In a different part of town, another young fighter and his wife were getting ready to go see her brother, 20, who had been wounded in southwest Gaza City two nights ago while bringing food to fighters. The fighter, 27, in dark jeans and Timberland-style boots, swaggered with words about Islam and duty to his people. Hamas is doctrinally opposed to Israel’s right to exist.We do need to respect different cultures. You see, in some places, when a woman says she wants her husband to die, that would be considered alarming, but in Gaza it is praiseworthy! Who are we to say that one way is better than another?
“It’s either victory while alive, or martyrdom,” he said. “Both ways are victory.”
His wife, in a white head scarf, agreed.
“Two days ago, he was very tired and he didn’t want to leave the house,” she said. “I told him you have to leave, you have a responsibility.”
But the sight of her brother unconscious in the hospital bed seemed to jolt the couple into an alternate reality, one where they were vulnerable and afraid. The man’s eyes glistened with tears as he asked the doctor question after question.
Back outside, the woman regained her composure.
“I prefer you as a martyr,” she said to her husband.
“What if I am injured?” he asked.She repeated her preference for death.
He took up the accusation that Hamas fighters hid behind civilians. Fighters, in a way, are both, he argued, and are accepted by many residents as defenders. People bring them food, he said. Sometimes they oppose rockets being launched nearby, but often they do not.The fact that they had huge caches of weapons in their own homes and in mosques and schools has nothing to do with it, of course. It's all Israel's fault for pushing them into the cities - that they were already in.
“I’m a civilian, and I’m a fighter,” he said.
The fighter who wore glasses argued that the Israeli forces had pressed them into such a small territory that civilians were just about everywhere, so it was hard not to operate near them.
“Where do we go?” he asked. “There are no other places.”
Senior fighters are mostly in hiding, the fighters said. Many have not moved for days, staying in basements or bunkers. With limited access to phone networks, in part because of fear that signals will draw missile fire, some have been cut off altogether during the military operation, and sit alone.Leaving the bravery to the wives of their fighters.