Life under fire in Gaza: the diary of a Palestinian

Life under fire in Gaza: the diary of a Palestinian

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/28/four-days-under-siege-gaza-diary-palestinian?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

What’s it like for families struggling to survive in Gaza? A Palestinian author describes the overcrowding and shortages, the horror of seeing familiar places reduced to rubble – and the constant fear of death

Beit Hanoun during ceasefire

Two Palestinians among the rubble in Beit Hanoun during the ceasefire on 26 July. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Yesterday evening, my sister-in-law, Huda, her son and three daughters had to move to the place where we are staying, in Jabalia Camp. They usually live to the south of Gaza City, in an area called Tal al Hawa, its southernmost tip. For the past five days, tanks have bombarded the area. In one of these attacks, large chunks of debris from a house nearby flew in through the windows; half of another house inside Huda’s house.

My sister-in-law says they are used to this kind of thing. In the 2008-9 war, half the house collapsed when a rocket made a direct hit, entering horizontally through the lounge window. Her husband, Hatim, has refused to come with her to Jabalia this time, however. Nobody remains on their street but him. Over the past couple of years, he has developed a passion for keeping birds. He has converted one room in his house into an aviary, in which he raises around 50 different kinds of birds, including hummingbirds, pigeons and sparrows. He prefers to stay and take care of his birds – who else will look after them?

Now there are 14 of us living in my father-in-law’s house. The house consists of just two rooms. This morning, there is a long queue for the bathroom. Once inside, you hear nothing but the calls of those queuing, encouraging you to finish as fast as you can.

Over the past week, most houses have started to face water shortages. My father spends most of his day watching the level in his water tank, obsessively. The other day he had to carry water in bottles from the neighbours’ tank. He himself is hosting two extra families inside his little house – that of my sister with her 12 family members, and that of his uncle with his five family members – as well as the family of my brother, Ibrahim.

Queues are everywhere now. A few days ago, we were living a normal life – waking at 8am, washing our faces, brushing our teeth, having breakfast, starting our days and whatever our daily routines entailed. Now we have to abandon those routines and live according to each and every moment.

Palestinian children
Palestinian children at a shop where their family is taking shelter in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Life is getting complicated. You wish that you were simpler and could accept things more easily. My little girl, Jaffa, who is 19 months old, was utterly terrified in the first week of the war. We couldn’t bring ourselves to explain what the sounds of the explosions were, but she could easily understand the fear written on our faces when we heard each one. After a week, we started to tell her that these were the sounds of a door being closed quickly by Naem, her older brother. Jaffa accepted this and started to adapt to the situation. She even played with the idea. When hearing each explosion, she now shouts, “The dooooooor!”, and then calls out to Naem to stop slamming it. In Jaffa’s logic, someone is slamming a door to keep us all imprisoned in this situation. Each door slam is a door slammed shut on the opportunity for peace. Each cry from Jaffa to her brother Naem to stop shutting the door is fruitless.

Thursday 24 July

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The worst thing is when you realise that you no longer understand what is going on. Throughout the night, the tanks, drones, F16 fighter jets and warships haven’t let up for a minute. The explosions are constant, always sounding as if they’re just next door. Sometimes you’re convinced that they’re in your very room, that you’ve finally been hit. Then you realise, it’s another miss. My mobile has a flat battery, so I’m unable to listen to the news. Instead, I lie in the dark and guess what’s going on, make up my own analysis.

In time, you start to distinguish between the different types of attack. By far the easiest distinction you learn to make is between an air attack, a tank attack, and an attack from the sea. The shells coming in from the sea are the largest in size, and the boom they make much deeper than anything else you hear. It’s an all-engulfing, all-encompassing sound: you feel as if the ground itself is being swallowed up. Tank rockets, by comparison, give off a much hollower sound. Their explosions leave more of an echo in the air, but you don’t feel it so much from beneath. A rocket dropped from an F16 produces an unmistakable, brilliant white light, as well as a long reverberation. A bomb from an F16 makes the whole street dance a little, sway for a good 30 seconds or so. You feel you might have to jump out of the window any minute, to escape the collapse. Different from all these, though, is the rocket you get from a drone. This rocket seems to have more personality – it projects a sharp yellow light up in to the sky. A few seconds before a drone strike, this bright light spreads over the sky, as if the rocket is telling us: it’s dinner time, time to feast.

F16 jet
A F16 jet releases a flare as it files over Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/PA

These are just impressions, of course. But when you sit each night in your living room waiting for death to not knock at your door, or send you a text message, telling you, “Death’s coming in one minute’s time,” when you are unable to answer the one question your kids need an answer to (“When is it going to end, Dad?”), when you struggle to summon the strength you need each day, just to get through that day … in these situations, which are, of course, all the same situation, what else can you do, but form “impressions”.

War teaches you how to adapt to its logic, but it doesn’t share its biggest secret, of course: how to survive it. For instance, whenever there’s a war on, you have to leave your windows half-open, so the pressure from the blasts doesn’t blow them out. To be even safer, you should cover every pane with adhesive tape, so that when it does break, the shards don’t fly indoors, or fall on people in the street below. It goes without saying you should never sleep anywhere near a window. The best place to sleep, people say, is near the stairs, preferably under them. The shell that fell two nights ago landed 150 metres away, smack in the middle of the Jabalia cemetery. The dead do not fight wars, but on this occasion they were forced to participate in the suffering of the living. The next morning dirty, grey bones lay scattered about the broken gravestones.

Friday 25 July

I only realise it’s a Friday when the prayers from the mosque start up. In a war, days no longer matter. Everything is tied to its rhythm, its discourse, its sounds and silences.

This morning I decide to go into Gaza City to see the centre. A young man is driving a horse and cart carrying mattresses and pillows, which presumably he plucked from the ruins of his house, in the direction of some shelter, in one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, I imagine. The man calls out to another on the street: “What day of Ramadan is it?” “The 27th,” comes his reply. This means that Eid is just three or four days from today. Normally, by this point, we would already be preparing for the celebrations. Every corner of the city would be strung with lights; shops would be open day and night, heaving with all the latest must-haves – mostly beautiful clothes that we ought to be wearing for Eid. Eid has its own smell and taste, you can’t mistake it.

But not this year. Now, everything is closed. All I can see is debris, collapsed buildings, huge ugly gaps where buildings used to be, ruins. Rubble is the only permanent image I have when I close my eyes.

Women, babies, old men, young boys and girls – all start to move slowly down in Unknown Soldier’s Square. They’re beginning to wake up; a few are still stretched out, asleep on the pieces of cardboard or material they’ve brought with them – few are lucky enough to have mattresses – and which they’ve spread out over the square’s gardens to spend the night on. This was the safest they could do in terms of refuge: the open air. The UNRWA schools, acting as refugee camps across Gaza, have been full for more than a week. The horrors these people have seen, the death they’ve been forced to taste back home, has been enough to make them drop everything and spend the night exposed like this: either in the Unknown Soldier’s gardens, or on the triangular-shaped patch of grass in the middle of Omar al Mokhtar Street, opposite the Palestinian Legislative Council. These gardens normally represent glamorous parts of the city; they are surrounded by expensive shops, the best restaurants. Now the gardens have become just another refugee camp. As I walk through them, I see that the fountains, at least, are providing a distraction for some of the boys now camped among them – they’re making the most of the cold water, stripping off and reclaiming the fountains as swimming pools, determined to make a little paradise of their own in this hell.

Suddenly an F16 breaks the sound barrier above us, rattling the square with its sonic boom. All necks crane as we scan the sky for a glimpse of where the rocket might land. A few seconds later we hear it: the F16 has taken its meal somewhere in Al Rimal neighbourhood. Like everyone else in the street, I run to the safest possible place: the centre of the street. On such occasions, you learn to keep away from any buildings still intact. I run along the centre of the street, along with everyone else, towards the ruins of the Al Isra Tower, which was hit a week ago and in which many families died. This was one of first tall buildings to be built in Gaza after the peace accords of 1994. Architecturally, it was quite impressive. Now it’s just a hill of rubble; no reason for a rocket to strike here. Back in Jabalia, my wife Hanna is fighting with the children over whether they should be allowed to go outside. They want to see the street and breathe the outside air. Even when they try to stand at the window, to look out over at the refugee-filled school across the street, Hanna snatches them back. My boy, Mostafa, wants to go my father’s house, to play with his cousins there. “No is no,” Hanna insists. They look at me pleadingly. I suggest that I take them with me this evening. What Hanna does not know, and I keep a secret from her, is that when I take the kids to my father’s place, which is just four minutes’ walk, the kids spend most of their time in the internet cafes next door, playing computer games.

Every day I quarrel with Hanna about this. In the end, I take the kids for a few hours before bringing them back. Every minute of our walk there we are at risk. Every step we take is another risk. As I hurry towards my father’s place, holding their hands, I pray the unthinkable doesn’t happen.

Saturday 26 July

Palestinians greet each other
Palestinians greet each other amid the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes in Gaza City. Photograph: Sameh Rahmi/NurPhoto/Corbis

It has now been 40 hours with no electricity. The water was also cut off yesterday. Electricity is a constant issue in Gaza. Since the Strip’s only power station was bombed in 2008, Gazans have had at best 12 hours of electricity a day. These 12 hours could be during the day, or while you are fast asleep; it’s impossible to predict. Complaining about it gets you nowhere. For three weeks we’ve barely had two or three hours a day. And right now, we would be happy with just one.

These blackouts affect every part of your life. Your day revolves around that precious moment the power comes back on. You have to make the most of every last second of it. First, you charge every piece of equipment that has a battery: your mobile, laptop, torches, radio, etc. Second, you try not to use any equipment while it’s being charged – to make the most of that charge. Next you have to make some hard decisions about which phone calls to take, which emails or messages to reply to. Even when you make a call, you have to stop yourself from straying into any “normal” areas of conversation – they’re a waste of power.

On Friday night, my friend Hisham, who works at Beit Hanoun Hospital, phoned to say that they had been bombed. Shells struck the x-ray room and the operating theatre. People, patients, doctors, and nurses were all terrified. Hisham’s three-minute description of the chaos was concluded with the insistence that some kind of intervention from the Red Cross or the UN must come. Hundreds of families were camping out in the gardens of the hospital, having nowhere else to go. I phoned Palestine TV and told them that people were trapped in Beit Hanoun Hospital and that they should make a plea to the Red Cross and UN. I was at my friend Husain’s place at the time with another friend, Abu Aseel, smoking nargila in the darkness. It was nearly midnight on the Friday, so I headed off towards my place.

There were several UNRWA schools-turned-refugee camps on my way home. I visited the second of them, where my friend Ali Kamal, who works as a teacher there, is part of the team taking care of the displaced people. In the administration room, Kamal was wearing a UN bulletproof vest. We sat outside, in front of the school, and he told me that the school is hosting some 2,450 persons, equating to 430 families. They serve each family one proper meal a day, plus a few biscuits. As we talked, I stared at the queue of people on one side, waiting to receive blankets from a window, and at another queue on the other, waiting to receive food. Kamal works a 24-hour shift, then goes home for 24 hours, before returning.

One of the school’s refugees, from the Ghabin family, went out yesterday afternoon to see his house and check on his animals in the field behind it. He was shot by a tank. His family and relatives organised a funeral for him inside the school. Sad faces, bitter eyes, terrible silences all under this metal ceiling – one that used to hang over a sports room where boys played, now a place for tributes and condolences.

Before I left, at around 2am on Saturday morning, news spread through the school that there would be a 12-hour humanitarian truce starting at 8am. You always greet talk of truces and ceasefires with a degree of scepticism. But in the school, everyone responded to it optimistically, planning their return to their homes and farms.

In the morning, the first question I ask when I open my eyes is: is there a truce? Hanna nods. This time she doesn’t mind if the children go to my father’s place, to play in the internet cafe. She is happy that finally, for 12 hours at least, they can move about. She is happy for herself, too. For the past hour she has been trying to decide where to go. I decide to go and see the damage in Shujaia, with my friends Aed and Salem.

Looking at the rubble where his house once stood, a man says: “This is not a war. This is the beginning of doomsday.” So much of this neighbourhood has been destroyed that, further down the street, another man cannot actually work out which bit of it had been his. The whole street is just rubble: stone, metal, bricks, piles of sand. Large strips of tarmac twist out of the sand suggesting where the street might have been. But there is no real definition to the street, no limits or boundaries between any of the houses either.

Man carries cushions
A man carries cushions he found in the rubble of destroyed buildings in Shujai’iya. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

People’s homes now merge and weave together all over Gaza, like threads in a woollen scarf, knitted together by an old woman. Different colours, different materials, different styles. One of the men picking through the chaos, starts to scream: “This is 60 years of my family’s savings!” This is what I see as I drive with Aed and Saleem towards Shujai’iya. Baghdad Street – one of Shujai’iya’s main streets, running from the entrance to the quarter through towards the start of Gaza City to the east – is the main site of destruction. Baghdad Street, ironically enough, looks not unlike the scenes left behind by the American and British armies after the 2003 war.

A dozen or so cows have been killed near a farm on the edge of the neighbourhood. Even cows have failed to escape this war. Each one lies on its side; its tongue lolling out of its mouth, its belly starting to inflate with decay. One cow seems to be be split cleanly in half. We’re delighted, eventually, to see that one cow is still alive. It’s standing in a small square of rubble – presumably the remains of what was its barn – and we approach it carefully. It keeps its face close to the one remaining part of a wall; it looks pale and appears to have a leg wound. As we get near it limps away, clearly in pain, but too scared to let us help it.

Old women sit helplessly in the debris of their homes. A few kids can be seen searching for toys. Ambulances and medical teams work through the day to find people still alive under these ruins. Today, some 151 corpses have been found in this rubble. Some of them have started to decay already. You can smell the dead bodies on every corner of Shujai’iya. One of the corpses found was of a women: she had been carrying both her children, one in each arm, when the tank shell hit her home. It seems she was simply trying to protect them. She held them tight to her chest, and despite the weight of the masonry she never let go. What they found under all that concrete was like a still life, apparently, a photograph, a perfect composition. Abu Noor, my neighbour, was busy with his family helping to look through the rubble of a building in which six members of a family were killed. A child’s corpse was still missing. Everyone was desperate to find trace of the body. Abu Noor finally touched flesh. Something that to him felt like the body of the child. He screamed out, calling everyone around him to help him lift the stones. He managed to get a firm hold on a limb and dragged it slowly to the surface. It was a leg of a man. Whose leg? Nobody knows.

The truce is meant to be for 12 hours, running 8am until 8pm. We remain in Shujai’iya until 4pm, moving from one street to the next, trying to process the damage, and help as much as we can in the removal of debris. A man calls us over to the side of the street, as we start to drive east, warning that there are tanks just a few hundred yards away. He says if they see the car we’ll be a target. We have to turn back.

In Beit Hanoun and Khoza’a the scenes are no better. The tanks start shooting at people again at 5pm, three hours before the truce in Beit Hanoun was supposed to end. In Khoza’a, people are not allowed to visit the debris of their homes. Everyone looks at his watch to see how much time there is left.

Despite everything – the killing, the destruction, the missing people, the displaced people, the tears, the wounds, the suffering – for these 12 hours of truce, I see Gaza as it used to be. People in their thousands on the street, buying food, moving from one place to another; the shops open, kids playing in the streets. It is a city that has poured itself out into a few moments of peace. Now the truce is coming to an end. The tank mortars have started to roar again, filling the air with their terror.

Atef Abu Saif is a Palestinian author who lives in Gaza.

What’s Killing the Children in Jadugora, India?

Originally posted on ChildreninShadow.wordpress.com:

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What’s Killing the Children in Jadugora, India?

Once ringed by lush tribal forests, the village of Jadugora is toOnce ringed by lush tribal forests, the village of Jadugora is today a troubling portrait of modern India, its outskirts a postcard of pastel-painted mud houses scattered amid tidy rice fields, its center the hub of India’s uranium mining industry that is fueling an unprecedented nuclear power boom. Photograph by Redux for Bloomberg News Closeday a troubling portrait of modern India, its… Read More

Ten-year-old Sanjay Gope moved normally as a toddler until seizures began to wring the life from his arms and legs. When there is no family member around to assist him in walking, he is “forced to crawl around the ground like a snake.” Photography: Redux for Bloomberg.com Close

Ten-year-old Sanjay Gope moved…

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Nebeneinkünfte von Bundestagsabgeordneten: So viel verdienen Politiker nebenbei

Nebeneinkünfte von Bundestagsabgeordneten: So viel verdienen Politiker nebenbei

Veröffentlicht: 27/07/2014 09:24 CEST Aktualisiert: 27/07/2014 12:21 CEST

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Fast eine Million Euro in neun Monaten: So viel verdienen unsere Politiker nebenbei | Getty
Die Nebeneinkünfte von Bundestagsabgeordneten sind immer wieder Thema einer hitzigen Debatte – und das zurecht. Wie viel dürfen Politiker durch Reden, Beratungsleistungen und sonstige Nebenjobs verdienen? Und vor allem: Von wem dürfen sie überhaupt Geld nehmen?Vielleicht lassen diese Zahlen die Debatte erneut aufflammen: Das Internetportal abgeordnetenwatch.de hat ausgerechnet, dass deutsche Politiker seit der Bundestagswahl im vergangenen Jahr – zusätzlich zu ihren Abgeordnetengehältern – mindestens 2,1 Millionen Euro aus anonymen Quellen eingenommen haben – “wahrscheinlich jedoch sehr viel mehr”.

Der Topverdiener im Bundestag ist Peter Gauweiler. Als Rechtsanwalt hat der CSU-Vizeparteichef nach Berechnungen von abgeordnetenwatch.de mindestens 967.500 Euro in den ersten neun Monaten der Legislaturperiode aus nicht bekannten Quellen hinzuverdient.

  • Darauf folgen Albert Stegemann von der CDU mit 578.000 Euro,
  • Stephan Harbarth (CDU), 550.000 Euro,
  • Johannes Röring (CDU), 290.500 Euro,
  • und Dagmar Wöhrl (CDU), 285.000 Euro.

Erst auf dem 9. Platz steht Peer Steinbrück (SPD) mit 159.000 Euro.

(Hier finden Sie die komplette Liste)

Tatsächlich dürfte die Summe der Nebeneinkünfte von Gauweiler & Co. sogar noch weitaus höher liegen, schreibt der “Spiegel”.

Denn laut aktuellen Regeln müssen die Parlamentarier ihre Einkünfte nicht auf den letzten Euro genau angeben, sie müssen es lediglich in zehn Stufen einordnen. Die höchste Stufe ist mit “über 250.000 Euro” festgelegt. Wer mehr verdient, muss die Summe nicht mehr genau beziffern.

“Mögliche Interessenkonflikte liegen auf der Hand”, schreibt abgeordnetenwatch.de zu den Nebeneinkünften: “Kann ein Parlamentarier zum Beispiel unbefangen über den Anbau von Genmais abstimmen, wenn er als selbständiger Landwirt für einen gentechnikfreundlichen Agrarkonzern tätig ist?”

Um diese Interessenkonflikte aufzudecken, hat das Portal eine Petition gegen die Verschleierung der Nebeneinkünfte von Abgeordneten gestartet.

Auch wenn die Top-Liste von Unionsabgeordneten dominiert wird: Nebenverdiener gibt es in allen Fraktionen. Jeder vierte Parlamentarier lässt sich einen Zusatzjob bezahlen. Von den CSU-Abgeordneten sind es sogar 45 Prozent.

Fracking push gets go-ahead across UK as ministers tighten safeguards

Originally posted on spiritandanimal.wordpress.com:

Fracking push gets go-ahead across UK as ministers tighten safeguards

Drilling will be allowed in national parks in ‘exceptional circumstances’ but ministers retain power to veto plans
 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/28/fracking-expansion-uk-drilling-national-parks-safeguards?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2
Fracking protest camp

The anti-fracking protest camp in Salford, where energy company iGas built a vertical test well. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian./Christopher Thomond

Ministers will give the go-ahead on Monday for a big expansion of fracking across Britain that will allow drilling in national parks and other protected areas in “exceptional circumstances”.:::

READ MORE….

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‘Heroes on the Water:’ Organization helps local veterans leave stress behind

Originally posted on Q13 FOX News:

DES MOINES — Some local veterans took advantage of great weather this weekend to go kayak fishing and crabbing at Salt Water State Park in Des Moines.

The event was organized by a non-profit organization called Heroes on the Water which has chapters all across the country.

Many of the people who participated were wounded while serving our country.

The goal of the outdoor adventure is to help veterans leave all their stress behind.

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Animals feel the pain of religious slaughter – science-in-society – 13 October 2009 – New Scientist

Originally posted on spiritandanimal.wordpress.com:

Animals feel the pain of religious slaughter – science-in-society – 13 October 2009 – New Scientist.

Animals feel the pain of religious slaughter

Brain signals have shown that calves appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law (Image: Alex Segre / Rex Features)

Brain signals have shown that calves appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law (Image: Alex Segre / Rex Featu

Brain signals have shown that calves do appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law, strengthening the case for adapting the practices to make them more humane.

“I think our work is the best evidence yet that it’s painful,” says Craig Johnson, who led the study at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Johnson summarised his results last week in London when receiving an award from the UK Humane Slaughter Association. His team also showed that if…

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Úgy szeretnék gazdag lenni, Egyszer Zsírós kenyeret enni…”

 

“Úgy szeretnék gazdag lenni .
– Egyszer Zsíros kenyeret enni,
de úgy, hogy ne kelljen kérni!
Zsírt és Kenyeret magam tudjak venni!
S ha rám nézne egy Égi Hatalom,
és SÓT is vehetnék, ha úgy akarom,
és hagymát és …
– De lám megint álmodom
itt e kopott téren, e zúzmarás padon.”

 

World News After Flight 17 Crash, Agony, Debris and Heartbreak in Ukraine Villages

  • World News

    After Flight 17 Crash, Agony, Debris and Heartbreak in Ukraine Villages

    July 25, 2014 8:45 p.m. ET

    Natalya Voloshina, mayor of Petropavlivka, Ukraine, outside the local village hall. The residents of Petropavlivka remain deeply distressed by what they saw when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed nearby on July 17. Paul Sonne foFlight 17 was shot down, the war raging between Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels created crushing challenges for the mayor of this small, worn-down village.

    Natalya Voloshina couldn’t pay municipal salaries, pensions or energy bills because money from the central government in Kiev was frozen. The coal mine where her husband and high-school sweetheart works largely shut down. The fighting was creeping closer.

    Then the plane crashed. The cabin’s second-row overhead compartment is in a tree across from the village hall—and suitcases and clothes are in backyards and gardens of square-windowed cottages.

    Villagers dashed into their basements, fearing a bomb attack. Residents in a nearby village ran for the church, certain that the world was coming to an end. A colleague of Ms. Voloshina screamed after being nearly hit by the plane’s cargo hold. Days later, the 43-year-old mayor found the bottom half of a man’s body in the shrubs next to her office. She has barely slept since then.

    “I know that for others I need to look strong, assured and composed,” says Ms. Voloshina, her hands still trembling a week after the July 17 crash. “But when I’m not at work, I cry at home into my pillow.”

    Father Sergei, the local priest in Hrabove, Ukraine, in his village’s Russian Orthodox church. He was born in the area of the Flight 17 crash site and is now helping his parish cope with the emotional toll of the catastrophe. Alexander Kolyandr for The Wall Street Journal

    The aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 tragedy has been a nightmare for victims’ relatives. How did Malaysia’s Prime Minister get the Russian separatists to begin cooperating? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has The Short Answer.

    Flight 17 has gripped the world because of the deaths of 298 passengers and crew on the Boeing 777 and the geopolitical crisis triggered by the crash. But the disaster also includes the horror that has paralyzed three Ukrainian villages about 30 miles from the border with Russia. After the plane fell to earth, almost no one came to their rescue.

    While most of the bodies have been removed from the crash site, the roughly 6,500 residents of the villages remain traumatized by what they saw, trapped by debris and passengers’ belongings scattered across the local landscape. Pieces of other people’s lives haunt their own.

    The plane’s cockpit and dozens of bodies plummeted into Rozsypne, about 2 miles from Petropavlivka. One body fell through a woman’s roof. A pilot strapped to a seat wound up next to a flight attendant in a nearby field.

    Charred remains of an engine, landing gear and wings fell in a fireball next to Hrabove, with a tumbling storm cloud of at least 70 bodies, some of them largely intact.

    Even Friday, an abandoned Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear still lay in a field between Hrabove and Petropavlivka. The sun is bleaching the pages of a Dutch-language version of Ivan Turgenev’s novel “Fathers and Sons” in the 85-degree heat.

    No villagers on the ground died, but they are scared of what they might find next. No one with crash or cleanup expertise has told Ms. Voloshina or the other mayors what to do about the crash debris.

    Officials in Kiev are largely cut off due to the war. Regional authorities and police are in disarray because of the rebel takeover, while foreign officials have been slow-moving or incommunicado. There is no money. The Dutch-led team that will investigate the crash hasn’t reached the scene.

    “We asked what to do, how we should act, but no one said anything,” says Ms. Voloshina, a former mathematics teacher who grew up in Petropavlivka. She put on a formal purple dress and stood near the crash site this week, wringing her hands while trying to project an image of control.

    She says she would have found volunteers to cordon off parts of the crash site, packaged passenger belongings in a specified way or gathered the plane’s debris in one place. Without expertise, she is afraid of doing something wrong, she says.

    Before the crash, residents in these villages were suffering under poverty, with pensions averaging $125 a month and miners’ wages at about $550. The violence has crippled local mines, closed factories and halted farm work. Some residents have fled. Others joined the fight.

    For months, farmers in Hrabove heard the war creeping across the sunflower-swept hills. In June, village priest Father Sergei led residents in a peace procession on the Feast of All Russian Saints to pray that Hrabove would somehow be spared from the encroaching violence.

    Pieces of Flight 17 landed feet from the cross where the procession ended, just missing the town. At home, Father Sergei fell to his knees to pray as an inferno covered in black smoke barreled through the sky toward Hrabove, a former Soviet collective farm.

    Around the corner from the Petropavlivka village hall, a piece of Flight 17’s fuselage remains in Mayor Natalya Voloshina’s relative’s cabbage patch more than a week after the crash of the Boeing 777. Paul Sonne for The Wall Street Journal

    “We thought it was the end of the world,” the Orthodox priest says. He stayed on the ground in prayer, preparing to meet God, and then ran up the hill as burning pieces of the plane’s undercarriage and landing gear pelted a field like bombs. Then came a hail of bodies: arms, heads and fingers.

    Farmers dashed to the village, afraid it would be engulfed by an inferno. Hrabove Mayor Vladimir Berezhnoi screamed at drivers and motorcyclists to get off the road as fire rolled across a field. When he saw bodies, Mr. Berezhnoi yelled at adults to take their children home.

    A few miles away, Oleg Miroshnichenko, a retired miner who became the mayor of Rozsypne about 13 years ago, felt panic as he heard two loud blasts and watched the remains of about 40 passengers rain down on yards and homes. His phone started ringing off the hook.

    “There’s a body here, a body there, another body,” he says.

    Three bodies plunged into Rozsypne’s orphanage, with two landing in a bathroom area and one in the garden. Many of the dead passengers were naked.

    Emergency workers from the Donetsk region arrived and started photographing and marking locations of the dead. The workers started putting out the fires in Hrabove and searching for bodies in the area. Rebels with guns came and stood guard.

    A piece of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 waits to be collected outside a house in the village of Petropavlivka, Ukraine. Paul Sonne for The Wall Street Journal

    Mayors of the three villages waited for word about whether they could move the human remains. No orders came. For days, separatists controlling the area fought with Kiev over who should probe the crash site. International monitors showed up but also gave no instructions. European and American officials refused to talk to the rebels directly and didn’t call the mayors at all.

    “There should have been a command from Kiev or someone about what to do,” says the exhausted Mr. Miroshnichenko, sitting under a pair of birch trees outside Rozsypne’s village hall. He recalls being forced to bury friend after friend who died in coal mines where he worked for 25 years.

    “In mines, you don’t remove a body until they investigate it,” he says.

    Villagers and emergency workers decided to start bagging bodies that were rotting in the sun. Local miners joined the effort. Heartbroken residents had been pleading in tears for the bodies’ removal.

    In Hrabove, the workers set up orange tents in the field amid the corpses and stayed night after night. Villagers brought borscht, water and bread.

    The morning after the plane was shot down, residents gathered at the little Orthodox church. Father Sergei held a service under blue and white arches and old frescoes built in 1802. Officials asked for volunteers to search for more bodies. Local miners joined the effort.

    The first monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived in Hrabove the same day. Gun-toting rebels denied them full access to the crash site, according to the OSCE, which accused militants of being unprofessional and drunk.

    Mr. Berezhnoi, Hrabove’s mayor, says no one sought him out. “They didn’t come to me or pay any attention to me,” he says.

    Grief-stricken residents fear that fighting nearby will get worse in the wake of the crash. Asked if any psychological counseling is available, Mr. Miroshnichenko seems doubtful, since he already spends his own money to take out Rozsypne’s trash.

    Before the crash, Mr. Berezhnoi says, he thought pain couldn’t get any worse than when his wife died a year ago and his mother died the year before.

    The overhead bins from the front rows of the aircraft remain lodged in a tree across from the Petropavlivka village hall. Paul Sonne for The Wall Street Journal

    “I’m 60 years old, and I’ve never seen something as terrible as this,” he says. “And I’m sure I’ll never see anything this terrible for the rest of my life.”

    In Hrabove, resident Lena Dolgova is trying to calm her teenage granddaughter, who keeps waking up with nightmares. For days, Ms. Dolgova walked by rotting bodies to reach the village’s only store. War put Hrabove on edge, but the crash sent it over.

    “It’s like chapters from a book,” Ms. Dolgova says. “The day before the crash—and the day the rest of our lives began.”

    In Petropavlivka, the suggestion that locals took the belongings of some crash victims offends Ms. Voloshina, the mayor. Her husband joined fellow miners who volunteered to comb the fields in search of bodies. They wore purple latex gloves and carted out the passengers on what looked like Soviet-era stretchers before placing the bodies in bags.

    “It’s hard for him to talk,” Ms. Voloshina says. “He’s a tall, strong man, and he still has tears in his eyes from that.”

    On Thursday, an elderly woman showed up at her office in tears and handed over a doll with the name Emma stitched in pink across its shirt. The woman was digging potatoes. Emma turned up instead.

    Ms. Voloshina is keeping the doll in a purple plastic bag on top of a large pile of passenger belongings that villagers keep finding every day: suitcases, wallets, a USB cord, and on and on.

    “We’re keeping them, we’re waiting,” Ms. Voloshina said. She vowed to get Emma home.

    Write to Paul Sonne at paul.sonne@wsj.com, Margaret Coker at margaret.coker@wsj.com and Alexander Kolyandr at Alexander.Kolyandr@wsj.com

    After Flight 17 Crash, Agony, Debris and Heartbreak in Ukraine Villages

    Villagers Near Malaysia Airlines Crash Site Feel Abandoned and Overwhelmed

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR AN ELEPHANT!?! -TRGU MURES ZOO/ROMANIA: HELP NEEDED!

Originally posted on spiritandanimal.wordpress.com:

To Whom It May Concern:
I have just learned of Tania an Asian elephant at the Trgu Mures Zoo
whom is confined alone showing signs of distress due to not having enough space. She is confined to only 90 sq ft with no adequate habitat to fit her needs. It is appalling by the amount of space provided to her. Tania has no where near the amount of space needed whether she is inside or outside, the place is too small for any elephant. Even 10,000 sq ft. is not enough for her.
Due to extreme cold winters in Romania Tania is cooped up for six months at a time, which drives them insane, whether keepers are there or not. This has added acceleration to the deterioration of her feet. No vet can correct this as long as she cannot move, even in the small outside enclosure. Her feet will…

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