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"Editor's note: The Israeli government is not allowing independent media
access through Israel to Gaza. CNN Senior International Correspondent
Ben Wedeman crossed into Gaza from Egypt."

Wedeman: Defiance amid destruction in Gaza

    * Story Highlights
    * Wedeman: U.N. school mobbed by people seeking refuge from airstrikes
    * Massive destruction on border with Egypt
    * Morale and defiance high despite continued offensive

By Ben Wedeman
CNN Senior International Correspondent

Editor's note: The Israeli government is not allowing independent media access 
through Israel to Gaza. CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman 
crossed into Gaza from Egypt.

RAFAH, Gaza (CNN) -- Bloodshed, fear, privation and anger were all clearly 
visible in Gaza as we finally managed to enter the territory. Unsurprisingly, 
there were also displays of fist-shaking defiance, but what I had not expected 
was the high morale.

We arrived in Gaza in darkness, so at first there was little to see -- but 
plenty to hear. Israeli planes were passing overhead the whole time, and drones 
could be heard buzzing through the night.

Then there were the explosions. One impacted not far from where we were staying 
the night. There was a huge blast. You could feel the shockwave passing through 
the building, shaking the floors and rattling the windows.

The explosions continued after sunrise throughout the border area. At the Abu 
Yusuf Al Najjar hospital, the largest medical facility in the border town of 
Rafah, their horrendous effects were visible. VideoWatch Wedeman describe the 
blasts »

We saw one person who had been riding a bike down the road when a rocket landed 
nearby. He suffered bone fractures and shrapnel wounds all over his body. His 
right leg needed to be amputated at the upper thigh.

Doctors, more used to dealing with bullet wounds than the current array of 
weaponry being used by the Israelis, said 20 percent of the injuries they were 
dealing with were light, 30 percent were serious to critical, and another 30 
percent die within the first 30 minutes of arriving at hospital.

At a U.N. school where people were seeking refuge because their neighborhoods 
were bombed or under threat, crowds mobbed handouts of blankets and rations. 
Classrooms in the building were each crammed with six or seven families (all 
large extended families).

We toured an area near the border with Egypt where tunnels had been dug to get 
supplies into Gaza. There we saw dozens and dozens of houses completely 
destroyed, huge craters everywhere.

Earlier, when we caught the last bus from Egypt into Gaza, we spoke to 
Palestinian passengers, most of whom said they had been arrested in Egypt and 
abused by police before being deported. Their bitterness toward Egypt, 
particularly its president, Hosni Mubarak, and other Arab leaders over their 
perceived failure to provide support was echoed among others we spoke to.

This was matched by anger toward the United States, because most people know it 
supplies Israel with the warplanes bombarding them.

The attacks have badly affected Gaza's electricity supply. The territory gets 
its power from Egypt, but lines have been knocked out by explosions, leaving 
connections intermittent in some areas. Water is also a problem, many areas now 
without any supply.

With the Israeli offensive effectively cutting the territory in half, there is 
now no way to pass from southern Gaza to the north, other than in an ambulance 
-- and even the ambulance drivers say that's not a sure thing.

But despite the problems, there are signs of normality, as many people go about 
their business in defiance of the conflict. Shops were trading, although only 
one-fifth were open, and people were on the streets.

I'm surprised at how buoyant people are given the circumstances. Talking to 
them, I find morale high and an overall sense of defiance.

At one point I saw a young boy on a donkey cart, unaware I was observing him. 
As an Israeli jet passed overhead, he shook a fist at the sky.

All AboutIsrael • Gaza
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