[Jerash “Gaza” Refugee Camp, Jordan] With one eye on Skype and the other fixed on the television screen, Salma anxiously searched for news about her father, two brothers and younger sister in the Gaza Strip. “I am suffering so much. I do not know how I will handle not being near my family, even under the bombardment,” Salma, 23, who grew up in Gaza and moved to Jordan in 2010 after she married, told The Media Line. She asked not to use her last name out of concern for her family.
Salma said she has been in touch with her family but communication has been only sporadic during the last few days as Israeli military action in Gaza has been stepped up.
“My family is fine, but I am not only worried about them, all of Gaza is my family,” she said. “I am trying to call my father or anyone from the family since last night, but I can not get through. Nobody answers the phone and they don’t appear on Skype,” she said with tears running down her face.
Four years ago, during the previous large-scale Israeli ground operation intended to halt rocket fire, Salma was in Gaza. Even though it was difficult then to live under fire, she says, it is harder this way – watching from afar. “It was much easier to be in Gaza, at least I knew what is happening,” she said as she tried to soothe her crying one-year-old son, Abdullah.
Salma lives in the Jerash refugee camp, which takes its name from the nearby Roman city of the same name. Located about 30 miles north of Amman, it is also called “Gaza camp,” as it is home to almost 50,000 Gazans who arrived in Jordan after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The camp’s community leaders say that even though most of its residents here are poor, they have started a campaign to collect donations on behalf of Gaza’s 1.7 million citizens. “We are already very poor and hardly make a living, but we offer whatever we can,” Abdullah Asmar, one of the camp’s leaders told The Media Line, as he flipped television channels looking for the latest news from Gaza.
Jerash is composed of narrow streets strewn with garbage. The sanitation system is inadequate and the stench of raw sewage hangs in the air. Children, some of them barefoot, run through the streets playing hide-and-seek.
Even Jordanians who don’t have relatives in Gaza are closely following events there.
Several dozen demonstrated near the Israeli embassy in Amman, calling on the kingdom’s government to recall Jordan’s ambassador to Israel and to cut diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. They cite Egypt, which recalled its ambassador from Israel as soon as the fighting began. The demonstrators say they plan to camp out near the embassy until the government complies.
A similar call was made by Jordan’s Islamist movement. “As the ‘Arab spring’ has made more people free and the will of the nations are being translated into action, we call on the government to recall the ambassador and end ties with the ‘Zionist enemy,’” Hamza Mansour, the Secretary General of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), told The Media Line.
Government officials said they are considering recalling the ambassador, but say that at the moment they are more focused on providing humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza. The army has already sent food and medical supplies; and Jordan has also set up a field hospital in Gaza to treat Palestinians wounded in Israeli airstrikes.
Some Palestinians in the ‘Gaza camp’ say they are angry with the Jordanian government for taking little action against Israel. “I cannot eat or sleep as I wait for news about my nephews and nieces,” Abdel Rahman Ashi told The Media Line. “The government is only making statements. They should provide more support.”