Lincoln native living near Gaza describes unfolding crisis in region

BOSTON — From her neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Shaina Low can hear bombs in the distance. What she’s also noticed in recent days is the eerie silence of her usually bustling neighborhood.

“There have been a few times today when we did hear rockets making impact in the Jerusalem area,” said Low, a native of Lincoln. “I think they’re within a few miles, but most of the bombing is in Gaza and the area immediately surrounding Gaza.”

And it is in Gaza where Low’s organization focuses its work. The Lincoln native is Communications Advisor to the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the humanitarian groups working in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Low, who is Jewish, has long expressed concern over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians -- and how human rights abuses have a tendency to foment violence. She suggested the latest conflict, which started when the group Hamas launched thousands of strikes at Israeli targets over the weekend, has been brewing.

“We’ve already seen in the West Bank this year really unprecedented violence against Palestinians,” she said. “And we were worried that what happened in Gaza could create a spill-over effect and increase the tension and unrest and violence in the West Bank, as well.”

Low said all 51 Norwegian Refugee Council workers in Gaza are safe -- but not all are sound.

“About fifteen of them have had to relocate either because their homes have been destroyed or because of targeting in the areas in which they reside,” she said.

Movement in and out of Gaza is tightly controlled, Low said.

“People are terrified for their lives, they don’t know where to turn for safety,” she said. “Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth and there’s nowhere safe to go.”

Gaza has also become a darker place in the last couple of days as the flow of electricity into the territory, already limited, has been cut drastically.

“People are saying they have a maximum of four hours,” she said. “Some of our colleagues are saying half an hour of electricity.”

That’s not enough to keep perishable food safe -- unless there’s a back-up generator -- but perhaps that won’t matter much in coming days. Israel reportedly plans to cut off food and water to Gaza as part of its counterattack. For Low, that means more mass suffering on top of the old mass suffering -- and on and on it goes.

“It’s collective punishment of a civilian population of 2.2 million civilian Palestinians,” she said -- many of them children. “They don’t have any control over what’s happening. They don’t have any ability, even, to flee.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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