OPT: Maryam Al Muqayyed, 60 - 'The wheel of life has completely stopped'

GAZA CITY, 18 May 2007 (IRIN) - Maryam Al Muqayyed, 60, a resident of Gaza in the occupied Palestinian Territory, is one of hundreds of civilians caught up in renewed intense clashes between the Fatah and Hamas factions over the past several days. She recounts how the fighting has completely disrupted her life:

"The wheel of life has completely stopped in places where clashes have erupted. Shops are closed and streets are empty except for the armed men who took up positions at junctions and in main streets. All the shops are closed and no one dares go into the streets.

"When the shooting is intense it is not even safe for us to go near the windows of our homes because we might get hit by a bullet. We have heard over the past two days different types of weapons - regular guns or heavy machine guns and heavy missiles. We have no idea who is doing what.

"My sons can't go to their schools and universities, which have been closed since the fighting began. Most people are affected psychologically, even those who live far away from the clashes.

"Many of my relatives who live in high buildings in the north and west of Gaza City fled their apartments after a fire broke out; they took shelter with us.

"In some places armed men from one or other faction took up position on top of buildings and began shooting randomly at citizens' houses.

"No one has any idea what is going on here and the National Unity Government seems to be falling apart. We really have nothing - no rule of law, no security, no money and no hope."