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Cleveland Palestinians tired of being labeled aggressor, want end to occupation

Gaza conflict
Posted at 8:49 AM, Oct 13, 2023

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As the war between Gaza and Israel continues, both sides are seeing mass casualties, with a death toll at 2,800 and rising as of Friday morning.

The war began after the Hamas militant group launched a surprise attack on Israel and, in response, Israel has now carried out a 6th day of bombardments to the Gaza Strip.

Two million people are living in the Gaza Strip, an area that is about twice the size of Washington DC. Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 following Hamas becoming the governing body and, according to the United Nations, the Gaza Strip, along with the West Bank are also under Israeli military occupation.

As the war between the two only worsens, many Palestinian civilians who live there have found themselves caught up in the middle.

While the sound of airstrikes echoes through the Gaza Strip, Yousra hopes the war will end soon.

“The situation is unbelievable and unexplainable,” said Yousra Abu Sharekh over the phone.

In Gaza, Yousra Abu Sharekh has heard and felt the impacts of the bombing for days now. News 5 spoke to her over the phone because, with no wifi and power, she couldn't do a video call.

“There's no electricity, there's no water everywhere. There's no shelter safe and secure,” said Yousra.

Yousra and her two kids fled from their home before it was destroyed by the bombs, but she says they have no place to go because Gaza is under a blockade, and the only way out was bombed. Her situation is exactly why Chance Imad, an attorney in Cleveland, is concerned about his own family's safety.

“Not knowing whether an airstrike is going to hit them. Whether their house is going to be destroyed. Whether they don't have food, electricity, water, and you can't do anything about it,” said Chance.

Chance says what makes it even harder is seeing Palestinians misidentified and labeled as terrorists when their pain goes back decades.

“I don’t think it's accurate. Palestinians have been terrified for about 75 years. They have been under Israeli military occupations, which is one of the most brutal dehumanizing things any human can go through,” said Chance.

According to the United Nations, Israel has occupied Palestine since 1967, though in 2005 they were pressured to remove their military control, the UN still considers the area occupied.

“These are not just numbers that we're talking about. These are like my aunts my uncles, my cousins that we're all speaking about,” said Chance.

Shereen Naser, an associate professor of psychology at Cleveland State, tells News 5 that history shows Arabs in the US haven't been portrayed in the best light.

“In the face of all of that, a lot of Palestinians right now are feeling disenfranchised, marginalized, dehumanized because of the narrative in the media,” said Shereen.

Most Palestinians don't want war. They want to be understood and freed from their military occupation.

“They are marketing us as terrorist, and they are marketing the Israelis as victims. I believe in war there is no winner, there are only losers,” said Yousra.

RELATED: ‘Nightmare’ — Ohio Jews and Israelis mourn over 1,300 dead in Israel after Hamas attack

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