts from GANSO. Today, I lost count.
This was my second day of photographing toy setups based upon the children's drawings collected last week. The first day had gone extremely well with good weather and easy to work locations along the coast. I had gotten so much done so quickly that I stayed up late preparing extra toy setups for today.
Even before the text alerts starting coming in rapid succession, my plans quickly fell apart. I had just enough time to get a quick shot in before the skies opened and torrents of rain poured down. Sounds of airstrikes mixed at times with thunder, making it hard to tell them apart.
My driver Ashref and I retreated to a beach-side "cafe" (read:tent) to wait out the storm. As usual, he already knew the owner and pretty much everyone else we've encountered over the past several days. The man is well connected.
The winds did their best to sail the tents to Greece or perhaps Turkey, but they held and kept us dry while we sipped mango-orange drinks and read the text messages that were beginning to increase in frequency.
Even still, Ashref was fine with continuing my work. We gave up waiting out the storm and headed to a location with some protection from the wind and rain. Although difficult, I managed to get two more shots done as the weather began to break.
We headed back towards the original location, and I prepared another shot. By now the neighborhood of Beit Hanoun was showing up more and more in the alerts, where Ashref lives with his family. His growing concern was obvious, despite him saying little. It's just his way. I rushed through the shot, more to satisfy his pride than to get another photo, and headed us back to town.
I called it a day and said goodbye to Ashref as he turned towards his home to take care of his family. I hope that they and everyone else being affected by this conflict are safe and out of harms way.
Back at the hotel, I'm keeping a close eye on the news and my phone. Plans to wrap up my work and leave soon may or may not happen. As they say here, inshallah. Although it literally means "God willing," it's often used in the context of "what will be, will be."