Gaza Residents Deal With Fourth Night Of Israeli Air Strikes

Steve Inskeep talks to Palestinian-American business consultant and political commentator Sami Abdel-Shafi about living in Gaza while under attack from Israel.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We are hearing many perspectives on this conflict, including from Gaza where Israel is striking that area controlled by Hamas. We've reached Sami Abdel-Shafi. He's a Palestinian-American business consultant and sometime political commentator. He's in Gaza City. Welcome to the program, sir.

SAMI ABDEL-SHAFI: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: What have the last several nights of airstrikes been like from where you are?

ABDEL-SHAFI: They've been really unsettling. All over the Gaza Strip there's a great deal of a sense of anticipation of what might come. And that, in itself, is very uncomfortable, set aside the actual area strikes which cause nothing but massive jolts in areas that are targeted and those that surround them.

INSKEEP: So you just - you feel the concussion of the airstrikes when they hit in some area near you. Is that what you're saying?

ABDEL-SHAFI: You feel the concussion, the massive vacuum, the shaking of the house as though you're going through an earthquake of a 5.5 or above. It's quite unsettling.

INSKEEP: Now the Israelis have said that they are attempting to strike only Hamas targets and doing everything they can to limit civilian casualties. Does that make you feel any safer as someone who does not have a connection to Hamas?

ABDEL-SHAFI: I cannot say that I have a mortal fear constantly for my own lives because I know I'm not a target. But I also cannot say that I will not be affected. And in such times things get chaotic and people in the army may become emotionally driven, like anyone else. So that makes one become cognizant of the opportunities for error or the possibility that someone may decide to take a measure that's more extreme than expected.

INSKEEP: So how, if at all, have you adjusted your daily life?

ABDEL-SHAFI: Everything goes to a standstill, essentially. Most of what's on people's minds is to seek protection. But the problem is that for several of the civilians in Gaza have been deported in the past couple of days. When those people sought protection in their own homes, they ended up not being saved, and that's why there has been a great deal of casualty and death among civilians. And in a place as crowded as the Gaza Strip, almost nothing can be done without assessing a relatively massive civilian cost.

INSKEEP: Now if we were to state Israel's position simply, it might be that Hamas should simply stop firing rockets into Israel which would reduce the necessity for Israel to launch strikes into Gaza. Do you want Hamas to stop shooting at Israel?

ABDEL-SHAFI: In principle, I'm against violence. I would like it if no rockets were launched from Gaza. I would equally like it, if not more, if the conditions in the Gaza Strip are made to be fair to the people who live here so that they would not be driven so desperate so as to think that the use of rockets is the only means left.

INSKEEP: If a political leader on any side of this conflict were to call you up one day and say, OK, what would you have me do? What suggestion would you make for improving the situation right now?

ABDEL-SHAFI: Keep in mind this is the third war in about five years that Gaza is subjected to. That's quite a number. So obviously there is a political root cause that Gaza has been pushed too far into the corner. And all of Palestinians have been handed a set of variables that Palestinians see as being very unfair. So I would urge a serious look at political resolution for Gaza and all of Palestine.

INSKEEP: You know, one other thing, we mentioned you're a Palestinian-American businessman. Have you thought of coming back to the United States in this situation?

ABDEL-SHAFI: Not at this time. I believe that those who are dual-citizens do have an implicit duty and a moral duty, in some way, to try to build bridges between the worlds that they belong to. The Palestinian people are misrepresented often times. And they are misunderstood. So I would like to believe that what I and others like me do may contribute a drop in the sea in advancing understanding of who Palestinians are and who the people of Gaza are, and to really show that they have dreams and aspirations just like any other civilized nation.

INSKEEP: Sami Abdel-Shafi is a business consultant living in Gaza City. Thank you very much.

ABDEL-SHAFI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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