Here are the accounts sent from Gaza by Hossam Madhoun, his daughter, Salma in the period since October 7th. There is also an account from Shouq Alnajjar in Gaza.
Hossam is a co-director of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza. This is the company Az Theatre in London have been working with since 2002 and have been in bilateral partnership with since 2009 – see GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM
These accounts have been read at two events at P21 Gallery in London MESSAGES FROM GAZA NOW on Tuesday 24th October 2023 and Tuesday 7th November 2023.
These are available to be read at events. Please contact Az at email@example.com
3. Day 8
4. Day 9
13. Another Day
17. Shouq’s message
24. Disabled Words
28. Like Every Day
34. Fire Belt
35. Annoying Words
36. Survival Recipe
37. Butterfly Effect
Hossam Madhoun in Gaza
Third day of the war
Trying to sleep
Don’t know how, bombing all the time, sounds of bombing mixed, sounds of bombing far away, sounds even further away, sounds not far away but not nearby, sounds nearby but no impact on the building, sounds very nearby and the building is shaking, the windows want to move out, but something, I don’t know what, is holding them in place. Maybe with the next bombing they won’t hold in place and blow broken all at once, but so far, not yet.
After three days with the same horrifying atmosphere, no sleep, my eyes are falling closed. Yet my head is shaking me to keep awake, never knowing what will happen, never knowing if the next bombing will get us, or force us to evacuate like thousands who have already evacuated their homes.
We’ve prepared an ‘escape’ bag, but the scenario of evacuating is a nightmare. With my disabled 83 year old mother in a wheel chair, my terrified dog, but of course with my strong wife.
But we haven’t prepared yet where to evacuate to. Where to go? Choices are zero. Any movement toward any other family members in other cities is already a suicide attempt. Nearby, friends are already hosting many of their family members. Maybe staying inside the car would be an option? We really don’t know.
Yes, I started with trying to get to sleep. Ok, again trying to sleep at 2.22 am.
I think I succeeded. At 4:37am my wife Abeer was calling my name, I heard my name as if it came from a far distance, again Abeer is calling my name. ‘What?’ I said, still keeping my eyes closed.
‘There is knocking at the door’. I open my eyes, I see nothing, complete darkness. No electricity, no stand-by generator, no slight light from the street. Dark.
I said : ‘There is no knocking’. She said: ‘Listen’. I listened. There was soft knocking at the door. Took my mobile, opened the torch option and moved toward the front door. The soft knocking continued.
- ‘Who is it?’
- ‘Saleh’s mother’ (our neighbour from the fifth floor)
- (Without opening the door) ‘What’s up Om Saleh?’
- ‘It is Salma your daughter in Lebanon, she was trying to reach you for hours, and when she could not, she called my niece in Jordan who called me, asking to reach you, she is so panicked as you do not reply’.
- ‘Thanks, Om Saleh’
Trying to call Salma, it is impossible, no internet, no mobiles since 11 pm last night when the Israeli air force bombed the telecommunication company.
Salma, our sole daughter, who is away from us for the first time in her life, in Lebanon since a month ago, for her Masters degree. I get very frustrated, I must find a way to contact her, to cool her, I know she will collapse if she doesn’t hear from us, she has already thought about leaving her Masters and coming back to be with us.
Bombing continues while this is happening, the dog sticks to me out of fear, my mother wakes up asking to go to the rest room. And I am trying to think what to do?
Trying to call Salma by mobile, all calls failed.
I went down to the basement of the building where at least six families from the upper storeys of the building took refuge.
I asked if there is any alternative way for internet or communication, they say, ‘no we all lost this privilege’.
The building guard said: ‘If you go out of the building you might get a signal.’
Going out?? in this dark? In the street? While there’s bombing every single second and no one knows where it’s happening and what the targets are?
It took me zero time though. I moved out away from the building in the direction the guard told me to go, trying to call, failed, moving further and trying again, failed, moving and trying again, after at least 17 times, the mobile rang at the other end. Salma, yes, finally. She said nothing. She fell into deep crying, I understood, I could imagine what she went through during these hours without reaching us. I let her cry, I wanted very much to cry, I could not, I should not.
‘What’s up Salma, we are ok, we are alive, you know communication is interrupted’.
I really don’t know what I said until she calmed down.
Then she went to her University, and I went back, to think through with Abeer: if we had to evacuate, where to go????
It is 9:45 am. I’ve finished writing this post.
Messages from Salma Madhoun in Beirut to Jonathan Chadwick in London
My family hasn’t had internet since yesterday, so we decided they would send me a text message every two hours to reassure me that they’re fine.
Until I get the message, I’ll be vomiting up my organs out of terror. May Allah protect them and keep them safe.
I feel guilty that I’m safe!
I am thinking that the pigeons flying by my window are missiles that are about to murder me.
Then she wrote:
There is no media coverage, more than seven journalists have been killed, there is no electricity, internet, helplines, or water, and all aid is forbidden from entering the Gaza Strip. Today, Gaza is more than just an open-air prison; it is also a locked area of genocide.
This aggression is not excluding anyone, not even children. I wonder how they are threatening such an aggressive occupation presence. Innocent people, civilians, women, and children are being killed in the worst ways possible. They’re seeing their families, and their beloved ones dying in front of them.
Healthcare workers see their family members’ dead bodies among the victims that they are attempting to help. Numerous hospitals in the Gaza Strip have completely stopped working due to bombing the actual hospitals, and even the ambulances have been targeted. This hostile occupation does not want the injured to be treated; their explicit purpose is to vanish the city and the civilians living in it. The Civil Defense and the Red Cross are unable to reach the massacres and are unable to help the amount of people who are exposed to this aggression. People are crying and asking for help under the rubble without any assistance.
Where is the international community that is seeking to implement the International Humanitarian Law? Why are the boot-lickers still scared, covering their eyes and keeping their mouths shut? What should move countries and the general will other than a wholesale slaughter??
I left Gaza a month ago to study for a Masters in Lebanon. This decision was difficult to make because anything can happen to anyone at any time in Gaza, but my parents backed me and I travelled to pursue a better education at an outstanding college.
And now I’m 300 kilometres away from my parents, but it feels like millions since returning to Gaza is nearly impossible. The distance heightens my sense of powerlessness, as I yearn to be with my family.
WHY DID I THINK THAT TRAVELING TO SEEK BETTER EDUCATION A GOOD IDEA? MEANWHILE MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS ARE UNDER ATTACK AND MY DESTINY OF BEING UNDER THIS HOSTILE OCCUPATION WILL NEVER LEAVE ME.
Sixth Day of the war
What a coincidence!
How come it’s the same time as day 3?
At 2:22am Abeer, my wife, is waking me up. I went to sleep at 1:45.
‘Get up and come and see this’
She shows me a message she received by mobile.
The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) sent their staff a message asking all of them to evacuate from the North of Gaza and Gaza City to the middle area of Gaza, as the Israeli army is planning to destroy the North.
Every resident in the two northern municipalities must leave between daylight and 2 pm
What? Two municipalities out of the five municipalities to be completely destroyed, 1.1 million people to move out toward the middle and the south?
The message came with a Gaza map showing areas to be evacuated.
Due to the continuous bombing, many families in the building where we live are spending the night in the building’s basement, the building is 7 floors and contains 32 apartments.
I put on some clothes and went down to see if anybody else received such a message.
In the basement, on a big carpet and a few mattresses, 8 men and 13 male children are asleep.
I woke up one of the neighbours. I start chatting with him about the message. The rest of the men woke up, some start calling, in a few minutes the message is confirmed by several people, UN staff also received the same message.
What to do???
For more than 30 minutes every one is moving back to their flats, then coming back, some more neighbours gather, a question hangs in the air with no answer: what did you decide?
It is 5:30 in the morning, still dark, no daylight yet.
I went back home to consult with Abeer. She is working for an international humanitarian organization, Humanity and Inclusion. She’s already received the same message from her NGO.
Where to go? The second question hangs in the air without answer, what about my old mother who can’t move? what about our dog? What about our home? What is going to happen to our home? we spent 25 years of our lives working like hell to save enough money to have our own home.
From 2:22 am until 6:30am we were unable to think straight.
We don’t trust the Israelis, they commit massacres, they already did, many, and we witnessed it. We can’t risk staying here.
‘Evacuation’ bags were already ready since the first day of the war on Gaza. We decide to move to the middle area, to Nuseirat camp to get refuge at Abeer’s family. Abeer’s family is already hosting her sister’s family (2 girls, father and mother)
6:45 am while filling the car with extra stuff that we might need, Salma my daughter who is taking a masters degree in Lebanon was calling. She received the news, she was panicked, weeping, we tried to calm her, no words could calm anyone in this situation, finally she understood that we are still alive and we are moving.
Salma is taking her masters degree in human rights and democracy, she studies IHL and IHRL (majestic abbreviations for very deep meanings) – IHRL (International Human Rights Law) IHL (International Humanitarian Law). Laws that can bring any criminals against humanity to accountability through the International Criminal Court.
Yet these big words do not apply to every one. They can apply to weak, small countries, but never to countries of the West, and for sure, will never ever apply to Israel, no matter what they do
The military occupation of other nations is already a crime against humanity, yet Israel occupying Palestine for decades has never been questioned.
Israel committed more than 5 wars on Gaza, killing thousands of people, men, women, children, destroying houses, buildings, schools, hospitals and yet, Israel is never held accountable.
Now and today Israel is practicing a genocide and ethnic cleansing of 1.1 million people, dispossessing them of their safe homes to face the unknown, and yet the world is watching, moreover it is justifying what Israel is doing.
More than 2500 killed including at least 800 children and 450 women and injuring over 8000 people, destroying thousands of civilian homes and buildings. Yet Israeli hands are free to get deeper in our blood.
55 years I lived on this earth and witnessed nothing but violence, prison, death, blood, bombing, airstrikes, blockade, restriction of movement, no hope, no safety, and why? Why all of this? Because accidentally, geographically I was born in Gaza. What guilt? What an accusation? Born in Gaza from the first breath labeled a terrorist by the Israelis, with a green light from the West to do what ever they want to us.
6:55am the mobile is ringing, the son of my friend whose home was severely damaged 2 days ago due to the bombing of a nearby building.
Answering the call: ‘Yes Yousif, tell me.’
Yousif: ‘We must leave now for Khan Younis. Since our home is damaged, we moved to the NGO where my father is working. And now I have too many people to move to Khan Younis. Do you have a place in your car for two or three people?’
I know that a big part of Yousif’s family moved to his home from Khozaa – a village east of Khan Younis which was heavily bombed in the first 2 days of the war.
I could not give any other answer but yes.
Talked to Abeer, we already filled half of the back seat with stuff to take with us, but we can’t leave my friend’s family without help, we start to reorganize our things by priority, we moved half of the stuff back to the house.
7:25 am, on the move towards my friend’s home, my old mother in the front seat and Abeer with our dog in the back seat, freeing up space to take another two persons.
My friend’s family were still packing, they are more than 25 persons in 2 big cars, they squeezed themselves into the cars. We took with us another old lady and a young man.
Huge sound of bombing, not far but don’t know where.
Before we start moving, we had to discuss what road to take: which road would be safer?
Gaza, 42 kilometers in length and 6 to 12 Kilometers in width is connected from the north to the south by only 2 main roads, the sea road which is exposed to Israeli navy shelling and Salahaddeen road which is also exposed to airstrikes and artillery shelling from the east.
Not much time for big thinking, the chances of which is safer is 50 – 50.
We start driving, the sea road, empty, very few cars passing by, some driving reluctantly and some driving very fast. From time to time we see destroyed buildings on the roadside by the sea, rubble blocking the road and we have to move around it from time to time.
Looking at the sea, navy boats on the horizon, the old lady praying loudly, Abeer is trying to chat with the old ladies to calm them down, while our dog is completely silent, as if he knows that there is something wrong.
Sound of bombing
Our plan was to stop in the middle area, only a 14 kilometre drive but we can’t leave our friends, we continue with them to Khan Younis – 32 kilometers. We arrived safe. They asked us to stay with them and not to drive back as it could be very dangerous. It was an option, but there was not enough space, we asked around if we can rent a flat, but it was too late – thousands of families arriving before us from east of Khan Younis and many other places have filled every single corner of Khan Younis including schools, sports clubs, wedding halls, restaurants, NGO premises, every empty space was filled with new refugees. Another diaspora of Palestinians, another migration, another catastrophe.
Sounds of bombing from many directions
My mother is weeping with pain, more than one and half hours in the car, her body can’t tolerate it.
We start our trip back to the middle area, Nuseirat camp, where my wife’s family lives.
Driving north and now many more cars coming from the north to the south, cars full of people and stuff, almost every car has mattresses tied on top. Some mattresses and blankets were falling off and we could see them in the road from time to time.
Sounds of bombing all the time
9:42 am arriving at Nuseirat.
Every one starts to empty the car, the food we brought from our fridge we had to throw away, meat and chicken were rotten as the electricity was cut for the last 2 days.
‘Do you have enough cooking gas?’ I asked as I know that they might not have. ‘We have some.’ ‘Do you have enough mattresses?’ ‘We have some.’ ‘Do you have enough drinking water?’ ‘We have some’.
Sounds of bombing do not stop.
As the car is empty, I start moving, Abeer is shouting: ‘What are you doing? Where are you going?’
‘Back home to Gaza to bring what we moved back into the house. We won’t survive without it.’ I answered and moved ahead ignoring her screams of objection.
I knew that driving back to Gaza could be a suicidal attempt, the Israelis wants us to move south out of Gaza not north back to Gaza.
In less than 12 minutes I was at home, I believe I drove above 140 kilometers an hour, not out of courage but out of fear.
I filled the car with whatever I could fill it with, water bottles, mattresses, blankets, 2 cooking gas cylinders of 12 kilograms each, even the biscuits I saw in front of me I took, I believe involuntarily, thinking about the children there.
While writing, sounds of bombing and drones all the time.
Now it is the second day at my father-in-law’s home,
Don’t know what to do, trying to call our daughter in Lebanon from time to time, no internet, no electricity, water is running out, it might be enough for the coming 3 days with very rationed use.
Sitting doing nothing with a head full of horrible scenarios. My brother in law who also took refuge at our wives’ family in Nuseirat with his wife and 2 daughters is sitting on the ground talking on the mobile, checking the safety of his brothers who took refuge at a school some 2 kilometers away from us.
He asks: ‘Where was the last bombing you heard?’
‘Are there any dead people from the bombing ?’
‘Are you away from that place now?’
He puts down the mobile, everyone starts asking him, ‘Where?, what happened? Who is the target? How many dead? Are they ok, your brothers?’
‘They are ok’, Mohammed answers. The bombing was near them, targeting a house, leaving 30 persons dead, men, women, children, babies.
As they are all from Nuseirat they start to question whom it could be, the house of whom was bombed. I just sat there listening and watching.
The drone in the sky is never silent, the noise is drilling inside my head. Sound of bombing far away.
Suddenly Abeer took me out of my silence saying: ‘You were dreaming last night! You don’t know what happened?’
‘You really don’t know?’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘You had a nightmare last night’
Note: all the family sleeps on the first floor, me and my mother sleep on the second floor.
‘Yes, you did, you were screaming – mother, mother, oh my God, my mother, – Mohammed and his wife ran up thinking that something happened to your mother, you were asleep and your mother too, they tried to wake you up, but they couldn’t. You stayed asleep.’
‘I really don’t know what you are talking about.’
Anyway, no shame, this is the least that could happen to anyone in our situation.
Sound of bombing, not close but not far
After this story they all start chatting, darkness falls, we light a candle.
On my mattress, alone in the darkness, using the light of my mobile, risking losing the battery, hoping to finish putting what I have in my head on paper, yes, I am now rewriting what I already wrote on paper, as yesterday I succeeded in charging part of the laptop battery at the nearby mosque which has solar panels.
Sitting on the mattress trying to recall what happened during this strange day.
Bombing from time to time, and the awful sound of the drone all the time above my head.
At 10 in the morning, I went to Nuseirat market.
Nuseirat camp is in the middle area of Gaza Strip where I took refuge with my wife and my disabled 83 year old mother after leaving my home in Gaza City looking for unguaranteed safety at my wife’s family’s home.
The camp has one main street cutting through the middle from Salahaddeen Road to the sea road.
The main market located in the middle of this street is about 200 meters in length, on both sides are stores, supermarkets, groceries, vegetable sellers, meat, chicken, home needs, clothes stores, second hand items, everything is in this market.
Nuseirat camp has 35,000 inhabitants. Suddenly, within two days it received more than 100,000 people who ran away from the north and Gaza City seeking refuge and safety. The majority took refuge in the 13 schools of the camp, with nothing, absolutely nothing but what they were able to bring with them. No means of life, no food, no water, no beds, blankets, mattresses, carpets, nothing. Hoping that UNRWA and International Non-governmental Organisations would supply them with basic needs.
I know Nuseirat camp, it’s always busy. It only consists of this street that is 200 meters long and 20 meters wide.
Arriving at the market at 10:20 am. It’s only 5 minutes drive from the home of my father-in-law.
What I saw? This is not the market I know! Thousands and thousands of people everywhere, men, women, boys, girls, old people, mothers carrying their children, all ages. Moving back and forth, left and right, going in and out of the stores on both sides of the street trying to buy some bread or basic items.
Looking at the people’s faces, there is something wrong, not normal, the faces are very gloomy, men with their heads down, you feel immediately that they are broken, weak, defeated, unable to provide safety for their children, the first thing that fathers should be able to provide for their families, they’ve lost it. You walk between the people and you feel the fear, the panic, the despair, you feel the darkness they move through, it is daylight – in the morning, and it feels very dark, darkness that’s turned into something material, something you can touch by hand.
Everybody’s moving fast, you would think they are in a hurry to buy food or essential needs. But with a close look you realize they go fast wanting to hide their feelings of shame and fear, shame that they are not entitled to feel, but they do. They want to hide their helplessness, their worries, their concerns, their anger and frustration.
It is judgment day.
They left their homes not knowing if ever they will return again, the stories of their fathers and grandfathers, about the displacement and forced migration in 1948 and 1967 is flashing in their heads. Palestinians lost their homes, their lands, and many lost their lives in that genocide. They are so panicked that it is a new genocide. Is this our destiny as Palestinians? Every once in a while, we should go through a new genocide???
Trying to focus. Why did I come to the market? Yes, I need to buy some bread and food. At the bakery a line of more than 100 people, it will take hours to get some bread. I asked my brother in law to get in the queue and I go to the supermarket to buy the other needs.
Sound of nearby bombing, very loud. Every single person in the market frozen including me for a single moment, as if some one put us on freeze by a remote control, and then took it off again. People continue doing what they were doing, no one stops to know where the bombing is, as every 5 minutes there is a bombing. Hundreds of bombings every day, everywhere, stories of houses destroyed on the top of their inhabitants.
We are cut off from the world, no internet, no radios, no TV, no news. We are the news, but we don’t know about ourselves, we only have mobiles that connect with difficulty after several attempts. No one can catch up with what is happening.
While collecting what I need in the supermarket, the mobile rang, it is my wife Abeer, she shouts:
‘Come back now, Salma our daughter had a panic attack, she is weeping without control.’
Salma our sole daughter is in Lebanon.
I drove back fast, took my brother-in-law without getting any bread,
On the way home we saw an ambulance and some people gathering near a destroyed home, adjacent to the cemetery which is located between our home and the market 300 meters from each.
Two covered bodies lay on the side of the road, and paramedics were carrying another body bringing it beside the other two.
‘What happen?’ I asked.
Abeer answered: Salma heard on the news in Lebanon that a bombing took place at a home near the cemetery, she knows that our home is not far away, she panicked, she thought that we might have got hurt.
I called Salma. After at least 13 times trying to call and the call collapsing, Salma finally answered.
‘My beloved daughter, we are safe, it was away from us.’
It took me 5 minutes to calm her down.
Me and Abeer are in Nuseirat, the cemetery was 300 meters away from her and 300 meters from me, yet we did not know what happened. My daughter, 270 kilometers away in Lebanon, got the news about us before we did. They keep us in the dark.
Well, enough for tonight, my mobile battery is running out and the pain in my back is not bearable any more.
Don’t know what Day
I don’t know which day it is in this damn war
Sitting at the desk of the UNRWA clinic in Nuseirat
My wife decided yesterday that she can’t stay doing nothing, she is working for Humanity and Inclusion. They have a stock of assistive devices, medical supplies, wheel-chairs and similar things.
She contacted her colleague, Osama; he was already in the field looking for any extra hands to help.
We went to the UNRWA schools where displaced people took refuge.
We visited four schools to count how many disabled persons, pregnant women, old sick people, lactating babies, and the injured are in need of medical supplies.
The crowds in the schools were hell, more than 4000 people in each school.
The schools consist of 22 classrooms, 2 administration rooms and 12 bathrooms, with a front yard of about 120 meters squared.
Inside the rooms, women and children were squeezed in
Men are all in the front yard, no one can imagine how they manage, if they manage?!!
No water supply, skin diseases start to spread like a pandemic.
We met the volunteers and those responsible for the shelter to get the information about the people in need and what types of need. Hundreds gathered and surrounded us hoping that we can help to bring food or any other basic needs. Crowd, noise, 5000 people talk, scream, fight, argue at the same time in a very limited space, children crying, the smell is unbearable.
In 3 hours, we gathered the needed information.
278 disabled persons,
301 pregnant women
167 lactating babies
77 injured in need of medical supplies
198 old men and women in need of assistive devices, wheel-chairs, crutches and so on
Back to the UNRWA clinic were Abeer’s colleague coordinated bringing all the stock from Deir Al Balah to Nuseirat.
Abeer started the crosscheck with the UNRWA team to avoid duplication in the distribution.
Osama arrived with a big truck full of materials, we needed to bring it down into the store of the clinic. It was me, Osama, Abeer, two female volunteers and two male UNRWA staff.
Two hours to download the truck, we were all exhausted, it is late, darkness is in less than 45 minutes, absolutely dangerous to move at dark, we were really afraid, we decide to postpone the distribution for tomorrow.
It is tomorrow when I am writing this. Osama arrived with a new truck needing to be unloaded. There is enough people to help, it is 11 in the morning.
In the market again
Thursday 19th October 2023
At 9am moving toward the UNWRA clinic with my wife to co-ordinate and distribute the available assistive devices, dignity kits for women, crutches, and wheelchairs for the people we identified yesterday in the four shelter-schools.
Arriving at the market, no day is like any other day, each day is different.
In the market there is a huge crowd. The people are the same, gloomy faces, heads down. Some changes have happened. People are not in a hurry anymore. People are walking like zombies. People are walking as if with no purpose.
While walking like all the others, a man bumped into me. My reading glasses, which I hang at my chest, attached to my shirt, fall on the ground and break. The man continues walking without saying anything, not even looking back to see who he bumped into.
My plan was to arrive at the UNWRA clinic, leave Abeer there and go to get some shopping. Now a new item on the list, reading glasses. How can I read or write without them?
Anyway another item to buy today beside bread and vegetables, maybe a chicken if I find one. No fruit in the market of any kind at all.
On Tuesday at 4.30am the Israeli air force struck one of the only two bakeries in the camp. Nine people killed in the bombing, the workers there were working and preparing as much bread as possible.
The line waiting at the bakery has doubled. There were a few hundred people, 50 metres along the side of the street. Now the people in the line are countless.
Forget about bread. It will take half a day to get enough bread for one day. You can’t buy the quantity you want – limited quantities allowed so every one can get some.
What to do? I will buy bread flour and cook at home. But how? The same way our grandparents used to do 80 years ago in our homeland in Almajdal (which has now become an Israeli city called Ashkelon). On a fire!
Luckily my in laws are living in a semi-rural area. We can find wood for a fire. Don’t know how long it will last, but let’s plan day by day.
Went to all the supermarkets and grocery stores looking for bread flour. There is none. Nil. Nothing.
A few hours passed and I see a man carrying a bag of 30 kilos of bread flour. I ask him where he got it.
‘In Bureij Camp!’
Bureij Camp is also in the middle area of the Gaza Strip. It is on the east side of Salahaddeen street while Nuseirat is on the west side, adjacent to the sea.
What a dilemma?!! Going towards and along Salahaddeen road is not safe at all. But there’s no choice. I drove directly to Bureij. The supermarket was in the middle of the camp. Luckily there was still bread flour. I bought 30 kilos. The man refuses to sell me more, saying that other people also need it – ‘I have my own customers and I don’t want to let them down if they come to buy’ Fair enough!
Back to the UNWRA clinic. Abeer and her sister, who decided to volunteer with her, and some other colleagues were there after a long day in the shelters. They were tired, exhausted, it was obvious.
I asked, did you eat or drink anything?
They said no.
I went to the nearby grocery and bought some juice and biscuits. I was very hungry and thirsty as well. While walking back I took out a biscuit and started to eat it when I saw a chid sitting on the pavement looking at me. He looked poor with unclean clothes, barefoot. I took a biscuit and offered it to him. He didn’t want to take it at the beginning but I insisted and he took it.
I decide never to do it again. I mean never to eat biscuit in the street.
20th October 2023
I’m walking towards the market. Abeer’s cousin lives there and has internet access.
Walking – no fuel anymore in my car, and, of course, no fuel at all in the gas stations
as quantities entering Gaza from Israel (like all the goods from Israel) are limited and never enough for more than just one week. It’s part of the blockade and collective punishment against Gaza.
Walking and trying to find any vehicle to give us a ride.
After 10 minutes walking, a big van stopped and took us with him. He was a
gentle man. In the van there was a woman sitting in the back seat, she was also being provided a ride by the van owner.
About 100 metres from the market, near a shelter-school in a narrow side street leading to the main road where the market is – a big explosion behind us. A huge black smoke cloud rises to the sky. The van trembles, dust fills the car. The driver stops, many people start to run out of the school, As we leave the car, another big explosion in front of us, much closer, same wave of smoke and fire, people screaming, shouting, crying, running…I don’t know where to go, confused…
Shall I go back? Shall I continue? Maybe the market would be safer, as thousands of people are in the street there. Safety??!!!!
Immediately another explosion to the west side, and much closer to us, rubble above us, many people fall on the ground, some people injured by the flying rubble. I was beside the wall of the school. I could not breathe. Nizar, Abeer’s cousin, is selling tomato and onion in the market, could not think, ran like hell toward where he is located, absolutely stupid move, absolutely not rational. Who is rational in this mad war? Who is rational in this slaughter house, yes, it is a slaughter house. The Israeli butchers are using every single minute to slaughter like sheep as many Palestinians as possible, before the world wakes up.
The bombing was on a side street off the main market street, rubble, sand, mud, broken glass everywhere. The dust cloud was still in the sky, making the noon-time light look like sunset, yes, it is a sunset, no light in our life.
Arriving at Nizar’s spot, all his merchandise full of dust and sand, Nizar as well. He is OK, he has a small cut on his hand, never mind, he is alive.
I thought to call Abeer, so she won’t worry for us. She was OK, She didn’t think these bombings were near us. We hear bombing every minute. We have no access to news, we can’t know what is happening or where the bombing is taking place, there is no way. That’s why Abeer heard the bombing and continued whatever she was doing, as usual.
I decided not to tell her what happened. And went back home walking.
Walking is not the same as driving. While driving I see on both sides of the road
destroyed houses, many destroyed houses and, every day, newly destroyed houses.
While walking it’s different, I see these houses much more closely, I see more details than I can see while driving, I see how buildings of 3 or 4 floors are crushed on top each other, ceilings attached to the ceilings below, with people’s furniture and belongings spread over the street, some houses are cut in half, Could see half a bed, part of a kitchen, a bathroom with private clothes all around, books, school bags torn and full of dust.
The majority of these houses were bombed full of residents, many were brought out dead, maybe many still are dead under the rubble as there are no machines to remove it and reveal what is beneath. What a destiny, what a way to leave this unjust world!
Finally at home after 25 minutes walking, did not buy anything today from the market, we will manage with what we have at home for today.
Ending this episode with some good news from my daughter, Salma, in Lebanon, where she is studying for her Masters degree, the university granted her a full tuition scholarship.
I called a friend today. He moved from Gaza City to Rafah with his family. Rafah is the last place in the Gaza Strip before you get to the border with Egypt.
‘How are you?’
‘I am ok’
‘We are all ok’.
‘Where are you?’
‘At a school in Tel Elsultan in Rafah’.
‘Why in a school? I can find you an apartment. A friend of mine in Rafah offered to receive me and my family there. He will gladly receive you.’
‘No. No thanks, I am good here.’
‘What are you talking about? I know how people in the schools are.’
‘Don’t worry. I’m fine here. Many friends have offered me apartments but I’m staying here in the school.’
‘OK, my friend, as you wish. Be safe’.
End of call.
What a stubborn man! He refuses help. One day his pride will kill him!
Wait. Why judge him? Thousands of homes were bombed without warning. Maybe he was afraid to go to a home that he doesn’t know. Maybe he believed it’s more safe in the shelter-school.
These schools were designated as shelters in an emergency by UNRWA and the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs office in coordination with the Israelis years ago after the 2014 war. They should be protected.
Yet, in Khan Younis, three days ago a bombing took place at the gate of one of these shelter-schools and five people were killed, twenty two people injured. Five days ago another shelters-school in Maghazi Camp was bombed and three were killed.
Anyway, each person is trying to survive in the way they think is best for them.
I called another friend, Majed, who has also moved from North Gaza to Khan Younis to another shelter-school.
‘How are you?’
‘I am good!’
‘How is the situation in the school?’
‘I am no longer there. I came back to my home in Gaza.’
‘What?! But it’s very dangerous.’
‘Whatever. It’s much better than staying in that school. 4000 people in a very limited space, women and children are squeezed inside 22 rooms. Men are on the ground in the front yard of the school, queues waiting to use the very dirty bathroom, no water, no food, no electricity, no light at night, no privacy, lots of tension, people fight and argue over anything. I can’t tolerate this life. Here I am at my home and I’m not going anywhere. If I survive, I survive. If I die let it be with some dignity.’
I could say nothing but:
‘Be well, my friend, stay safe, hope to see you soon’.
He was outraged when he was speaking, I can understand.
Another friend, Jaber, he went to Egypt two days before the war. He couldn’t come back as the border with Egypt is closed.
His extended family moved from east Khan Younis to take refuge at his home in Gaza on the second day of the war. A small apartment with 32 people: old mothers, women, young people and little children.
The third day there was a bombing of a home, on the other side of the 20 meter wide street from his home, while his family were inside. The whole front of the house was completely destroyed. Like a miracle, not one of his family was dead or injured. I am unable to realise or imagine what he would feel or think. Can any of you?
21st October 2023
Sitting in the street beside the front door of a neighbour’s who has solar panels. Since arriving in Nuseirat ten days ago I come to this neighbour bringing my laptop, my mobile and a power bank to charge them. He is a very gentle and nice man. In his front yard at his home, he’s installed several electricity cables and connections, on the ground you see many phones, small batteries, power banks connected to be charged, all the neighbours in the area bring their devices to be charged every day.
He receives people from 8 in the morning until sunset, three of his sons are serving people, receiving every one, helping as much as they can, very polite. What a wonderful solidarity.
I took my laptop, fully charged, and put my mobile on charge instead. I decide to wait half an hour instead of going home and coming back later. While sitting outside his door on the pavement, I wrote this.
My dog, Buddy, he is a small white lovely dog, most of the time playing and jumping around, barking with his soft voice, running after street cats if they dare to enter the home. He is a courageous dog. But not when there is bombing, he has no courage, not at all, he’s not a coward, but he is afraid of the bombing, who isn’t??
He is always able to hear the bombing moments before us, he runs toward me or Abeer and hides behind us, and if we lay on the bed at night he jumps over our heads and rounds his body around my head or Abeer’s head and starts trembling and breathing fast as if he had been running for hours. Nothing can calm him, his body becomes very tense, it’s not easy to move him away from my head. I feel helpless, don’t know what to do to release his fear.
Buddy, like hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza who are afraid, panicked, unable to express their feelings, no one is able to help them or release their fear. Their parents are also helpless. as they also feel afraid and panicked. Is there any end soon for this nightmare????
22nd October 2023
After a terrifying and dreadful night of bombardment and explosions all around us, never knowing where or when they could hit us, I had to focus on my mother.
My 83 year old bedridden mother has a 12 centimeter tear inside her stomach. She takes Nexium granules twice a day before eating, to protect her stomach from itself. It doesn’t always work. Once every 2-3 months she starts to have severe pain and vomiting, continuous, painful. When it happens she stops eating anything, she stops drinking anything, even water, because anything that enters her stomach is immediately thrown out with pain. Sometimes it stops by itself in two to three days, sometimes it gets worse when her oesophagus herniates due to the vomiting and starts to bleed inside her stomach, then she vomits dark brown liquid, this is internal bleeding. This is a red light to take her to hospital. From experience I know the process, they give her Nexium powder mixed with saline into her vein.
She must go to the hospital!
What hospital? Which one? One of those which have been completely destroyed? One of those which are receiving hundreds of injured all the time? Who is going to have time for an old lady with a stomach problem while there are hundreds in need of life-saving interventions?
I decided to go to the market and UNRWA Primary Health Care Unit to look for the items I need in order to do the procedure here at home. Powdered Nexium, saline, cannula, syringe, alcohol and dressing.
Walking from home to the market, traces of last night’s bombing on both sides of the street, houses and buildings completely damaged, destroyed, above the heads of residents. No prior warning. Absolute massacre.
Passing by an olive orchard, poor olives, it is the cultivating season, no one will cultivate the olives this year, olives will fall on the ground, dry and rotten, olive trees will dry and all the branches will fall and be scattered by the autumn wind, birds and doves will not find olive branches to build their nests for future generations.
Bombing very nearby, behind the olive orchard. Felt the bombing, the sound is very loud, a wave of hot wind passes over my body, moves me from my place. I stop and get close to the fence of the orchard. After a few minutes I hear screaming, people crying and shouting. I move fast, past the orchard and on the right side of a narrow street. At the end of the street, a house bombed, people pulling out bodies form under the rubble, a small car passes by me very fast, the driver is hooting the horn of the car, passing by me I saw, for a single moment a woman in the back seat holding an injured child, a girl maybe 7 or 9 years old, it was very fast, could not know what type of injury or the exact age of the girl. But I saw blood and dust all over her body.
It is too much, I’ve had enough, I can’t continue anymore, 55 years full of violence, blood, death, agony displacement, poverty, sadness. helplessness, despair, I can’t take it anymore, I have no days left in me for such a situation, no more, I want to give up, I mean it, I am really ready to leave.
In times like these days, in war times like these, in 2009, 2012, 2014, 2021, 2022, 2023, when my daughter Salma said she couldn’t take it any more I told her to listen to the Peter Gabriel song, ‘Don’t give up, don’t give up because you know you can’.
Peter Gabriel helped me a lot before, he doesn’t help me now, sorry Peter, I can’t handle it any more.
There is my mother, there is my daughter, there are my sisters and brothers who all believe I can, who all believe I should be there for them.
I continue walking toward the market, could not stop my tears, I wanted to shout, to scream, to curse. I wanted a hug, I really need a hug.
Arriving at the UNRWA Primary Health Care Unit where I am volunteering with Humanity and Inclusion, I saw a doctor, I approached him explaining my mother’s situation and needs.
‘Sorry, there is no Nexium in the pharmacy, no cannulas. It’s all been distributed to the shelters for caring for the injured who were prematurely discharged from hospital to free up places for the more recently injured. But I can get you the saline.
War crimes and other extra information
Hossam in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, south of Gaza City
Every day, every night, bombing, striking, shelling does not stop, sometimes heavy and continuous, sometimes with a break, each day we say to ourselves: ‘This is the worst day since the war started on Gaza’ Another day comes to tell us: ‘You did not see the worst yet!’
Yes, yesterday, bombing and mainly shelling from land and sea starting around noon, with no stop until today 7 am. Bombing that shakes the air, shakes the walls, shakes the trees and shakes our hearts and minds.
23 days and we are still counting: dead, injured, destruction, agony, humiliation, starvation, disease. 23 days and every day we lose part of our hope, part of our strength, part of our humanity.
Hamas killed civilians. A war crime. They must be brought to accountability at the International Court of Justice. Based on International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.
Can we talk about the other side?
20 years ago, Israel released secret documents from 1948 and before. They admit, they confess that they committed massacres against Palestinians in many villages, killing in cold blood hundreds of innocent people including men, women and children, in Tantora, in Deir Yaseen, in Kafr Qasem, and in many other villages. Besides these documents, many of their former soldiers went on the media and confessed that they participated in killing civilians, raping women and killing them. Some spoke with regret and some spoke with pride for what they did. These are crimes against humanity based on the same International Human Rights law and International Humanitarian Law. Are they going to be brought to justice?
Israelis dismissed Palestinians from their lands, dispossessed them, cleansing all cities and villages, clear and obvious genocide. Destroying 800 villages, creating a catastrophe for a whole nation. Forcing them to be refugees in many countries all over the world, but mainly in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
For many years Israel kept chasing the Nazi criminals who escaped and hid after World War 2 and brought them to justice. That is great; that makes me happy. Criminals must be brought to justice. All criminals, without differentiation, without exceptions.
Are those Israeli criminals from 1948 and before – those who admit and confess – going to be brought to justice? They already admitted, they confessed!
Now Israel has declared a war against Hamas; all the western countries are supporting them.
Let’s have a look at this war:
302 Palestinians were killed in Gaza between 6pm on 28th October and noon on 29th October. This brings the cumulative reported fatality toll in Gaza since the start of the assault to 8,005, of whom 67 per cent are children and women.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
Israel destroyed and damaged 55% of the Gaza Strip housing units around 200,000 housing units destroyed or damaged, including the destruction of the water, sewage, electricity and phone infrastructure, forcing 2.1 million people to squeeze into a place where 1 million already live.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
On 28th and 29th October, the neighbourhoods of Al Shifa and Al Quds hospitals in Gaza City and of the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza have been reportedly bombarded, causing damage. Thousands of patients and medical staff, as well as about 117,000 Internally Displaced Persons are staying in these facilities.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
As of 29th October, more than 1.4 million people in Gaza out of 2.1 million were internally displaced, with some 671,000 sheltering in 150 UNRWA facilities. The average number of Internally Displaced Persons per shelter is over three times their intended capacity.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
Israel prevents entry of any kind of fuel and has cut the water supply and electricity for 2.1 million residents in Gaza Strip.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
The telecommunications shutdown by the Israelis has brought the already challenging delivery of humanitarian assistance to a complete halt, and is depriving people of life-saving information. As noted on 28th October by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk:
‘The bombing of the telecommunications infrastructure places the civilian population in grave danger. Ambulances and civil defence teams are no longer able to locate the injured, or the thousands of people estimated to be still under the rubble. Civilians are no longer able to receive updated information on where they can access humanitarian relief and where they may be in less danger.’ What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
Over 40 per cent of Gaza’s education facilities have been hit since the assault on Gaza started, including 38 schools destroyed and/or severely damaged, 75 of which have sustained moderate damage and another 108 with minor damage.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
Israel is preventing all food, aid, medical or any other supplies from getting to the 2.1 million residents of the Gaza Strip. The normal daily truckloads of goods entering Gaza are 450 – 500 truckloads per day of all kinds of vital materials. Only 81 trucks with some food and medical supplies have been allowed in over the last 23 days.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
No one can leave or enter Gaza, in clear violation of the human right to free movement.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
Cutting the electricity made many sewage pump stations stop operating and sewage is leaking in the streets everywhere, causing the danger of water borne diseases.
What has this to do with fighting Hamas?
Cleansing Gaza City and the northern villages and camps by forcing all the residents to flee their homes in clear violation of International Humanitarian Law; for more than 30 years I have been working in the humanitarian field with Save The Children International, Action Against Hunger and many other organisations. My wife also, who worked at the International Committee of the Red Cross, Humanity and Inclusion and many other international humanitarian organisations, we studied International Humanitarian Law. We believed in it, we learned that these laws should provide justice and the prevention of any harm to civilians and innocent people. Especially in war time.
Our daughter is following in our footsteps. She studied Law at university and now she is abroad studying for a Masters Degree in Human Rights and Democracy.
Why should only we abide and adhere to International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law? Why not the others: the strong, the ones who kill, the ones who have the ability to prevent civilians and innocent people from accessing basic needs? Just because they can? Why?
Hossam in Gaza
Like any other day, I went to the market. It is no longer the market I know, more than half of the stores, the buildings on both sides of the street, were destroyed and damaged. The street is very black, full of dust and rubble, broken glass, bits of doors and windows, electricity and phone cables spread out along the road, fallen from the poles. Dirty water mixed with sewage, as the infrastructure was hit and many underground pipes were damaged. Piles of garbage everywhere, no garbage collection, no municipal staff to repair the damaged water and sewage pipes.
Passing by the bakery, no-one is waiting in line, people are in one big crowd shouting at each other, fighting over the line order. Some men and women are fighting, beating each other with their hands, other people try to calm down the crowd with no success, the bakery owner closes the bakery door. It’s made people even more angry.
Passing by a school, another fight and more shouting, people have lost their tempers, people get angry for any small reason, or even for no reason. Who can blame them? No water, no food, no bathrooms, no privacy, no dignity, no hope. Just despair and fear.
Continued walking down toward Salahaddeen Street, with no purpose.
Some men were carrying bread flour bags of 35 kilos each, I asked one of them where he had bought his from.
‘There is a flour mill on street 20’
‘Can I still find some there? Or maybe it’s finished?’
‘I believe you can find some’.
Here I am now, walking with a purpose. For the last 3 days we have no cooking gas, we have started to cook our food and bread on a fire.
Remembered a colleague living on street 20, I call him saying that I am nearby. He tells me to continue on to his place and that he will catch up with me in 15 minutes, as he is now in the supermarket.
Passed by the mill and bought the bread flour. I carried it approximately 70 metres to his home. His father, who knows me, was very kind, he was very welcoming and provided me with coffee and biscuits. He brought out some plastic chairs and we sat in front of his home. We chatted, mainly about the war, and the struggle people have to secure the minimum basic needs. We talked about the people we both know who have been killed, or injured, or have lost a sibling or a home.
15 minutes later, when my colleague arrived, he looked terrified, full of dust and sand. He had just left the supermarket when it was bombed by an Israeli airstrike. He survived but he saw many people around him that were dead or injured. He could not stop, fearing another bombing could take place. It’s happened many times before, people running toward injured people to help and there is another strike at the same spot killing and injuring more people.
15 minutes until he was calm again and able to speak and breathe normally. I felt I must leave. I asked them if I could leave the bread flour at their place until I find a way to bring it to my father-in-law’s home. The distance is more than 3 kilometres; I don’t believe I can do it carrying 35 kilos.
Abeer and her sister were waiting for me at the home of her cousin, who is living in the middle of the camp near the main market. She had just finished her work at the shelter-school, she’d changed the dirty bandages of injured people, she’d helped a mother giving birth and distributed some assistive devices. Her cousin is hosting two displaced families of friends and colleagues from his work at the Gaza power plant. As I arrived at his home, there was shouting and screaming. The two families were fighting inside over a clash between their children.
Abeer and her sister came out and we walked home.
Arriving home, my mother had been calling for me many times. She wanted to go to the bathroom. No-one there could carry her from bed to bathroom. She could not hold it in, she did it in the bed. I was very frustrated. I took her to the bathroom, cleaned her with cold water. She cursed me, she shouted at me, she did not know that warm water is a luxury we can’t provide now. I was really angry but held myself and did not react. I finished washing her, put on her clean clothes, brought her to bed, brought her some food and gave her her medication. Back to the bathroom, washing her clothes, no electricity, no washing machine, so washing by hand in a plastic jerry can. Filling water from the barrel on the first floor, bringing it up to the second floor several times.
While sitting on the ground washing her clothes trying to control my anger and frustration, I remembered my childhood. There was no electricity in town when I was a child, for sure there were no washing machines. We were 5 brothers and 4 sisters and my father and my mother.
My mother at that time was doing all the washing for all the family, not only the washing, the cooking, the cleaning, the hugging and much more. I felt so bad, but not angry anymore, not frustrated anymore. Just exhausted.
Think of a title if you can
Hossam in Gaza
October 28th 2023 8:30 am,
We woke up realising that the cellular mobiles are without signal. We usually call Salma in Lebanon first thing in the morning. She will get very worried if we don’t call her. I decided to go to the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency aka UNWRA Primary Health Care Unit in the middle of Nuseirat Camp market. There I can find internet to contact her via WhatsApp.
Walking with my laptop bag on my back, 2:25 km from home to the clinic.
Destruction on both sides of the street. Every day I go to the market using this road and every day new homes are destroyed or damaged; many of these homes were bombed over the residents, many bodies brought out, many corpses still under the rubble. More than 2000 people are missing including 830 children; they are all under rubble, there’s no machinery to remove the rubble. After 15 minutes walking, there was a donkey pulling a wooden cart and a man sitting riding, I asked if I could join him, he welcomed me. I thought to myself I will take a photo riding the donkey. I did. I thought maybe I should take some photos of the street. I did. Then I took a selfie. I looked at my photo. I look good. Maybe I need a haircut, but I look good. Despite everything and anything, I look good. I felt good. I thought to myself, hey, I am still alive, my family as well. I will not give up. The market as usual full of people, but obviously not full of life, I ignored this idea, I am alive.
Arriving at the clinic, no internet, no phones, no mobiles, the Israelis cut them all. My God, my daughter?!!! She will know from the news that we can’t, she can’t reach us. ’My heart is with you my baby, I think of you, I wish my thoughts of you will reach you, and assure you that we love you and we are still alive.’ A sole daughter overseas has no one in the world but her parents. Salma.
I left my laptop at the clinic to be charged and went back to the market; goods are getting less in the market, what you can find today you may not find tomorrow, prices are getting higher and higher. I have with me a list of purchases I should make, some items I could not find any more: candles, lentils, and bread flower. Each store I ask they say don’t bother searching, there aren’t any, no goods of any kind entering Gaza for 21 days. I bought more quantities of rice and cooking oil, cans of beans and cans of meat for my dog, Buddy.
Went to the bank, I mean the cash machine, banks are not operating since October 7th. The machine is closed. Still have some cash at home, it will cover our needs for a few days more, I will try the cash machine another day.
I wasn’t far from my colleague’s home where I’d left the bread flour a few days ago. I continued walking, arrived and his uncle, who is an old friend, was there, sitting outside; he’d taken refuge at his brother’s home after his apartment was destroyed, when they bombed the building where he lives in Gaza.
It was a pleasant surprise to see him safe and sound with all of his family. They left one day before the bombing of the building, he said
‘Do you know what happened to Nael?’ He asked
‘On the 18th, he was still at home, when very heavy bombing took place in his neighbourhood. They decided to leave although it was dark. They jumped into the car with nothing, drove until Al Shifa Hospital to take temporary shelter till daylight. As they arrived, they realized that his older son was not there. His 23 year old son wasn’t in the car, he was left behind. They got hysterical; no way to go back, an absolute suicide. They start calling the son, the mobile was ringing, but no answer. Dark and bad thoughts filled their heads, the mother fainted, the father started to call everyone to say ‘I lost my son, I forgot my son at home’. Several friends, including me, kept calling. The mobile was ringing but no answer. This is a very bad sign. It means something happened to him. Hours seemed like an age until daylight. The father drove back home, the home was still standing, he entered the home calling loudly the name of his son. Finally he heard his son answering with a very weak voice: ‘I am here’. He moved toward the voice. His son was rounding his body, making himself as small as possible, under the stairs leading to the second floor. His mobile was 2 meters away from him. He was in shock, such complete fear that he could not crawl to get the mobile and answer. With no words, he took his son, left and drove to Al Shifa hospital, got the rest of the family and drove to Rafah’.
I had my hair cut in the evening.
Salma Madhoun in Beirut
After 30 hours
Hossam’s daughter, Salma, in Beirut: message to Jonathan Chadwick in London
Yesterday night, after 30 hours of not hearing from my parents, I found my father’s documentation of this Gaza War while surfing social media for any glimpse of hope to hold on to. I requested him to send me these documents from the beginning of the war, he didn’t because he didn’t want me to read about their misery and suffering. But, I found them by coincidence, when a foreign family friend uploaded them so people might understand what is going on in Gaza.
Maybe hundreds of others have seen my father’s documents, but it felt like I was the only one who did; the only one who has been enduring the pain with them. I’m the only one who feels and understands them; I’m the only one who might wish to be in their shoes while they are in mine, to be the one in danger while they are safe.
Early warning, hallucination and insomnia
A neighbour 20 meters from my father-in-law’s home received a call from the Israeli army to evacuate his home, as they will bomb and destroy it. He has until 4 pm to leave. It was 12:30 pm. All surrounding neighbours started to leave, carrying whatever they can carry, the minimum basic needs. Abeer was cooking bread and I was washing my mum when we learned the news. We got confused. What to do? Abeer asked me to hurry up and prepare my mother, she continues baking. Giving orders at the same time to her sisters to prepare for leaving. I put the evacuation bags, which we had previously prepared, inside the car and drove it 2 streets away from our home.
Everyone is moving hysterically, in all directions, afraid, silent. I put my mum in her wheelchair, my brother-in-law puts our mother-in-law in her wheelchair. Abeer finishes baking, she wraps the bread in a piece of cloth and we left the house. Abeer’s father asked us to follow him. 80 meters from his home is his friend’s home, a big house with a front yard and a garden with some trees and plants. The friend, with his family, received us very warmly. Women and girls sat on the left side of the garden, men sat on the right side. It was 2:22pm. The landlord offered us coffee and the women some coffee and biscuits.
Waiting, one of the most unpreferable words for me. I hate waiting. Now it is like sitting on fire.
I must find a safer place. Going back home to Gaza is impossible, absolute suicide. Going south to Khan Younis or Rafah. In Khan Younis, I know no one. Also, schools are already overcrowded, we won’t find any place at all. A friend in Rafah 2 weeks ago, on the 12th of October when we left home, was calling me to offer an apartment he has, empty since the death of his older brother. I remembered him. That was 13 days ago, things are not the same since then. I expect that he’s received family members. I did not want to embarrass him so I sent him a message instead of a phone call. As I expected, his home is more than filled with displaced relatives, aunts, uncles, nieces.
Calling another friend, and another, no place, all home units, all schools are overwhelmed with displaced people. After the destruction of 50% or more of the home units of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army during the last 2 weeks, squeezing 2.1 million into a space for only 1 million. What I can expect?
We sit, in the garden, I smoke, and smoke, my thinking ability is paralysed. It is 4 pm, nothing happens, 4:30, nothing happened! What to do? Darkness will fall soon; no movement is possible after dark. The voice of my mother coming from the other side of the garden telling stories about everything and nothing. She is unable to realise the reality of our situation.
There was no sign from the neighbour that we could stay. We understand, we can see how many people he hosts; many women came from inside to greet and receive our ladies, many men came to receive us; there are many children around us, his sons and their wives and children, his daughters and their husbands and children.
I talked to my father-in-law and my wife. We must decide what to do now, we can’t wait until dark as it will be too late to act.
It is not certain that they will bomb it tonight; the supermarket in the market, which was bombed 3 days ago, received the same warning call 4 days before the strike happened.
We decide we will go back. We will all sleep at the far east side of the room, away from windows, and tomorrow we will look for another solution, if we survive the night.
The night is a nightmare here, under attack, the bombing escalating during the night.
We brought my mother’s bed from the second floor, we put her in the corner of the room. It is dark. My mother has started, since yesterday night, seeing images and people, hallucinations. She tells people to go out, she asks these dancers to stop dancing, she called out to children to stop splashing water on her, she keeps telling this lady to keep away from her. This lady putting her face too close to my mother’s face, terrifies my mother and makes her scream. Looking at my mother’s face at these moments, her eyes are very wide open, staring into the vacuum. Her face looks so panicked. I try to calm her down, nothing works, especially if I say that there is no one here, she shouts: ‘How come you don’t see them? Why don’t you help me? Why don’t you ask them to leave? Are you taking sides with them?’ I can do nothing but cry.
At 2:00 am it was too much for every one. I carried her again to the second floor. Maybe her shouts and screaming will not reach the others so they can sleep. The hallucinations continue.
It is 6:30am, dawn, not fully daylight yet, and my mum still with wide open eyes and I am falling apart. I forgot about the risk I put her and myself in by being on the vulnerable second floor, which would be the most damaged if the strike on our neighbour’s took place.
7:45am. Finally, my mother is calmer and more silent, she asks for breakfast. Abeer came to serve her and I fall asleep on the second floor.
Message from Shouq Alnajjar in Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip
Note: Shouq is working with Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody on the next phase of our collaboration – AUGUST 9th PROJECT – engaging with young talent in Gaza to create a new production reflecting the concerns of young people and old! The title is the date the Al Mishal Cultural Centre was destroyed by aerial bombardment in 2018. Jonathan Chadwick is Director of Az Theatre in London.
I apologize again for missing your calls. I wrote something, I will share it with you now.
I don’t know where to start. We have been stuck in this nightmare for 26 days now.
Around three weeks ago, the airstrikes devastated our neighbourhood in Gaza city, and like many others, we had to flee, leaving our house. My husband and I started our married life a year ago in that house which now lies in ruins. We could only take essential documents, leaving behind the memories and meaningful gifts that made our house a home. It was heartbreaking to leave everything behind just like that. But shedding tears over this loss seems small compared to the lives that have been taken; families being wiped out; children losing their lives or becoming orphans.
We’re currently in Khan Younis, staying at my family’s place and sharing a space with over 150 relatives and friends, including at least 30 kids.
Words fail to describe the situation. Daily life is a struggle for essentials, with no running water, electricity, or access to clean water. Local bakeries and stores are overwhelmed, struggling to keep up with the demand for bread and other food supplies.
We are witnessing the unimaginable. Our hearts are broken, souls hurting, and we’re drained, tired, stressed, and frustrated. We barely get any sleep. We’re living in constant fear, and survival feels uncertain. Drones in the air buzzing non-stop like a constant reminder of the danger.
Bombings and airstrikes happen from time to time everywhere. The nights are the scariest and longest as the bombs rain over Gaza continuously. We don’t know when our turn is but we expect to get bombed any minute.
Every bombing sends shivers down our spines, especially the kids who don’t understand why their world has turned into a nightmare. Mums feel helpless, powerless, trying to comfort their little ones. But kids can see the terror in their mothers’ eyes
Around 1.4 million people fled their homes; half of them staying at shelter spaces like UNRWA schools and hospitals, with no access to food, running water, drinking water, medicine, or warm clothes.
No-one and nowhere is safe..
Places that were once a safe haven and a sanctuary for those in need, as recognized by international laws, such as hospitals, schools, mosques and churches are constantly threatened and bombed by the Israeli occupation
How many lives need to be lost for the world to stop and hold Israel responsible for its crimes across decades?!
For those that say they can’t believe this is happening in 2023, I would like to say, do not be surprised because the Israeli occupation has been getting away with breaking endless international laws, committing crimes against humanity and countless massacres.
The suffering of Palestinians extends far beyond the current crisis, reaching back over 75 years of occupation and apartheid. Gaza, in particular, is a stark reminder of this ongoing injustice. The world’s silence on the massacres and genocide happening in Gaza and Palestine is a heartbreaking reminder that, in the eyes of many, the lives lost in Palestine are somehow less significant.
This barbaric Israeli attack is tearing apart our lives, turning my beloved Gaza into ruins and leaving scars that will last a lifetime. Our beloved Gaza is bleeding, and we’re screaming for the world to hear our cries…
Number 4, with zeros and without.
For 2 days I wrote nothing. I don’t know why. Maybe I do! I don’t feel like doing it, it doesn’t help, it doesn’t change anything, waste of time and thinking, exposing myself, my feelings, my pain, my emotions, my privacy, my tears. Why? What for?
Whatever we do, nothing changes; whatever we don’t do, nothing changes. The killing machine continues chasing us wherever we go, no place to go, no way to escape, just sit and wait for your turn to be slaughtered. Every day we learn about someone we know who was killed in bed, killed walking in the street, killed taking a shower in his bathroom, killed while cooking for her family, killed while playing at home or in the street.
But I know that I am not writing to change something. I am not writing to change anything. I am writing for myself. I am writing because I am still alive. I am writing because it makes me feel alive. I will write, until I close my eyes for the last time, or until I won’t be able to write for some other reason. I will keep writing.
Yesterday, the Israelis bombed a neighbourhood inside Jabalia Camp, a whole block. Block 6. Jabalia Camp, 1 kilometre square, with 115,000 inhabitants, the most densely populated spot on earth. 400 people killed and injured within a blink of an eye, vanished, disappeared, do not exist anymore. 400 people in one shot. Hundreds of injured, no hospital has the capacity to treat them. More than 40 houses destroyed completely and many people were killed while walking in the streets. It was 4am when they were struck with 6 explosive missiles by the airforce.
400 people of all ages, foetuses in the bellies of their mothers, lactating babies, little children, boys and girls, teenagers and youths, men and women, elderly people and people with disabilities. A whole community. Disappeared. Just like that, because someone in Israel believed that he could do it, so he did it.
I was listening to the news on the radio, live, people shouting, screaming, the reporter is speaking loudly to be heard above the noise and chaos around him, one of the reporters who lives there, screaming that his family members are among the 400.
My family around me were talking all at the same time about it. I was the only one who said nothing. What can be said in such a situation? What words would express what I feel?
I left the family downstairs and went up to my room and my mattress. I laid down, closed my eyes, tears on my cheeks, and suddenly I am there, in that neighbourhood, just a few minutes before the strike….
I am walking in the narrow streets of the camp, lots of children playing, men, women passing by, going out or coming back. I walk and look at these poor houses, houses that were built 71 years ago by UNRWA for the Palestinian refugees, who were obliged to leave their houses in their homeland, in what is now Israel. Low roofs, no space between the homes, the street is maximum 4 meters wide, some other streets just big enough for cars to pass through slowly with some effort. Windows are at the eye level of an average man. Easy to hear the chat of people inside their homes, on both sides of the walls laundry ropes are hung with children’s clothes. The streets are sandy, sewage leakage every few meters as there is no sewage infrastructure in the camp. People have dug soak-away wells for the sewage, with time they fill and leak into the streets.
Huge noise coming from the nearby market.
I stopped. I opened the first door. I entered. I was invisible, people inside the home did not see me, did not feel that I was there. It was a front yard. A woman of around 37 years old besides a small gas cooker with a pot on it, she was cooking, it is cabbage in the pot. Nice smile, 3 children around her playing, a 7 year old girl playing with a doll and 2 older boys running after each other and the mother calling for them to be quiet. On the other side of the front yard, another woman is washing clothes in three buckets, one with soap and the other two with clean water. Another woman is taking the cleaned clothes and hanging them on a laundry rope hung between a window on the right hand side, all the way across the front yard and then attached to the outside of the home.
In the corner of the front yard, a small room. The door is opened, it is an outside toilet, a man of 42 years old comes out asking: ‘How long until we eat?’ ’10 minutes’ the woman answers. ‘Did you get the medicine for your father?’ she asks. ‘I will get it after lunch, it is not 4 yet’. He moves inside the home. I followed him.
Inside the home, a living room and two small rooms on both sides. In the living room, a line of mattresses right up against each other, an old man lying down, 4 young men in a corner playing cards. The man went out and closed the door. He continued into one of the rooms, inside the room, a cradle with a baby sleeping, the man entered quietly so the baby continued sleeping, he changed his shirt, he put on some deodorant. He moved to the second room, 4 men were asleep, he woke them up, ‘Food will be served in 10 minutes. Get up’. 2 stirred lazily, the other two acted as if they did not hear, the man called again: ‘Get up all of you. It’s 3:55 pm. You can’t keep sleeping’. With a lazy voice, one of the 4 answered: ‘But we only just fell asleep. The bombing and explosions don’t let us sleep. All night, all day, bombing’. He left. The old man in the living room asked him: ‘Did you bring my asthma medicine? I should take it after lunch, not later than 4 o’clock’. ‘Not yet’ he answered. ‘I’ll go to the pharmacy after lunch, I promise I won’t be later than 4 o’clock, I promise’.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…. 4 pm. Booooom!
Let’s return to 3:45 pm
I left and went into the next home, …
To be continued…
Number 4, with zeros and without. Part 2
Today I received a message from my sister, who took refuge at an UNRWA shelter-school in Deir El Balah Camp in the middle area of Gaza Strip, 10 km from my place, as distant as the Earth from the Moon. No way to reach her without risking my life. She and her 4 sons, a little boy 8 years old, a teenager 15 years old, 2 youths 22 and 21 years old, and her mother-in-law, 82 years old, have not eaten for 2 days. Her little son is sick with stomach pain, no doctors, no primary health care unit, only the hospital which prioritises its services for the hundreds of severely injured. I called one of my colleagues who lives in Deir El Balah; he went and provided her with whatever he could.
I called my brother who has stayed at home in Gaza. He did not leave, he did not want to leave home despite the danger. He told me that he left home 2 days ago and moved to the nearby school. He received an SMS from the Israeli army asking him to evacuate his home because they were going to bomb it. He ran out with his family, his wife, 3 sons of 7, 16 and 17 years old and 2 daughters of 12 and 14 years old. As they were running out, another building not far from them was bombed. A flying stone from the bombing impact hit his little daughter in the leg and broke it. He carried his daughter, brought the family to the school and continued carrying his daughter to the hospital. They treated the girl; they put plaster of paris all over her leg. He decided to return home. He received the warning message two days ago, but he doesn’t want to stay at the school.
Could not say anything, could not advise him anything, what do I know?
Back to my room, and the image of Block 6 in Jabalia Camp does not leave my head, seeing it at all times, trying to forget about it and continue, but no way.
Again, in the camp, Block 6….
Past the first home and outside the second home, a man urges his family members to hurry up, asking his sons:
‘The taxi will be here at 4, we need to speed up, did you get everything?
‘Here are the bags of clothes. Here are the mattresses. Here is the food left at home. Here’s your bag with all the important documents and ID’s. What else?’
‘Where are the others?
‘What are they doing inside?’ (he asks, frustrated) ‘The taxi will be here in 10 minutes for God’s sake.’
He goes in. Inside the home, his wife is arguing with her daughter-in-law,.
‘I can’t leave these dresses, they were a gift from my mother when I gave birth to my first child’.
‘But there’s no space in the bag’.
‘I don’t care, I’m taking them with me’.
‘And you’ (to her son) ‘Do you really need to take 3 pair of shoes? There’s no space.’
‘These are not shoes, this is my laptop’
‘Shall we take the cooking gas cylinder? They might not have enough’
‘If there’s space in the taxi, we’ll take it’
Sameer and Fatma, the 11 and 12 year olds, arguing over things they want to take; Sameer wants to take his bicycle and Fatma wants to take her school bag and favourite doll.
The father trying to control himself, speaking quietly but sharply:
‘Is this really what we need to do now? Argue over things to take and not take? Didn’t we agree all that this morning? Are we leaving for good? We’re coming back in a few days, so please stop and all come out now. 3 minutes and the taxi will be here.’
They all go out, the father closes the front door, a next door neighbour comes out and sees all the bags and luggage on the street.
‘What’s up Abu Ahmad? Where are you going?
‘We’re leaving for Rafah, to my brother’s home. The whole family is displaced there; we want to be together. It’s safer’
‘Are you sure it’s safer in Rafah? They’re bombing everywhere.’
‘This is what we’ve decided. we’ll all be together, live together or die together, here’s the taxi.’
‘There it is, at the entrance to the street.
Tick tock, tick tock, 4 pm.….. Boooom.
400 people killed and injured.
Hossam in Gaza
Lay down on the mattress, complete darkness but for the slight light of a poor, small candle. Closing my eyes, hoping to fall asleep, it doesn’t work. 2 days and nights, not a single minute of sleep.
It is amazing how human senses become stronger and more sensitive when you lose one, like people who have no eyesight, their hearing becomes sharper. This is what happens to me while closing my eyes.
During the day, lots of noise, lots of sounds, mixed sounds of people, chats, speaking, shouting, bombing, explosions, drones, airforce planes cutting the sky in pieces. All mixed so I can’t and don’t concentrate on any one sound.
In the dark, in the supposedly complete silence, and while laying down with eyes closed, I started to focus more on the sounds surrounding me, the sound of a plastic sheet covering the window which has lost its glass, moving in the night breeze, the breathing and sighs of my mother beside me, my heart beats, the squeak of the field cockroaches, the sound of a bird back late to his nest, or flying out of his nest due to an explosive sound, a little baby crying at the nearby neighbour’s home and his mother cradling him, the swish of branches in the trees, moving slightly, a whoop of an owl coming from the distance, street dogs getting crazy and barking when bombs happen, sounds of some cats fighting.
All those sounds mean life, mean hope, mean tomorrow will come despite anything.
Other sounds are coming, over all other sounds, making all other sounds vanish, occupying the air and the atmosphere, invading the silence to say death is coming. The sound of the military drone, the only similar sound is the electric shaving machine doubled a hundred times, filling the space with its annoying noise that no one can ignore even for a moment. Every live creature is obliged to hear it, at all times. Humans, animals, birds, trees, even stones could crack out of the madness the sound causes. It reminds me only of one thing, the Middle Ages’ slow killing by torture.
The passing military airplanes – F 15 – F 16 – F 32 – F I don’t know what, cutting the sky like a knife goes through a piece of butter, carrying death wherever they go.
The sound of the artillery shelling, boom. Each shell makes three sounds, the echo of the sound repeated: boom, boom, boom, starts huge and echos out three times.
The sound of the rocket strikes, very loud, very sharp. If you hear it, then you are alive. It is so fast that if it hits you, you won’t hear it. Anyone in Gaza who hears the rocket, immediately knows that it has hit some other people, leaving death and destruction behind it. We all know that by experience; we learnt the hard way through several wars against Gaza.
Sitting in the dark, trying to ignore the loud sounds of death and concentrate on the little life sounds. Not easy, but this is my way to pass the night, hoping to overcome the insomnia for a few hours.
What to write about?
Hossam in Gaza
Four days without writing my diaries during this war. My head is boiling with things I want to write about, but what to start with?
About my daily efforts to secure drinking water, household water, food, diapers for my bedridden mother, winter clothes (as we left home with light clothes not thinking it would take this long), my mother’s medicine (which, each time I find some, the price is higher)?
About people’s frustration and anger which turn into fighting and disputes; dispute over a piece of bread, dispute over 20cm of space inside the shelter, dispute over a drop of water, dispute over the waiting line for the bathroom, dispute over a word said or a word not said?
About the hospitals which were bombed and shut down due to absence of operational power systems? About the continuous bombing and killing, and the injured who don’t find help? About hospitals running out of all essential medical supplies so that they now do amputations on injured people without any type of anaesthesia?
About scarcity of food and life’s basic needs, leading to real starvation?
About the destruction of homes which increases every single day?
About my daily struggle to find any source of power to charge my laptop and mobile?
About the garbage filling the streets everywhere as the garbage collection is paralysed. About sewage and water leakage in the streets due to the destruction of the weak infrastructure?
About the world which has no mercy for 2 million civilians?
About the psychosocial support activities we’ve started to provide in some shelters?
About my sister who I can’t help. About the rest of my family, my brothers and sisters and their children in Gaza City and the north who I can’t reach even by phone to know if they are dead or still alive?
About the mothers and fathers who are not able to provide milk for their babies, water and food for their children, shelter or any type of safety?
About the education of the new generation which is frozen, and no one can anticipate when and how it will resume?
About my home in Gaza City, the apartment that I worked 40 years for, to save enough money to buy it so I could call it home?
About the kind of life we will have after all of this destruction and damage to entities, facilities, streets, homes, people and souls?
What to write about – where to start?
I will write about Jonathan Chadwick, Jonathan Daitch, Steven Williams, Sami, Mohammed, Rafat, Emad, Baha’a, Philipe Dumoulin, Marianne Blume, Brigitte Fosder, Ines Abdelrazeq, Lisa Shultz, Heather Bailey, Gerhard, Eli, Peter Van Lo, Zohra, Inas, Jean Luc Bansard, Jan, Kathleen, Redouan, Marko Torjanak, Sanne and many others whose humanity remains, those who give me hope, strength and the ability to continue, with their words, with their support. Those who make me believe there is humanity somewhere in this world, there is hope, life stronger than death. Their words make me able to defeat the darkness.
My dear friends, I love you all, I wish that I will meet you all again.
The valley of death.
An introduction may be needed!
Israeli army obviously determined to empty all the hospitals of Gaza City and the north no matter the cost.
No matter how many lives lost,
No matter how many injured people and regular patients won’t receive treatment,
No matter how many tumour and cancer patients die,
No matter how many patients in the Intensive Care Units will die,
No matter how many patients will choke without oxygen,
No matter how many people in need of urgent surgery will not get it,
No matter how many premature babies, not completely born yet, won’t see life, as they will suffocate in their incubators – two died already according to the Ministry of Health,
No matter what International Humanitarian Law and the 4th Geneva Convention say,
Israeli army cut the electricity completely from day one of the war, then prevented the entry of any fuel that could operate the electricity of stand-by generators and also bombed all solar panels on the roofs of the hospitals:
Al Shifa in Gaza City,
The Indonesian Hospital in the north,
Kamal Adwan in Beit Lahia,
Al Rantisi, the only children’s cancer hospital in all of the Gaza Strip – three died already, according to the Ministry of Health,
Al Nasr Hospital in Gaza City, the specialised paediatric hospital.
The Psychiatric Hospital, the only psychiatric hospital in the Gaza Strip.
All these hospitals were obliged to stop operating, some were bombed, others damaged.
Al Shifa hospital is the main hospital in Gaza Strip and the biggest. It was a target for the Israeli army from the beginning. They bombed the baby delivery section, they bombed the outdoor clinics, they bombed the main gate several times and, each time, people were killed and injured. They bombed ambulances carrying injured people at the hospital gate. Yesterday they got very close to the hospital, bombing and shooting around it as if a gate of hell opened, bombing and destroying most of the houses and buildings surrounding the hospital.
My eldest brother, 60 years old, with his 2 sons, Mohammed, 23 years and Hisham,15 years old and his sick, blind wife took refuge at Al Shifa Hospital on 12th October 2023. My brother’s wife suffers from kidney failure. She needs hospital treatment 3 times a week; she needs to be connected to a machine through her veins in order to clean her blood. Each time the machine functions as a kidney for 4 hours. As a matter of fact, that’s why they chose to take refuge at Al Shifa Hospital. Many of the 50,000 displaced people inside Al Shifa Hospital are families of sick people with chronic diseases. They’re there so they can get health services more easily. Many of them are families of people injured during the war.
Yesterday, my brother and his family decided to leave. They were certain of being killed if they stayed. They go south, out of Gaza City. My brother, carrying 60 years of agony, poverty, hard work and pain on his shoulders, his son Mohammed pulling the wheelchair with his mother on it, the mother holding a bag of stuff, clothes and some food, on her lap, and Hisham, the young boy, carrying a backpack and a handbag. With the bombing, the shooting, the drone noise, the airforce passing, the sound of the crowd surrounding them, they walk out.
They need to go to the Zeitoun area, a distance of 3 kilometres, in order to reach Salah Al-Deen Road which connects Gaza from north to south. They walk. Streets are empty except for some people also carrying what they can of their belongings, heading toward Salah Al-Deen Road.
Streets? Destroyed, damaged, big holes, water leakage, sewage leakage.
For 200 meters, for my brother and his family, it was absolutely similar to walking through a mine-field, walking side by side with death. They’d already seen dead bodies along the road.
Passing tanks, soldiers, they continue another 2 km before arriving at an area where there are people, just 1km from Bureij and Nuseirat Camps. They finally found a donkey cart to give them a ride to Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al Balah, 18km from Gaza City.
This was no different from Dante’s Inferno in The Divine Comedy, maybe Dante would be even more inspired if he walked this route.
Mohammed, most of the time and whenever possible, was trying to call me. Mobiles did not work. At 9pm my mobile was ringing, it was Mohammed,
– ‘Where are you? Are you safe? Could never reach you while you were in Gaza’.
– ‘We are in Al Aqsa Hospital, with nothing’.
– ‘Try to manage tonight, I will be there in the morning’.
There is nothing to be done at this time; no movement at dark.
First thing in the morning, I went to Deir Al Balah. It was early. Walked. Walking total today is 11.5 km.
I arrived, people everywhere. The front and back yards of the hospital are full of displaced people, injured people and their families. At the gate of the hospital, they were laying out 3 dead bodies, just arrived from Nuseirat, from a bombing of a house there.
I start to ask people about the new arrivals from Gaza City. There were many. I kept asking and looking until I found them, in a small space of 2 metres square, provided by a family who’d been taking 4 metres square.
Mohammed was not there, he’d gone to get some medicine for his mother. My brother has aged 50 years in these few days and since I last saw him 40 days ago. Hisham was sitting beside his mother, doing nothing, saying nothing, his eye balls do not move, looking to one side, looking at nothing. I tried to talk to him. He did not respond. Hisham, the boy who I love the most, the boy who loves me the most. Hisham, who every time I visit, runs towards me and asks for a hug. Hisham is not responding to me. What happened my boy?
I don’t know if it is the psychological first aid techniques that I learned during my work as a Child Protection Officer, or the power of love, after 15 minutes Hisham looked at me, jumped into my arms and cried, cried as he never did, cried and cried, his body moved and shook in my arms. I did not cry. I hold back my tears, my tears that wanted very much to come out. I hold back so it burns me inside. Cry, baby, cry my son, no shame, cry as much as you want, cry as much as you were afraid, cry until your cries reach the sky or reach a moving heart somewhere in this mad world.
My mother once again
With the tear in her stomach, vomiting happening from time to time, eating nothing for 2-3 days and bleeding in her gastro-intestinal system, the hospital is a must, just to stop the bleeding. Nexium 40mm twice a day in her veins. I bought everything as we did last time, when we asked a neighbour who is a nurse to do the procedure.
The neighbour nurse is not there. She lives in the house next to my father-in-law’s house that was warned it would be bombed. They evacuated.
What can I do? Went out in the street. I don’t know the people; it is not my neighbourhood, I am a stranger here.
I asked people on the street if they know of a nurse nearby. Amazing, at the third house a man said:
– My wife is a nurse.
I explained to him what we needed. He entered his house and within 5 minutes came out with his wife. We went to our home. She did what needed to be done but my mother’s veins are closed up, they do not absorb the medicine. The nurse said sharply:
– She must be taken to hospital!
I’ve kept some fuel, enough for 50km, inside my car for an emergency. Enough to drive us to Rafah.
This is an emergency. I took my mother to a community hospital in Nuseirat Camp. While driving there the bombing did not stop, as usual, at every minute.
Arrived at the hospital. Outside they have installed a big tent like a field hospital. Some beds inside with some injured people and doctors treating them. Many people moving on all sides, an ambulance arrives, people automatically clear a space for the ambulance. 3 Bodies covered with blankets. Another ambulance arrives, 4 injured; a woman, a young man and 2 children. The young man lost a leg, lots of blood. I did not know what to do. My mother can’t be a priority in this situation. While standing by the entrance, a gentle nurse approached me asking if he could help. I explained my mother’s situation. He said:
– Normally we must make a haemoglobin blood test, heart and blood pressure tests, but you see how messy the situation is. I’ll get the Nexium and syringe, inject it with 40mm saline. Come inside.
I went into the first corridor; many people, blood on the floor, a lady is busy cleaning, a bucket of clear water, in 2 minutes it became red, she took it, disappeared for 5 minutes and came back with the bucket refilled with clear water. Some people crying in sorrow, nurses and doctors moving at speed all over the place. The nurse left me, I had been there for 20 minutes when he came back with the cannula, dressing, syringe and the Nexium. He was very good. In 2 minutes he did all that was needed.
My mother slept in her wheelchair. I took her out, lifted her into the car and drove back home.
Night fell. Usually I am a man who likes evenings and night-time, it is my relaxing time, I play cards with my friends, watch favourite movies, lie down lazily on my couch. Now I am unable to like evenings or nights. As darkness falls, life stops, frozen, no movement, no activities, no sounds but the sound of bombing and drones which double in the silence a million times.
My mother woke up with her hallucinations again, her internal fear that I can’t help. She sees people and things, people that provoke her and things that frighten her. She screams out of fear, she sees me doing bad things and she curses me, and I am helpless. The calming pills do not help this time. From 5pm until the following morning at 8.20am she suffers from her hallucinations and I suffer from insomnia and helplessness. I went downstairs to get her breakfast. 10 minutes later, I came up and she was asleep. I did not wake her, she needs to sleep. She needs to rest.
I called Dr Yasser Abu Jamei. He is a psychiatrist and the General Manager of Gaza Mental Health Program. Explained to him my mother’s case, he sent a message with the name of a medicine that I should give her, one pill every evening. I left my mother asleep, or maybe unconscious and went to the UNRWA clinic. No internet, could do nothing, just wrote part of this piece, bought the medicine and went back home. Back at home my mum was still asleep. It is 6.13pm. She is still asleep. The breakfast is still there, untouched. Is this good? Is this bad? Shall I wake her up and give her the medicine? But I am afraid that she’ll wake up with her hallucinations and spend another night of fear and insomnia. Is it ok to let her sleep this much? I don’t know. I will wait. I took some food, my first meal of the day. I washed my body with some water, a shower is an unavailable luxury. It is 8.15pm. She slept 12 hours. 11.25pm, 15 hours! Finally I decided (selfishly) to leave her asleep and see what would happen.
By the way, now I only have fuel in my car for 40km.
Hossam in Gaza
23 November 2023
What can words do when you feel they are unable to describe, explain, to express a feeling or an event?
It is almost 10 days now without writing anything. There are many things I want to talk about but words are disabled, words will not reflect what I see, what I feel, what I want to tell about.
Yesterday I was at the clinic waiting for my colleagues, the counsellors, to hand over to them their duties and distribute them to the shelter/schools to provide some psychological support for the children. One of them was not there. I asked about him. Someone told me that something happened: 2 people they host were killed in a bombing. The person we were talking about, I know his uncle. His uncle is my friend and I know that he took refuge at their home. I panicked. I finished with my colleagues and went there fast to see my friend and find out what has happened. I arrived. My friend and my colleague were there sitting outside the house. Their faces were talking. Their faces said everything. Their faces told me that something terrible had happened.
My friend told me what happened. His daughter’s husband and his grandson were killed. They were taking refuge at the same home but yesterday his daughter’s husband went to see his mother in another home with his extended family. He took his oldest son, Waseem, a six year old boy.
The home, a building of four floors hosting 37 people was bombed. They died. They all died; men, women, boys, girls are dead, all of them.
While he was speaking, his daughter, the one I have known since she was 7 years old was not far away. She was hanging the clothes of her dead child on the laundry line, as if nothing had happened. She washed the clothes of her dead son and she put them out to dry in the sun so when he came back he could put them on.
I looked at her and I looked for the words that would explain what she feels, what she thinks. I did not find the words. What words can describe this? Damn it, where are the words? Why don’t words help? Words are weak. Words are disabled. Words are crippled. No words can explain what she feels or thinks. She lost her husband and her 6 year old son. The son was found and buried, and the husband was still under the rubble with another 14 out of the 37.
I hate words. It makes me feel helpless, makes me feel stupid even to think of talking with words about this.
And while we talk they mention Mahmoud, Mahmoud, my friend. He is the uncle of the husband. He took refuge at the big family home with his wife and children, his brother and wife and children and their parents. They were all there. They all died.
No! Please, no! Not Mahmoud! No, he can’t be dead. I can’t accept this. Mahmoud did not die. Mahmoud is alive. Please tell me he is not dead. Please.
I met him in Nuseirat market 3 days ago. We hugged, we talked, we laughed. You can’t meet Mahmoud and not laugh. He looks so good, so smart, well-dressed, always with shaved face and shaved head, and a big smile never leaves his face for a single minute. His beautiful smile fills the air with joy and happiness. He is the one who makes everybody feel good and relaxed. Mahmoud’s smile opens all the windows for hope and comfort. His heart is so big, bigger than the world itself. He can take all the world in his heart. He is the one who is always available to help, to support, to solve problems, to be beside people, people that he knows or people that he never met before, he is just available for anyone, as if God created him for others. He can’t die. Oh God, Mahmoud, my friend. Why? Why? Why?
After writing this about Mahmoud I feel so bad, very bad. All these words are nothing. It tells nothing about my friend. It makes him small and he is much more.
Words are cursed. Words are weak. Words are helpless. No words can tell what I feel now. Words won’t say what I want to say about Mahmoud.
During the fifty days, there were many queues.
Queues started, then disappeared. There were queues, and there still are. New queues started when the truce began.
A queue for bread, the first queue. Thousands of people standing in a queue in front of the bakery to get the permitted amount of bread, barely enough for one day for a family of 5 people. An orderly queue.
But from time to time, there is a selfish person who pushes himself in front of others, so problems arise. It ends up with him being shoved far away until he takes his proper place in the queue.
These queues disappeared bit by bit. In Nuseirat, for example, there were four bread bakeries. The Israelis bombed two of them. So there were bigger queues at the remaining bakeries until there was no more flour in the market and the gas upon which the baking
and dough-making machines depended, was all used up.
What happened in Nuseirat happened in all the cities of the Gaza Strip.
Half the bakeries in the Gaza Strip were bombed and collapsed on the heads of those working all night long, preparing the bread to answer the needs of the people. And some closed their doors when there was no more flour left in the market.
And so, in a scheduled way, the people were driven towards famine.
AT THE DOORS OF THE UNRWA OFFICES – A QUEUE TO REGISTER TO RECEIVE FLOUR
Queues of hundreds of people to register and obtain a number and appointment to receive flour. It’s an ongoing daily queue.
Queues at the doors of the supermarket and commercial shops…stampedes and traffic jams. The queues continued to form at the entrances of the shops until the goods ran out. Then these queues disappeared.
Queues at the Bank
A daily queue at the ATM to withdraw cash. Short queues of a few dozen people. Most people don’t even have cash in the banks. Only those who are employed and some rich people…
Several thousand out of millions of people in the Gaza Strip stand in front of the ATMs. These are daily queues.
Current queues started with the truce, queues for cooking gas, for petrol, and solar, delivered in limited amounts to several gas stations.
Hundreds of cars and carts arrive and line up in a queue stretching for a more than a kilometre, hoping to get fuel whose price has leapt up on the black market.
War is ruin, war is destruction, war is death. War steals from human beings the most important thing that distinguishes them. War steals their humanity. This is something that Israel knows. This is what Israel is doing in Gaza.
Suffocating Traffic Jam
Suffocating traffic jam. Thousands in the streets of the market. As far as you can see, there are heads and bodies jamming and closing the way. Walking between the people in Nuseirat camp is exhausting and annoying, which had a population of 35,00 people and now has an extra 150,00. It seems as if most of them have agreed to meet each other in the market; young men and young women, children, adolescents, boys and girls…
Women, men, children, the elderly with and without walking sticks, some in wheelchairs.
Pregnant women, women carrying their nursing babies. Young men and women bumping into each other, walking up and down…some carry on walking in silence. The smell of perspiration comes from them. No exaggeration. No one complains about anyone else.
Including me. Like them I have no chance to wash everyday. Water is scarce.
The market street is itself dirty. No one clears away the rubbish from the shops. It piles up day after day, emitting all sorts of smells. All of them are harmful. I think many diseases will start to appear.
People have started to sell the contents of their houses, reckoning that others might need them. An old mattress, used clothes, worn out shoes…Some people are more creative.
Nearby there is a man who sells chickens. When there is no electricity for him to run the machine that cleans the chickens, he lights a fire on which he puts a big pot of water. He kills and cleans the chickens by hand and puts them in the boiling water for a few minutes and then plucks the feathers and goes out into the middle of the market. No one minds.
No one blames anyone else. There are no alternatives.
Like every day
I wake up at 6am. My wife’s father, a kind 70 year-old man, wakes up before me.
And the fire has been lit and the pot of tea and a kettle full of warm water are on the fire.
Also a pot of water awaits me to place 3 eggs in it so they can continue cooking on the fire.
2 of the eggs are for my mother and one is for my dog, Buddy.
After washing and drinking a cup of cheap Nescafé, which I managed to get from a proper shop before it was emptied. It’s time for my mother. I change her diaper. I clear the bits of food which have fallen around her and I prepare an egg for her and a piece of bread, and cup of tea. Tea is readily available because it is part of the supplies from UNRWA which are sold in the market at reduced prices.
I feed my dog the third egg. I put on whatever clothes I can reach. I’m not bothered about what colour, or if my shirt is ironed. These are concerns we’ve given up on completely after 51 days.
I get ready to go out. My mother’s prayers follow me. The road from the house to the Nuseirat market, 2.5 kilometers away in Sawariha, an agricultural area between Nuseirat refugee camp and Al Zuwayeda village on the sea. The house is 600 meters from the sea, more or less. But these days, it feels like China is nearer than the sea. When Israel launches its rockets towards the West, it points its tanks towards the beach or wherever suits them. The horizon of the sea is the only horizon available to the people of Gaza. In narrowed Gaza, there is no horizon – only buildings, and streets veiling the horizon and some even veil the sky.
People who have left their houses because of the threats made by the Israeli army, steal what they can. They rip the doors of businesses off their hinges and steal whatever they can.
This is happening in Gaza now. And it’s not surprising when you create famine in people who are under siege in a small area and the rule of law disappears. No accountability, no policing…
Survival begins by justifying every action.
Fear is now everywhere.
Fear of death from the Israeli bombing, fear of your inability to find shelter, water and food, fear of robbery, or of being injured, or being killed.
The biggest fear is the delayed fear, fear of what will happen after this war.
The Gaza Strip has been entirely destroyed – every building, from the foundations up, the roads, communications.
More than 200,000 houses are demolished. The war starts again. More than a million people have no house to return to. What kind of life awaits us? What future awaits our children? What authority will rule in Gaza? An Israeli military occupation? A return of the Hamas government to power? Will it be the return of the corrupt Palestinian Authority?
Or International forces to enjoy our humiliation? When will you have had enough of the humiliation of our people by Hamas and the Authority?
When will we have had enough of the humiliation and violence of the occupation?
What are we waiting for from tomorrow? I mean what will we wait for from what is left of us tomorrow?
Gaza between the sea and the fence
The sea to the west and the fence to the east, and the north and the south.
I walk towards the east, not the west.
The sea is not mine. I have no horizon. The road is long and exhausting. A long section of this dusty road , old-tarmacked road, a part is full of holes and a part is alright. We pass onto a street with a shrine on the wall of the central cemetery of the camp. Piles of rubbish stretch along the length of the cemetery wall. The road is painful. The sewage runs in the streets because the foundations of buildings in many areas have been destroyed. There are piles of garbage on both sides of the road. The foul smells fill your nose and infect the land.
We travel on a broken journey. We come across holes dug in the road, sewage and garbage. You try to avoid it. We don’t always succeed. Sewage sometimes mixes with clean water when the road widens, and sometimes overwhelms it completely. There is no escape from your heels sinking into the shit. You feel nauseated, sad, angry, but you carry on.
There’s no alternative. Bombed houses, demolished on both sides of the road. From them, the smell of gunfire mixed with the smell of concrete, rubble or the smell of a water tank filling with sewage.
The houses were bombed day after day, till bit by bit there was no more room for the cars on the road. The road was reduced to one lane.
If it rains, one or twice, the hole left by the demolished house fills and overflows until it divides the road completely. There has been no replacement, no alternative to what exists.
I arrive at the market after a journey of an hour (more or less)
The market. Market Street which divides the camp from Salaheddin Street in the east all the way to the west and the sea. The market stops there. Many of the buildings have been bombed: two bakeries, a supermarket, clothes shops, electrical goods shops, a pharmacy, an apothecary. Between each bombed house and another one, is a house partially or completely destroyed. Most of the shops are closed after 50 days of no goods getting through. The shops ran out of everything. They were completely empty.
Another market was shut down, only street vendors walking up and down or people spreading their goods on the ground, or on cardboard boxes or small tables, or on a donkey cart. The only available goods were four types of vegetables: potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, lemons. The prices rose daily – day after day. Some of the materials distributed by UNRWA to the displaced in the schools – tinned beans, meat, tuna fish, sugar and rice and lentils, sweet potatoes, a piece of plastic 4 or 5 meters long to cover the roofs dripping rainwater onto the heads of those living in poor houses. Displaced people eat what they could of the UNRWA food, then spread blankets on the ground in the market so they can sell what they have left or have denied themselves and their children to make the money they need to buy the essentials that UNRWA doesn’t distribute, like winter clothes for their children, sanitary towels for the women, medicines for the sick, cigarettes and coffee for selfish fathers, who prefer cigarettes and a cup of coffee to proper food for their children.
There are hundreds of beggars
There are hundreds of beggars, of all ages, boys and girls, women and men. They cling to those they think may be able to spare a bit of money. They ask for money insistently. Hunger drives them. Hunger is humiliating. People are hungry. Before the war 48% of the population was unemployed. Now life has stopped completely, and no one is working. The businesses, factories, shops, cafés, restaurants are all closed. Even the 40,000 employees who receive their wages from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah have not been paid. Israel cut the budget of the Palestinian Authority by the amount used to pay civilian employees in Gaza.
Israel is strangling us by any means. They turned off our water, electricity, communications,
stopped the cash and the money from the Palestinian Authority which is meant to be sent by Israel through their crossings and not kept by them.
Survival is what drives the people of Gaza – like animals in the jungle, and as in the jungle, there are the weak and there are the strong, the one who lives with the tribe and the one who lives alone.
With hunger and pride and need, terrifying things start to appear: robberies, shops robbed night and day. A gang appears in a shop shouting and screaming in a savage way and start taking whatever comes into their hands, ransacking as they flee.
When a house comes under bombardment, people are terrified, hoping they don’t die under the rubble. Someone will sneak in between and steal whatever he can.
Queuing for cooking gas
I left the market and headed toward Salaheddin Street. There was no transport in the market between the thousands of people and the crowds. I walked in the direction of Khan Younis to meet my colleagues to prepare a report on their work providing psychological support to children in the schools where they had sought refuge. There were a few old, battered cars working on cooking gas or cooking oil mixed with petrol. A choking smell came out of them. No alternative. The prices were a joke. No stable prices but no price was less than 3 times normal. And if you complain, there is a ready answer. The gas has been cut. Cooking oil costs three times its normal price, like everything else. Everything sold in the market costs at least three or four times the normal price. In a cart in which four people fit, the driver will stuff 5 or 6 passengers. You have no right to complain. That’s what’s available.
Shall I take it, or shall I leave it? You arrive with your muscles aching with the pressure on them from the journey.
The road from Nuseirat to Khan Younis, Salahaddin Street, remains intact. It hasn’t yet been destroyed. On both sides of the street, from time to time, you see demolished buildings, houses, factories, bakeries or a bank, all bombed and destroyed. Some of the rubble from the destroyed buildings is scattered on the road. Cars avoid it easily because the road is wide.
On the horizon you see a long line. As the car gets closer you can make out that they are cooking gas cylinders weighing 12 kilograms and next to each cylinder stands its owner. The queue stretches for more than a kilometre till it reaches the filling station on Salahaddin Road. Hundreds of those queuing will not get their turn for days.
When the Israeli Occupation Army hit, strike and destroy a row of 20-30 buildings, which would include hundreds of apartments, homes and houses, stores and markets:
A journalist appearing with his bullet proof vest and helmet or a political analyst with a tie round his neck, describe the action by saying that the Israeli army created a fire belt in Yarmouk Street.
What? ‘Fire Belt’???!!!
It is homes, it is belongings, it is shelters, it is the warm places, it is the comfort after a long day’s work, it is memories, it is all that people have, it is their beds and sofas, it is their TVs and kitchens, it is their favourite cups and plates. In every corner of these hundreds of houses they have memories, everything they have they chose themselves, over years and years of working hard to save money and buy it, in order to use it, and enjoy it. It is the beds of their children, it is the blanket they chose because they liked its colour, it is their photos on the walls and where they plan their children’s futures. It is their past and their planned future.
Screw ‘fire belt’.
The most annoying words I hear are coming from journalists and politicians and official representatives of UN Agencies and political analysts when they describe things in Gaza.
Words such as ‘difficult’.
When the Shifa Hospital was surrounded by the Israeli army and bombed after depriving it from water, electricity, oxygen, food,
when injured people in the ICU are dying one after another,
when new born babies in the incubators are dying one after another,
when sick people suffocated because there is no oxygen,
when corpses are rotting in the sun and no-one can bury them or move them,
a clever representative of the WHO, or a smart journalist broadcasting the situation say: ‘It is a difficult situation at Shifa Hospital’.
Sir, when you have an argument with your wife you come and say it was difficult. When you don’t find milk for your morning coffee you say it is a difficult situation. When you look for a taxi to get to work on time and don’t find one, then it is difficult. When you try to convince your son to stay with the baby-sitter and he is stubborn and does not listen you can say it is difficult.
What is happening at Shifa Hospital is not difficult. It is a massacre. It is a crime against humanity. It is terror in its worst form.
How can one survive war in a very small place, where bombing, shelling, bombardment, striking, shooting is everywhere? Where there is no way to predict the next strike, especially when civilians are the main target?
How to find a safe place?
How to secure food and water when there is no food or water allowed in?
How to get health treatment when you get sick while hospitals are targeted and no medical supplies are allowed in?
How to provide safety and comfort for your children when you can’t even have it for yourself?
How to find shelter when homes, houses, buildings are deliberately hit?
How to keep warm when there is no electricity to put on a heater, or no winter clothes available in the market, or when you have no money to buy them even if some are available?
How to cook your food when cooking gas is not allowed in?
How to escape? To leave the city which becomes a battlefield and is locked and closed and there is no way out but to your grave, if you can find a grave and find someone to put you in it?
The answer is: I DON’T KNOW.
Untold story from Olympus
While sitting bored on his throne at the top of Olympus, Zeus ran his fingers through his long beard, looking down at Earth. There were lights in many places on Earth, there was darkness in many places as well. But he noticed a spot of light shining more than any other place. It was not artificial light, it was not sunlight, nor moon or starlight. He looked closer. It is coming from there, from a tiny place on the Mediterranean, a place called Gaza.
He wonders, what is shining there? There should be darkness in that place so what is shining?
Lucifer was not far and he heard the wonderings of Zeus. He said in his deep, low voice – these are the children and women of Gaza. They always shine. How does the God of Gods not know that?!
Zeus, frustrated that he did not know, said: ‘I want some of them here. Whoever can bring some of them now will be rewarded’.
Lucifer said: ‘Only the Army of the Dead can bring you these children and women’.
Zeus was shaken, ‘ No! Not this army! They are brutal. They are gruesome, fierce, horrifying, inexorable, merciless, hideous.’
Lucifer: ‘This is the only army that can make your wish come true’.
Other Gods: ‘Please, no, not this army. Not the Army of the Dead. Take any other army. Send the Amazons, they are good and strong. Send the Trojan army or send any one of us and we will bring you them. Send Mars, Neptune or Hera. Send Hercules or Axel but not this army.’
Zeus, as usual, acts as he always acts. He acts selfishly. His will is an order, his dreams must come true, his wish must be met.
Zeus with his loud voice, holding high his lightning rod to spread fear among the other Gods, said:
‘Silence. No comment. No-one speak. Let it be. Send the Army of the Dead. Get me some children and some women from that Gaza. My desire is a demand and my demands are orders. Send the Army of the Dead now.’
All the Gods looked angrily at Lucifer. They wanted to kill him. But he is protected by the God of Gods.
Lucifer said: ‘Lord, you know that the Army of the Dead has demands too’.
Zeus: ‘What demands?’
Lucifer: ‘No-one should ask or question the means they will use to get you the children and women and no-one can ask them to stop until they stop. Do you swear to do this’
Zeus: ‘This is an Oath of Zeus, the God of all Gods.’
The Army of Dead was waiting with anxiety and joy, waiting for Lucifer to give them the good news. He was not late, he arrived with the happy news.
Lucifer said in his deep voice: ‘Go, my friends, put the Palestinian to the sword. You are free, with no questioning, don’t stop until you quench your thirst with their blood.
The Army of the Dead did not wait until he finished his speech. They launched their heavy hammers, their swords and spheres, their daggers and knives into the bodies of the Palestinian children and women.
Palestinian men were there, helpless, unable to do anything but to weep in pain and sorrow. Just like Prometheus in his chains.
Hundreds and hundreds of children and women ascended to the Throne Hall of Zeus. Group after group.
Zeus looks at them. They are not shining anymore, they have lost their beauty, they are not as he saw them from the top of Olympus. They are arriving in pieces, some are beheaded, some are without arms or legs, some are cut in half. Zeus starts to get frustrated, this is not what he wanted.
The Gods said with one voice: ‘Yes, this is what you wanted’.
Zeus: I asked for some, for a few children and women. Some means three to four, ten but not tens, not hundreds, not thousands.
All the Gods: ‘You get what you ask for.’
Zeus: Why do they slaughter their men? Why do they destroy their homes? Why do they cut their trees down? Why do they burn their fields? Why do they kill their cattle? Why do they deprive them of food and water? Why?
All the Gods: ‘You get what you ask for.’
He called for Lucifer but Lucifer had disappeared. Lucifer hid among the Army of the Dead. Zeus became angry. He shouted ‘Enough.’ But his loud voice was covered by the screams of the Palestinians and the roars of the Army of the Dead. Children and women continued ascending with no light, with no shine, ascending dead. The Throne Hall started to be filled with their bodies. The huge hall which could contain all the Gods, half-Gods, their wives and children and even their servants became full. Completely full up to the ceiling with piles of bodies. Thousands of Palestinian children, thousands of Palestinian women and thousands of Palestinian men.
Zeus on his throne astonished, speechless, unable to break his oath. And while all the Gods were watching him sadly, helplessly, they saw something they had never seen before, they saw Zeus with tears in his eyes. Tears of regret. Tears of sorrow, tears of weakness. The God of all Gods is crying for this blood shed and yet the Army of the Dead continue putting the sword into the soft flesh of Palestinian children and women.
I was lucky yesterday; I secured a sack of 25kg of bread flour (5 times the original price). It is enough for 2 weeks for the 18 people at home. I even expect to have, hopefully, half a cylinder of cooking gas, 6kg, also could be good for 10 days (also triple the original price).
Wood for fire is rare. Gaza Strip is so small and the agricultural area very limited; no woods or jungles. People have started to cut living trees to get wood for fire although fresh trees are wet and do not burn and do not make fire. Yet, people are desperate so they do whatever they can to survive. Poor Gaza. No trees will remain. Olive trees are slaughtered, trees in the streets are all shaved. Who can blame people who have no alternatives? Desperate situations are always driving people to desperate measures.
Going back home from the market on a wooden cart pulled by a poor, weak donkey, I saw a small, white butterfly flying side by side with the donkey for more than 5 minutes. It was so lovely to see something of beauty in the middle of this darkness. It made me smile until I remembered reading that in some cultures, the white butterfly is a sign of death coming. Personally I do not believe in such superstitions, but to be honest, the idea did not leave my head.
At night more than 500 human beings killed in Gaza, from north to south. The majority were children and women.
Writing this piece, around me intense bombing and shelling did not stop at all. Hundreds of people are being killed at this time. Maybe me and my family will be among them, who knows? All those who were killed, more than 22,000 human beings who have been killed during the last 55 days, did not know that they were going to be killed in this brutal way.
Poor butterfly, I don’t blame you at all. You are beautiful. I know it is not you or your effect. I know that it is the Israeli Occupation Army who killed, mercilessly, all these people.
P.S. I like butterflies.