From Pat Hewitt (from Denver) who is currently in Gaza. Some of her impressions of what she is seeing there:
We met today with John Ging from UNRWHA. Just an amazing and inspiring person. He's worked in Congo, Balkans, Ireland (he's Irish), Rwanda, and now here. You might remember him from during the Cast Lead conflagration when he defied the Israeli line when they said they had accidentally fired artillery into the UNRWHA school and he told CNN that they fired two hours later again, and that there were no soldiers or Hamas anywhere to be found on that compound.
Speaking fo Hamas, we have an escort. They follow us everywhere and claim that it is for security. Tighe (CP organizer) is deeply offended by this and keeps trying to evade them. Apparently there is an extreme faction here that is harassing people who don't toe their line...Like women not covering. So they are "protecting us". It's become kind of a game. They are just guys (with beards) doing their jobs. They work for the government.
Today we also went on a fishing boat out as far as they can go (2miles, so they are not able to catch much). We saw an Israeli military boat off in the distance, and heard them shooting. Don't know what at, though. Gorgeous coastline ‘til you get up close and see all the bombed out places.
The people here are so welcoming..they so appreciate that we've come here because they feel so forgotten.
Last night we met with Ahmed Yousef the deputy foreign minister (Hamas govt). A very savvy man. He lived in the US for quite some time and has written a bunch of books. He is very much in favor of a unity government for Hamas and Fatah. We were at his house...a villa in Rafah.
Then we left and went to see the tunnels that run between Gaza and Egypt. There are too many to count, visible from the moon practically. We went inside one place that houses a tunnel and a few of us went down into it (you have to be lowered on a pully swing thing) and I declined, chicken that i am about tight spaces, but it was a major kick anyway. We could hear gunshots from a distance and were told that it was between Egyptian tunnel owners over who has what right to what .
It's Eid here and this morning in the hotel lobby I looked out and there went by a donkey cart with 20 or so kids singing like "carols". Just the most wonerful site.
I've been blown away by meeting with Dr Ahmed Yousef, the minister of foregin affairs. We've visited one of the most beautiful and child centered facilities I've seen anywhere...the Qattan Ctr for Children. It's all free and serves 16000 kids. Other child centers have been shut down because funding was cut after the election in 06, but this one survives because it is funded by a wealthy Palestinian livng in Britain. If he'd been American he'd probably be in jail now (funding terrorist organization). Extraordinary.
Gaza is so loaded with problems that it's hard to see a way forward. John Ging from UNRWAH spent a lot of time with us and is so dedicated that it's hard not to see him as a saint of some kind. In fact all the people we have met with are totally dedicated to helping. It's sad that we can leave and they cannot.