Hossam Madhoun in Gaza
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.