Fuel, Bread and Fear – Messages from Gaza Now – December 2023

Fuel, bread and fear

Yesterday I decided to drive my car, despite the fact that there is no fuel to replace what I use.

I made sure I had enough fuel left for 68km of driving, according to the fuel gauge.

But yesterday was special. Finally I got some cooking gas, half a cylinder with 6kg of gas, enough for 2 weeks. It will spare my wife Abeer and her father and sisters from using fire for cooking and for other daily needs, especially as it’s winter and some days are rainy, making building a fire impossible. Another thing, it’s my father-in-law’s turn to receive bread flour from UNWRA – 2 bags of 25kg – also enough for 2 weeks. 

But wait, I think I need to elaborate a little bit about Number 6 Block, Nuseirat Camp and bread flour distribution.

UNRWA started this distribution of bread flour in late October for all families of the Gaza Strip. But as there is not enough and food aid is entering Gaza in limited quantities, UNRWA decided to prioritise. So, in late October they announced that they would distribute to families of 11 members and above. After 2 weeks, they start to distribute to families of 8-10 members. After 3 weeks they distributed to families of 7 members.

And here, we are only talking about one of the items distributed to all the people in this system.

A few days ago they started to distribute to families of 6 members. And here comes my father-in-law’s turn; his family are 6. My own family is 3 members; myself, my wife Abeer and my daughter Salma. I don’t know when I will receive bread flour, which will only be a bag of 25kg.

It’s a good plan to prioritise, but those under 10 members, under 7, under 6, under 4, how will they manage to live, to eat, until they receive this treasure? While all types of work are completely frozen, zero work, zero jobs, zero income, as life has stopped and nothing is happening but the war and the long search for daily meals, I mean something, anything to eat daily.

Anyway, Abeer was waiting at Al Awda Hospital finishing her work, I bought some food for tomorrow and went to get Abeer and go home. 

Starting the car!!! Doesn’t work. 

Try again and again until Abeer asks me to stop otherwise I’ll damage something. All I know about cars is how to drive. But, I know that those working as drivers know everything about cars so I approached one of the Al Awda Hospital ambulance drivers and asked for help.

In less than a minute he said: ‘No fuel.’

What? No fuel?!! But I’d kept some in the car.

He asked: ‘What type of fuel does your car take?’

I said: ‘Benzene’

‘When did you last drive your car?’

‘Almost 2 monks ago’

‘You know that benzene evaporates? Slowly evaporates.’

Oh my God. How had I not considered this simple, physical fact? What is the solution? There is no fuel left at all in the market.

Abeer said: ‘Why don’t you ask Dr Rafaat, the director of Al Awda Hospital? They should have some.’

I was so shy, embarrassed, but I did. Dr Rafaat as usual was more than helpful. He provided me with 1 litre which was all I needed to drive the 3km back home and park my car for good.

The second day, arriving at the hospital at 8am as usual, I felt something was wrong. People moving fast, many speaking about areas ordered to evacuate, talking about a map and SMSs.

Went to Dr Rafat’s office. Many people. One of the staff connected his laptop to the big TV screen.  There was a map of blocks on the screen. Within a few minutes I understood the situation. The Israeli army dropped letters of warning on Bureij Camp and part of Nuseirat Camp and sent messages randomly to many people in these areas asking everyone to leave, completely, and to go to Deir Al Balah. The hospital staff were trying to understand whether the hospital falls within the threatened area or not.

Where will people go? Deir Al Balah is completely full. The houses, the school, the public institutions, the mosques. Tents in the streets everywhere. The area to be evacuated marked out on the map is hosting at least 150,000 people. Where will they go?

And do you realise what it means to evacuate an area and call it a war zone? The Israelis will start making a so called fire belt. You remember what a fire belt is? It is striking, bombing and destroying entire areas, many buildings, completely clearing entire neighbourhoods, flattening them to the ground, above the heads of people who have nowhere to go.

Dr Rafaat said sharply: ‘Even if we fall within this area the hospital will not close. We stay. We are here to help the sick and injured and this is what we will continue doing.’

Note 1: The main branch of Al Awda Hospital in the north of Gaza was attacked, invaded, destroyed and 3 doctors were killed. Many other people were killed there. The hospital was their cemetery.

Note 2: I am still in Nuseirat Camp. My father-in-law’s home is out of the threatened area but it soon won’t be, and truly, I won’t know what to do then, with 2 bedridden old women, another 22 people; children, women, men and my wife, Abeer.

Note 3: I am truly afraid.