By: FOX News Radio's Emily Wither reporting from Tel Aviv
I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent a few hours one night sleeping in the bathtub.
Gaza is tiny - about 25 miles long and 10 miles wide - and the fighting is unbelievably close. Hamas is often accused of firing rockets from civilian areas, but with nearly two million people crammed into this tiny strip of land, it's one of the most densely populated places in the world. People living there will tell you that there are civilians everywhere.
I watched rockets fired from either side of my hotel and minutes later received updates from friends and colleagues in Israel that sirens were wailing in their cities and they could hear the boom of the country's missile defense system intercepting them above.
When darkness falls, the city's soundtrack gets a little louder. There's the whoosh of the rockets, the rumble of fighter jets roaring in and out like thunder, the large booms of explosions that shake the building and rattle the windows and the constant thud, thud, thud of naval gunﬁre. Then there's the constant buzz of Israeli drones like giant mosquitoes that never leave. After I left Gaza, it took a day or so before the hum of an air conditioner no longer sounded like a surveillance aircraft.
Listen below to some of Emily Wither's reporting from Gaza, on those with passports leaving family members behind:
Add to that the constant power cuts that plunge you into darkness. I imagine entire extended families huddled together in their cramped high-rise apartments paralyzed in fear by the sounds of the night. I know that they don't have the same reassuring knowledge that the building they are in will never be hit.
The radio show hosts I speak to across America often ask me, "What do the Palestinians do when there's an air strike?" or "Why do they stay in Gaza?"
That question always throws me slightly-- they do nothing, I reply. Unlike other wars where civilian's head for the border, Gazans are trapped bordered by Israel and Egypt they can't leave. There are no air raid sirens, bomb shelters or iPhone apps warning of incoming fire. In Israel-- they run around before the attacks. In Gaza-- they run around afterwards.
At Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, they arrive with blood dripping out of the door in taxis, civilian cars, and sometimes ambulances. They literally slam in to each other outside the front door to rush in the injured. A doctor's hands shake as he tells me he's mostly treating civilians caught in the crossfire.
Listen below to some of Emily Wither's reporting on the chaotic scene outside a hospital in Gaza:
I've never covered a story before where I've received constant online abuse for being biased on either side. Some of my colleagues have received hate mail. We also got an email from Israel's government press office explaining that the state is not responsible for our lives while covering the conflict.
Disclaimer: This blog is just a snapshot of my experience. I didn't grow up with the terror of suicide bombings or the danger of rockets randomly falling from the sky. Nor do I know what it's like to live behind checkpoints and be denied the right to travel freely. All I know is the sight of a father sheltering his wife and children from an incoming attack looks the same on the manicured lawns of Tel Aviv as it does on the dusty road in Gaza.
I left Gaza before the ground operation started. It was terrifying then. My gut is twisted in a knot imagining what it's like now. The hardest thing about going to Gaza is knowing the horror you leave behind.