Video: Fear, death and mourning in Gaza’s Khan Younis
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As Israeli forces continue to pound Gaza, a FRANCE 24 team in the southern city of Khan Younis follows the now familiar cycle of airstrikes, deaths, funerals – and pledges of allegiance to Hamas.
Sirens blaring, two ambulances screech at manic speeds through the dusty streets of Khan Younis in southern Gaza against a backdrop of deafening, terrifying blasts from Israeli strikes.
Palestinian emergency workers are forced to flee the site where Israeli forces are striking. Panicked residents run for cover, darting hopelessly, not knowing where to go. Missiles are relentlessly pounding this densely populated neighbourhood in the enclosed Palestinian enclave.
The Red Crescent ambulance stops for a moment in the middle of the street as a desperate paramedic asks a resident for directions.
“You tell me to get closer [to the target site] but which way I am supposed to go? They're shelling all over the place,” he exclaims, flaying his hands, which are already encased in surgical gloves, ready to fly to work the second the ambulance arrives at a site.
The bystander, a local resident, is equally helpless. He may know the area, but how can he predict where and when the next Israeli missile will land?
“Try from here…” he says pointing one way before immediate switching to another, “or maybe through there."
High in the clear blue sky, a ball of flame descends on another target somewhere in this enclosed, encircled Strip that is home to 1.9 million people.
"If you look in the distance, as far as the camera can film, right after that, it's total chaos,” says a young man who has gathered on the street to watch where the next missile is falling. “Bombs, missiles, F16s, tanks…" his list of arms get cut short by yet another blast.
Burying the dead
When the ambulances finally reach the site of the recent Israeli shelling, there are the now familiar scenes of grief and rage. But this time, there’s also a sense of shock as Gazans, who are no stranger to Israeli assaults, reel from the sheer speed and ferocity of the latest offensive.
Hours after the intense shelling, the bodies of several men are recovered and quickly sent for burial.
The bodies, encased in white sheets, are borne through the streets by local youths and the usual cries of “Allahu-akbar” (God is great) have a desperate edge as some of the pall bearers, many of them mere teenagers, are crying and chanting simultaneously.
When the large crowd gathers at the mosque, some of the faithful refer to the victims as holy fighters although one resident insists, "These were innocent civilians in their houses, there is no resistance, no weapons here."
From around a corner, a group of young boys arrive at the funeral waving the green flag of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that has controlled the Strip since 2006.
“Hamas! Hamas!” they exclaim.
Israel maintains the purpose of the current offensive is to destroy Hamas’s ability to launch rockets, as well as to dismantle tunnels through which militants can slip into Israeli territory.
Outside the Palestinian enclave, debates are raging about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the latest Israeli offensive in the long run. But one thing’s clear right here in Khan Younis – Hamas is winning the Gazan battle for hearts and minds.