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“I’m speaking with you from Israeli intelligence”

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I honestly don’t know what to make of this story.

It was Thursday 19 October at about 06:30, and Israel had been bombing Gaza for 12 days straight.

He’d been in his third-floor, three-bedroom flat in al-Zahra, a middle-class area in the north of the Gaza Strip. Until now, it had been largely untouched by air strikes.

He’d heard a rising clamour outside. People were screaming. “You need to escape,” somebody in the street shouted, “because they will bomb the towers”.

As he left his building and crossed the road, looking for a safe place, his phone lit up.

It was a call from a private number.

“I’m speaking with you from Israeli intelligence,” a man said down the line, according to Mahmoud.

That call would last more than an hour – and it would be the most terrifying call of his life.

It may not be genocide but it’s certainly horrific.

Mahmoud screamed at people to clear the area, running from block to block.

Residents describe chaotic scenes of adults shouting and children weeping. Some parents and children lost one another in the melee.

Despite the panic, Mahmoud stayed on the phone the whole time, trying his best to delay the bombing.

The voice on the other end of the phone continued, without emotion.

“He even told me, ‘Take your time. I won’t bomb unless you give me permission.’

“I said ‘No, it’s not my permission. I don’t want you to bomb anything. If you want me to evacuate, I will evacuate for the safety of the people, but if you want to bomb, don’t tell me you need my permission.

“‘It’s not Mahmoud Shaheen who will bomb al-Zahra.'”

Honestly all I can think of reading those last lines is the scene in Oppenheimer where Truman absolves, in the most brutal way possible, Oppenheimer of any responsibility for the destruction of Hiroshima.

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