Messages from Gaza Now October 2023 – Sixth Day of the War

Hossam Madhoun in Gaza

Sixth Day of the war 

2:22 am 

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. 

‘What’s up?’

‘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. 

Bombing continues. 

Hossam Almadhoun