Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.
The launch of the plane came just days after Russia tested a hypersonic missile, stoking fears of a new arms race
By Theo Merz Moscow21 July 2021 • 11:29am
Russia has unveiled a stealth fighter jet named “Checkmate” as Moscow steps up military testing amid increased tensions with the West.
President Vladimir Putin inspected the much-vaunted aircraft, which state manufacturer Rostec hopes to sell to foreign markets, at a trade show outside Moscow this week.
The next-generation Sukhoi fighter is able to reach twice the speed of sound and can be converted to an unpiloted version, according to its designers, who aim to begin deliveries by 2026.
The launch of the plane was accompanied by a provocative advertising campaign, which played on a recent standoff between a British warship and the Russian military in the Black Sea.
In one advertisement, the Royal Navy’s HMS Defender featured alongside the slogan “See You”. In another, the Checkmate appeared under black tarpaulin, with the question: “Wanna see me naked?”.
The unveiling came just days after Russia tested a hypersonic missile, part of a growing arsenal that Mr Putin has described as “invincible”, and analysts say is fuelling a new arms race.
Moscow’s defense ministry on Monday announced it had fired the Tsirkon cruise missile at a target on the northern Barents Sea, with the weapon travelling some 200 miles at more than seven times the speed of sound.
Nuclear capable systems
The Pentagon said such missiles, which could be used to target Western navy destroyers in a potential conflict, “are potentially destabilising and pose significant risks because they are nuclear capable systems”.
Moscow has already carried out several tests of the Tsirkon, including one firing last year that Mr Putin described as a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia.”
More tests are set for next month, and Russia eventually plans to equip both warships and submarines with the weapon.
Mr Putin has in recent years announced a number of new weapons that he claims can circumnavigate existing defense systems and have left the West “playing catch-up” with Russia.
They include Avangard hypersonic missiles, which were deployed in 2019. “The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary,” the Russian president said at the time.
Also this week, the Russian military released the first footage of a live fire test of its S-500 Prometheus missile system, which it said was “objectively unlike anything in the world” and could protect from attacks from space.
Moscow’s flaunting of its hardware follows increasingly aggressive rhetoric from the Kremlin, with Mr Putin promising a “fast and harsh” response if any foreign country was seen to be crossing Russia’s “red lines”.
But Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russia-based military analyst, poured some cold water on Moscow’s claims of its capabilities.
Mr Felgenhauer said that the military was still operating with Soviet-designed equipment and a “Soviet mentality,” which prized size over genuine innovation, and spoke of a “technological gap” between Russia and the US.
The test of the Tsirkon was “a gift for the Pentagon” as Washington reviews its military spending, he told The Telegraph.
“There has to be a threat to convince people to spend on weapons,” he said.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has already asked for increased funding for research into hypersonic technology, requesting some $3.8 billion for 2022, up from $3.2 billion on the previous year. China has also been developing hypersonic weapons for the last decade.
Putin ‘trying to scare’ the West
Mr Felgenhauer said Moscow was developing such equipment primarily as a deterrence, to convince the US and other Western countries that it was not worth getting involved in what Russia considers its field of influence.
“Putin is trying to scare [the US and Europe], so that when Moscow goes, for example, for Ukraine, the West will sit on the sidelines.”
Russia last month tested a giant new nuclear submarine, the largest developed anywhere in the world in three decades.
Moscow said the Belgorod submarine would not only act as a mothership for smaller vessels that could cut vital cables on the seafloor, but also carry six Poseidon nuclear torpedoes.
Russia is currently developing the Poseidon, which it says is a long-range, nuclear-powered autonomous torpedo, potentially capable of destroying coastal cities.
Mr Felgenhauer described the technology as “unethical” as it is aimed at civilian populations and would cause mass loss of life.
But Pavel Luzin, an independent military analyst, suggested it would be “physically impossible” to deploy the Poseidon. Moscow had vaunted its development for propaganda rather than practical purposes, he said.
Mr Luzin added that Russia’s sabre-rattling was designed to make up for shortcomings in other areas.
“Russia tries to be a superpower without enough economic capacity, without enough technological capacity, without enough human capital,” he said.
“The only capital of Russia is military capital, and that’s why Russia puts a lot of attention and spends a lot of money on global military capabilities.”
The current, bumpy negotiations aimed at preventing the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons are among the Biden administration’s highest priorities. The administration liftedsanctions on more than a dozen former Iranian officials in June, a move that Iranian officials viewed as a victory.
Iran even claimed that 1,000 more sanctions will soon be lifted, which the US State Department spokesman denied. Days later, it was reported that the Biden administration might remove what it considers symbolic sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
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This all comes as Iran faces new internal pressures. Severe water shortages have triggered six days of massive anti-government protests, including chants of “Death to [Ayatollah] Khamenei.”
As diplomacy continues, Iran is not relenting in pursuing its violent objectives. US troops in Syria were shelled by Iranian rocket fire following US airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias. While US forces responded to the attacks, it was not enough to stop six reprisal attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria this month alone. “President Biden must put forward a real strategy for deterring and ending these attacks, rather than continuing his bare-minimum, tit-for-tat approach that is failing to deter Iran or its militias and puts American lives at increased risk.” said US Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday rejected a new draft nuclear agreement because it was incompatible with legislation passed by Iran’s parliament last December. That law prohibits the country from dropping below 20 percent enriched uranium, which would not be allowed in any negotiated nuclear deal.
In 2015, Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)with the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Germany. This lifted some sanctions on the Iranian government in exchange for restricting the amount of enriched uranium stockpiles Iran could maintain.
Since then, Iran has ratcheted up its expansionist plans in the Middle East, underwriting terrorist groups and even assassinating dissidents in Western countries.
Those aggressive international terrorist operations continue. Four Iranian nationals were charged in New York on July 14 with attempting to kidnapAmerican journalist Masih Alinejad and take her to Iran. The plot began in 2018, the indictment says.
The 2015 JCPOA clearly benefited Iran, freeing up money to expand its Middle East hegemony. In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to use force to expand its influence on the state politics. Backed by $700 million in annual Iranian financing, Hezbollah has become Lebanon’s most influential political player.
In Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, which was allegedly formed to curb ISIS’ rapid expansion in 2014, has become an Iranian proxy, committing atrocities and assassinating citizens. Iraqi authorities arrested PMF commander Qasem Muslah in May, charging him in connection with the assassinations of pro-democracy activists.
Since winning election as Iran’s new president last month, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi has said that he will not negotiate over Iran’s missile program or meet with Biden, even if both sides agreed on terms to revive the JCPOA. No one has proposed such a meeting, but it is a sign that Iran’s hard-line policies are not going to change.
While Iran’s economy struggles, its support for terrorist groups continues. Despite May’s Gaza war, Hamas has enough Iranian money to continue its operations, said Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar. “All the thanks to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which never spared any expenses on us or other Palestinian factions, Sinwar said in a May 30 news conference. “They provided us with money, arms and expertise.” Hamas will “scorch the earth,” he threatened, if Gaza’s problems are not solved.
Threats of Israel’s annihilation are consistent with Hamas’ founding charter. But they also match Iran’s repeated goal. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described Israel in 2005 as “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the face of the earth.”
In 2017, Iranian authorities installed a doomsday clock, ticking toward 2040, the year Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei predicted Israel would be destroyed. But in a sign of Iran’s misplaced priorities, the clock stopped working earlier this month due to power shortages in the country.
In the meantime, Iran is closer to producing its first nuclear bomb.
For the past six months, the Biden administration has been sendingmessages that it intends to deescalate the situation with Iran, but Iranian officials interpret that as a sign of weakness. Iranian Revolutionary Guard intelligence chief Hussein Taeb last week urged an escalation in attacks against US forces in Iraq.
“History has repeatedly proven that appeasement will only embolden and empower a rogue state. But the Biden administration and the EU appear determined to pursue this dangerous policy with a regime that is a top state sponsor of terrorism, according to the US State Department, and a leading human rights violator,” wrote Iranian-American political scientist Majid Rafizadeh in the Arab News.
Iran is technically capable of enriching uranium to weapons-grade should it choose so, said outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. After six rounds of talks in Vienna, an agreement still seems far away.
In spite of President Biden’s declarationthat Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on his watch, it is becoming clearer that the current US administration has no tangible plan to counter or deal with the Iranian threat to the Middle East and US interests there, and is simply improvising. Accordingly, if the Iranian regime is capable of creating all the above mentioned havoc while still under US sanctions, how much worse will it behave when sanctions are lifted?
Investigative Project on Terrorism Senior Fellow Hany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC.
A version of this article was originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Nuclear officials discuss modernization of arsenal in online forum
(Tribune News Service) — A group of nuclear weapons managers agreed Tuesday that making more plutonium cores for warheads will be key to modernizing the nation’s arsenal as a deterrent against rival countries.
But during an online forum, a few of the managers who work at facilities with nuclear weapons programs also delved into a military leader’s assertion in recent months the U.S. is unable to produce a brand-new nuclear weapon, unlike Russia and China.
Peter Heussy, a defense consultant, asked the panel to interpret the comments by Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, based on their work in the field.
“My thinking is: By policy we’re not supposed to be designing new [weapons]. We’re not being asked to do it, either,” said Mark Martinez, who oversees mission support and testing at the Nevada National Security Site.
The current focus is on life extension, Martinez said, referring to the program to replace or upgrade aging components, including the softball-sized plutonium cores — or pits — that detonate warheads.
Plans call for Los Alamos National Laboratory to produce 30 pits by 2026 and Savannah River Site in South Carolina to make 50 pits in the 2030s.
In April, Richard told the House and Senate armed services committees that Russia is overtaking the U.S. in nuclear modernization and China was gaining ground.
Richard contended America had made zero upgrades recently while Russia had modernized 80 percent of its stockpile. He also said the U.S. was stalled when it came to engineering weapons.
“We have no capability right now to actually make a new weapon,” Richard told lawmakers.
His comments spurred a backlash from anti-nuclear watchdogs, who accused him of making alarmist and misleading statements to lobby for more nuclear spending.
They argued some of the future pits would equip new warheads being developed for land-based and submarine-launched missiles.
“That accounting might surprise Congress and defense contractors that are in the midst of a $1.5 trillion nuclear modernization program launched after the Obama administration negotiated the New START agreement with Russia,” the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said in a newsletter. “The contractors are having a field day.”
But Heussy said the nuclear stockpile was reduced to 3,800 warheads and has remained at that level for a while.
The U.S. also quit developing new platforms or delivery systems, he said, adding the next one isn’t scheduled to be deployed until 2029.
“We literally took a holiday,” Heussy said.
Martinez said the life-extension program is strengthening the nation’s capability to produce nuclear arms as needed, which he described as working “the large muscle groups.”
New pits will enable existing warheads to be rebuilt into modernized ones that are essentially as good as new, said the head of Savannah River’s primary contractor.
“I think pit manufacturing is going to be the real challenge,” said Stuart MacVean, president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC.
Officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration have said the earlier estimate of Savannah River meeting its pit production target in 2030 was unrealistic and that it could take until 2035.
Meanwhile, the most recent cost estimate for bringing Savannah River’s pit plant online has swelled to $11 billion from $4.6 billion.
Critics have said Savannah River has no experience producing pits.
But MacVean said they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They will use similar equipment that Los Alamos lab is employing.
“LANL is making great progress,” MacVean said. “We’re connected to them to make sure we’re learning from them.”
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CHINA tensions could explode with Britain permanently deploying two patrol ships in Asian waters after its new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and escort ships sail to Japan where Beijing is fighting for influence.
By Paul Withers
12:53, Wed, Jul 21, 2021 | UPDATED: 15:39, Wed, Jul 21, 2021
China: Video warns Japan over Taiwan intervention
Details of the move were announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during a visit to Tokyo, where he met Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi. The latest announcement comes with Chinathreatening to launch nuclear missiles at Japan as tensions over Taiwan threaten a full scale war. The plans also come as the UK looks to deepen security ties with Japan, which has expressed increasing fears over China’s territorial ambitions in the region, including Taiwan.
The two ships to be permanently stationed in the Far East will be HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, which are both 90-metre offshore patrol vessels.
Speaking alongside Mr Kishi, Mr Wallace said: “Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year.”
In September, a Royal Naval strike group led by the new £3billion flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will make a panned visit to Japan.
The British carrier, which will have F-35B stealth jets on board its maiden voyage, will be escorted by two destroyers, two frigates and two support vessels, as well as ships from both the US and the Netherlands.
It will travel through the hotly-South China Sea, claimed by China and Southeast Asian countries, with stops in India, Singapore and South Korea.
Mr Kishi said following its arrival, the Queen Elizabeth and its escort ships will split up for separate port calls to US and Japanese naval bases.
The British carrier, which will have F-35B stealth jets on board its maiden voyage, will dock in Yokosuka, which is also the home of the country’s fleet command and the USS Ronald Reagan – the only forward deployed US aircraft carrier currently in operation.
Mr Wallace also said the UK would also later deploy a Littoral Response Group, a unit of marines trained to undertake missions including evacuations and anti-terrorism operations.
When asked which ports the Royal Navy ships would operate from, a spokesperson for the British Embassy in Tokyo said the Royal Navy ships will not have a permanent base.
In a statement on the deployment, a spokesperson for the Pentagon praised Britain for its “commitment to an inter-connected network of allies and partners, who mutually cooperate and support freedom of navigation and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Japan is an extremely close ally of Washington and hosts the biggest concentration of US military forces outside the United States, which includes ships, aircraft and thousands of Marines.
The latest moves come with China setting alarm bells ringing after threatening to launch nuclear missiles at Japan if Tokyo intervenes to protect Taiwan.
“What we want to target is Japan’s ability to endure a war. As long as Japan realises that it cannot afford to pay the price of war it will not dare to rashly send troops to the Taiwan strait.”
China has continued to follow a ‘No first use’ (NFU) policy on nuclear weapons for nearly 60 years but the video warned Japan could be made an exception.
It states: “Our country is in the midst of a major change that has not been seen in a century and all political policies, tactics, and strategies must be adjusted and changed in order to protect the peaceful rise of our country.
“If Japan goes to war with China for a third time, the Chinese people will take revenge on the old and new scores.”
By National interest
Here’s What You Need to Remember: Perhaps more important, Pakistani illusions that an Islamic army could rout the “weak” Hindus had been disproved. This is what happens when you chop a nation in half.
Before December 3, 1971, Pakistan was a country suffering from a split personality disorder. When British India became independent in 1947, the country was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The problem was that East Pakistan and West Pakistan were almost a thousand miles apart, and wedged in between them was archenemy India. Imagine if the United States only consisted of the East Coast and West Coast, and Russia controlled all of North America in between.
Thirteen days later, Pakistan had been amputated. Indian troops had conquered East Pakistan, which became the new nation of Bangladesh. More than ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner, half the Pakistani Navy had been sunk and the Indian Air Force came out on top. It was total humiliation, and not just for Pakistan. The United States and Britain sent aircraft carriers in a futile attempt to intimidate India, and ended up facing off against Soviet warships. Pakistan’s defeat also spurred its rulers to begin the development of nuclear weapons.
The 1971 India-Pakistan War, the third major conflict between the two nations in twenty-five years, was sparked by unrest in East Pakistan. The Bengalis of East Pakistan, who constituted 54 percent of Pakistan’s population at the time, chafed under the rule of West Pakistan. The two Pakistans belonged to different ethnic groups and spoke different languages.
Suzy Ishkontana, 7, clings to her new toys and clothes, but mostly to her dad.
For hours, they were separated under the rubble of their family’s home. Now she cannot bear to be apart.
More than two months have passed since rescue workers pulled the 7-year-old from the ruins, her hair matted and dusty, her face bruised and swollen. The sole survivors of the family, she and her father heard the fading cries of her siblings buried nearby.
Suzy’s mother, her two brothers and two sisters — ages 9 to 2 — died in the May 16 Israeli attack on the densely packed al-Wahda Street in Gaza City. Israeli authorities say the bombs’ target was Hamas tunnels; 42 people died, including 16 women and 10 children.
Altogether, Gaza’s Health Ministry says 66 children were killed in the fourth war on the Gaza Strip — most from precision-guided Israeli bombs, though in at least one incident Israel alleges a family was killed by Hamas rockets that fell short of their target.
And then there are countless others, like Suzy, who bear the scars.
“My kids who died and my wife, they are now in a safe place and there is no worry about them, but my greater fear is for Suzy,” says her father, Riad Ishkontana.
This story is part of “The Cost of War,” a series of stories on the effects of four wars in Gaza over 13 years.
With schools shuttered due to the war, the coronavirus and the summer hiatus, Gaza’s children have little to keep them occupied as they wade through the wreckage. Most are poor; more than half the population lived in poverty before the pandemic and war wiped out more jobs.
Some of them are irritable, their parents say. Some wet themselves at night, are afraid to be alone, suffer from night terrors — all signs of trauma, says Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, director general of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.
But there is only one licensed child psychiatrist for Gaza’s 1 million children, who make up just under 48 percent of the population, Abu Jamei says.
To recover, he says, children need to feel the traumatic event they’ve experienced is over and that life is returning to normal.
These children live in a place where the piercing whine of warplanes, the tremors of airstrikes and the humming buzz of armed drones are familiar sounds, even in times of cease-fire. Where when war erupts, there is no safe place — and where four wars and a blockade have crippled life over the past 13 years.
In Gaza, Abu Jamei says, “life never goes back to normal.”Refugee claimant from Gaza ‘horrified’ when asked why Hamas wouldn’t protect her – Jun 14, 2021
In the hours he and his daughter spent trapped in the rubble, Riad Ishkontana recalls hearing his older daughter Dana, 9, and youngest son Zain, 2, calling for him: “Baba, baba.” Later, Suzy would tell him that she could feel Zain under the wreckage.
Before the war, Suzy was an independent child, walking to school down the street with Dana, and picking up fruits and vegetables from a corner store for her mom.
Now, she struggles to speak with relatives or detach from the mobile phone, spending hours playing games, stopping to look at web pages related to the attack. “It’s almost like in losing her mom, she lost her life and her ability to deal with life and people,” Ishkontana says
When Ishkontana leaves to go on any errand, Suzy weeps and insists on going along — she fears losing him, too. He took her to her mother’s grave; she brought along a hand-written note.
“Mama,” she wrote, “I want to see you.”
The blast blew the al-Masri family apart. And it left a young brother and sister shattered.
It all happened in an instant, around 6 p.m. on May 10. The al-Masri family were harvesting wheat in an open field in Beit Hanoun by their house overlooking Gaza’s border with Israel. The children — cousins, siblings, the neighbor’s kids — played as the adults prepared to break their daylong fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
As usual, BATOOL AL-MASRI, 14, carried her cousin Yazan, a toddler barely 2 years old. “Twenty-four hours a day she was spoiling him,” says Batool’s father, Mohammed Atallah al-Masri.
Then, an explosion.
It’s not clear whether the rocket was fired by Israel or Hamas. But in an instant, eight people were dead, including six children.
Yazan bled out in front of Batool. She tried to save him, ignoring injuries to her legs and pelvis.
Batool’s 8-year-old brother, Qasim al-Masri, 8, was wounded in his head, as were other brothers, including 22-year-old Hammoudah, who lost an eye.
Qasim survived, but his best friend and cousin, Marwan, 7, did not. They’d been inseparable, even in school, al-Masri says. Marwan’s only brother, Ibrahim, 11, also was killed.
Also killed were Batool and Qasim’s sister Rahaf, 10 and their brother Ahmed, 21, who was just a week shy of his wedding.
The attack “completely changed” Qasim, his father says. The young boy talks to himself. At night, he’s paralyzed by fear and does not get out of bed to use the bathroom.
Batool has become irritable, weeps often and in the evenings is terrified, waking every 20 or 30 minutes. She has little appetite.
“What they saw was terrifying,” al-Masri said. “These were innocent kids.”U.S. sees rise in anti-semitic attacks – May 22, 2021
It was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid in May. Instead of playing with their new toys, the Abu Muawad children were running for their lives.
The airstrikes hit without warning. Their mother — eight months pregnant — and the four children, ages 3 to 11, fled their home in northern Gaza just before it was destroyed.
In the chaos, Maya Abu Muawad, 8, was separated from her mother. Alone and afraid, she rode in an ambulance to safer ground. For 15 minutes, she was locked in the wailing vehicle with a dying person and a wounded boy, her neighbour.
It would be six hours before Maya would be reunited with her parents.
Her younger brother, Oday Abu Muawad, 6, had never experienced war before. He was stunned by the scenes of chaos and death, the sound of airstrikes.
Before the war, Maya was confident and independent. She liked having her hair brushed, couldn’t stand it if her clothes became dirty and liked to wear rings.
Now, the family is sheltering in a U.N.-run school with other displaced families. Maya repeatedly asks when they’ll return home, but her father Alaa Abu Muawad, who works as a driver, has no money to rebuild. She sits alone mostly, preferring to spend all her time on the phone, listening to songs or watching videos on TikTok — anything to escape her reality, says her father.
“If she asks her brother for something and doesn’t get it, she just cries and screams. Everything about her … it’s not my daughter before. It’s not Maya,” Abu Muawad says.
Before the war, Oday always smiled and loved to joke around with people. He preferred playing with older kids and sitting with adults, his father says.
“Now, he watches kids playing on the television and asks: `Why can’t we play like them?”’ Abu Muawad says. “I don’t know how to reply, what to tell him.”
And in the night, he often wakes up screaming.
When the 2014 war broke out, Lama Sihweil, 14, and her family fled their home in Beit Hanoun when the Israeli army invaded, joining some 3,300 Palestinians crammed into the U.N.-run Abu Hussein school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
As they slept, Israeli shells pounded the school and the street. Three of 7-year-old Lama’s cousins — ages 14, 16 and 26 — were among the 16 killed in that attack. The 2014 war claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian lives in Gaza.
Seven years later, she is afflicted by memories: of screams in the darkness; of frantic searches of loved ones; of the stench of blood and debris.
“Just sitting with her, she appears fine,” says he father, Thaer Sihweil.
“But try to talk to her, she can’t express herself. From the fear she has, she’s unable to communicate what’s in her heart,” he says.
After the war, her grades dropped. She would walk out of class without the teacher’s permission. She became forgetful. The fear and anxiety were constant.
Then, war came again this year. Lama, her mother, siblings, aunts and cousins were sleeping over at her grandmother’s when more Israeli missiles hit. The walls of the house collapsed; the family ran screaming through the streets, stepping over shards of glass, twisted metal and electrical cables until they reached the nearest hospital.
Now, Lama is afraid to venture out on her own. Each night, she clings to her parents.
And there is no escape; Lama and her brothers would love to go the beach for a day, but the war cost their father his job. He does not have 40 shekels ($12) to get to Gaza’s coast.Top UN humanitarian official visits worst-damaged areas in Gaza, discusses aid efforts – May 22, 2021
When Youssef al-Madhoun, 11, hears the popping sound of firecrackers, or a metal door closing loudly, he is terrified. The war courses back.
Youssef, his brother and his parents fled their home in the late afternoon on the last day of Ramadan, as the first rounds of Israeli fire sounded. They’d be safer, they thought, at his great-grandfather’s house in a more crowded neighbourhood of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip.
By nightfall, the neighbourhood was engulfed in a barrage. A family of six was crushed under the weight of a building just steps from where the al-Madhoun family was staying. Their house and others nearby partially collapsed or crumbled around them. An uncle and his wife were killed.
The family fled again, to another grandparent’s home.
Before the war, Youssef excelled in school and talked of one day becoming a doctor. Now, said his father, Ahmed Awad Selim al-Madhoun, he’s afraid to sleep at night, afraid to step outside the house alone. He leaves the door open when he’s in the bathroom.
This was the third war of Youssef’s short life. It’s left him feeling terrified, and unsafe.
Elien al-Madhoun, 6, was not yet born when her father lost his home in the 2014 Gaza War. Young as she is, she doesn’t entirely understand life and death.
But in May, she screamed out at the sounds of airstrikes and shelling in Bait Lahia in northern Gaza, says her father, Ahmed Rabah al-Madhoun.
He tried to shield her from talk of war, tried to keep her busy with games. But older cousins, huddled around her, talked about “airstrikes, missiles, martyrs openly because nothing is really hidden from children.”
Nine people died in the neighbourhood, including relatives.
“When nine homes are completely destroyed next to one another and my daughter sees this, she can’t understand what happened,” he says.
Her father says he doesn’t know what the future holds for her.
“We envy the people who’ve been killed and have returned to God. We envy them because they know their future,” he says. “But here, we’re just waiting for our turn. Our kids, our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, we’re here waiting our turn.”Hamas and Israel both claim victory after ceasefire deal – May 21, 2021
For years, Abdullah Srour, 16, lived in a state of constant fear. He’s survived four wars in Gaza, and with each war he grows more afraid, more insular.
When he was 9, the bedroom where he was sleeping in the Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by a missile, says his mother, Amal Srour. The family fled in their pyjamas to a U.N.-run school to seek shelter, but when they reached the school it too was hit. They saw people killed and animals dead on the road.
Abdullah spent four years in therapy. With time, he began to enjoy being around friends and leaving the house more, his mother says.
Then came May, and the fourth war.
The family would stay up all night, crammed into one room, praying to survive. Except for Abdullah; he refused to stay in the family home located on an upper floor, sleeping instead on the ground floor in his grandmother’s home until the ceasefire was announced.
Abdullah also saw a family of six — a father, a pregnant mother and four children — crushed to death under the rubble of a home that belonged to his grandfather during this last war. He stood amid the debris as rescue teams pulled their bodies out.
Now the smallest thing, including a needle prick at the doctor’s office, sends him into a panic. He bites his nails constantly. He doesn’t like to sit longer than 10 minutes in any one place, rarely smiles and sleeps next to his mother, by his much younger siblings.
“After this war,” says his mother, “he’s regressed to a child of 5 years old.”
For so long, 5-year-old Thaim Abu Oda’s childhood was sheltered, pleasant. There were trips with his father and younger brother to the nearby pool, to the beach and to the few play areas available in Gaza; his parents have steady incomes, and they live in the heart of Gaza City.
But for 11 days in May, the boy’s life was devastated by war — by the terrifying boom of fighter jets overhead and the bombs that shook his neighbourhood.
He stopped eating. He lost more than 5 kilos (11 pounds). His face became gaunt and his ribs protruded. He lost sleep, too, especially after hearing his grandfather had survived an airstrike on his building and had been hospitalized for breathing problems.
When the war ended, Abu Oda’s parents took him to see a therapist. After three sessions and weeks after the cease-fire held, his appetite returned and his weight began to climb.
He still fears sudden noises and has many questions about the sounds heard during the war, but his parents say he appears to be on a path to recovery. They worry, though, about the long-term effects of the war on his personality, and on his future in Gaza.
© 2021 The Canadian Press