Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk writes for the magazine’s website with startling honesty about his experiences in Gaza:
There’s something about phosphorus, the way it smoulders and burns for days, that makes it looks as though the Devil had walked by, leaving fiery footprints in the earth. I saw phosphorus today in a bombed out ice cream factory (did the Israeli gunners think Hamas had paused for a Magnum bar?). A fire was still flickering in the smoky gloom two weeks after the shell had smashed through the ice cream factory roof.
And I saw phosphorus again yesterday in the charred rooms of a house in north Gaza that belongs to the Abu Halima family. You could possibly blame the Abu Halimas for their own misfortune. You could say that they read the leaflets, which the Israelis dropped ordering everyone in the neighborhood to flee, and they chose to ignore the warnings. “The Israeli soldiers had been through here many times,” say Mahmoud. “They didn’t bother us, and we didn’t bother them.”
Fourteen days passed before it was safe enough for Mahoud and other survivors of the Abu Halima family to venture out to the pick-up with the four corpses. The pick-up had been turned over and smashed, by an Israeli bulldozer, according to witnesses, probably to get rid of the stench of the bodies and protect them from being devoured by stray dogs. It was a decent thought, but the Israelis underestimated the tenacity of Gaza’s canines.
Next, Mahmoud went back to the charred house, which had since been occupied by an Israeli sniper. He knocked out the toilet so he could get a better shot out of the bathroom window. And, the snipers could write Arabic. Maybe he was a Druze. In lipstick snatched from a bedside table, the soldier had drawn a Star of David on the wall and scrawled: “You have pretty underwear.” Then, at some point during the sniper’s long vigil at the window he experienced a flash of remorse. On the wall, in black, smudgy mascara, he wrote: “From the Israeli army, we are sorry.”
It will be a long time –generations, maybe– before the Abu Halima family, and plenty of other Gazans, can even begin to think about accepting an apology.