Messages from Gaza Now – November 2023 – The Valley of Death

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.