In the southern Gaza Strip’s Khan Younis Refugee Camp 72 year old Mohammad Salameh received notice to evacuate his family home. Israeli warplanes were overhead and intended to continue the bombing there. And immediately the neighbors stepped in to stand beside the family.

The elderly man is married with seven children, one among them, Nidal Salameh, killed by Israeli forces years ago. His other children are grown, married themselves, and there are grandchildren everywhere.

The three-story home has nine apartments to house all of the families individually. In all 40 children have grown up in that house that was destroyed by bombing in 1980 during Nidal’s arrest, and rebuilt in 1999.

Last Tuesday the threat of destruction was renewed. But oddly for Mohammad Salameh, he was informed via telephone. The Israelis actually called him and said they intended to destroy his home, therefore the family ought to vacate. He told PNN this Tuesday, “I sit in the office near the family home. I wait and watch all of the aircraft flying in the skies over the camp. When I see the occupation planes, I do feel the impending destruction of our home.”

He continued to tell PNN, “I contacted the occupation army and took my 8 year old granddaughter, Ghada, to another house. I told her that yes, you must leave the house because of the Israeli forces.

But I was shocked at the news that we all were going to be forced from our home and then suddenly a large number of neighbors arrived from the camp and throughout Khan Younis. They came in solidarity and climbed up to the roof, creating a human chain in order to tell the Israeli warplanes that this house was not to be attacked.”

The elderly man was clearly touched, saying, “This shows the best in our people, in our feeling of togetherness, and the brave act deserves praise and appreciation. We are firm in our resolve to die in our home rather than give it up.

But it hurts like 1948 when we were forced from our home and that feeling of homelessness and despair I do not want to experience again. We will stay, in spite of the Israeli threats.”

He did ask that the international community intervene, a frequent call from Palestinians under siege that most regularly falls on deaf ears.

However, a neighbor assured PNN that the family is not alone. “We have made a human shield and will not let the Israeli occupiers force another Palestinian family from their home. Never again.”