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Gaza Strip Reviews

Taking a step away from the back and forth over who has a right to be where that is at the heart of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this important documentary from American filmmaker James Longley looks closely at the toll it has taken on people who are among those most affected by the violence: Palestinian children. In January 2001, Longley took his camera to the embattled Gaza Strip to collect materials for what he planned on being a film about the Palestinian Intifada. Located between Israel and Egypt and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, this 360 square mile rectangle of desert was originally intended to be part of the Arab state established by the 1948 partitioning of Israeli, and has since become home to nearly 1.2 million Palestinian refugees. Since its seizure by Israeli forces during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, 30 percent of the Gaza Strip has become occupied by some 6000 Israeli settlers, and it has known precious few days of peace. Longley's original plans to leave the region after two weeks changed when Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister of Israeli and, expecting the worst from the new leadership, cities throughout the Gaza Strip erupted in further violence. Longley wound up staying three months. From the over 75 hours of video shot, Longley has constructed a remarkably coherent, horrifically vivid snapshot of those turbulent days, a snapshot centered mostly on a 13-year-old newspaper boy from Gaza City named Mohammed Hejazi. In a futile attempt to "defend" their homeland, Mohammed and his friends gather at a spot called the Karni Crossing, an intersection between Israel and the Israeli settlement of Netzarim. The kids throw stones at the soldiers; the soldiers fire back with bullets, often with deadly accuracy. Throughout, Longley's camera never blinks: A visit to a Gaza hospital finds scores of children seriously wounded by Israeli tanks and booby traps; Palestinians attempting to circumvent a crippling 3-day Israeli blockade around Gaza City are seen struggling to cross the sandy beach; the bewildering destruction of Palestinian homes in the city of Kahn Yunis by Israeli bulldozers is committed to tape. The film offers no historical context nor any response from the Israeli side of the conflict. What it does provide is a glimpse into what living in an occupied territory under the threat of such violence does to its people, and while such insight can never fully justify further violence, it does at least make the impulse a little more understandable.