Israel did its best to keep me out of the Gaza Strip. Not just me—all international media. For two weeks, we watched from the Egyptian side of Gaza’s southern border as plumes of smoke erupted from around Rafah, and the wounded trickled out, one by one, in battered Palestinian ambulances on their way to intensive care units in Cairo. Finally, in the last week of Operation Cast Lead, something gave, and the Egyptian government unexpectedly opened the gates. I entered Gaza with a few dozen journalists and aid workers on January 16—the day after my twenty-eighth birthday. An armed drone tracked my taxi, plastered with press insignia, through the wasted streets of Rafah, and the ear-splitting sonic booms of strike fighters rattled the windows. The war was no longer a spectacle on the horizon; I was in the kill zone. As I moved north from the heavily bombed neighborhoods near the Egyptian border, targeted for their proximity to Gaza’s illegal tunnel network, toward the epicenter of the Israeli offensive in Gaza City, I was haunted by images of Stalingrad, Dresden, Hué City. Weeks of shelling had left the tiny, teeming enclave a moonscape of flattened homes and ravaged fields.
more from Elliott D. Woods at VQR here.