Why Does This Happen to Me and My Family? – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – March 2024

Why Does This Happen to Me and My Family? 

22 March 2024

A story from Gaza

Hossam tells another man’s story

I am 41 years old, born in Gaza, where I have lived all my life. I have always minded my own business, concentrating on building a career. I was never involved in any political activity, not even political talks, or chats. I spent my life denouncing violence. I worked hard until I built my own home. I got married and had 3 daughters, the oldest is 14 and the youngest is 4 ½. My wife is also well-educated and works in a bank.


This genocide started and I stayed at home in the Remal area in Gaza. I have no relatives in Gaza City, nor does my wife.


Last night there was heavy shooting and shelling around my home. I took my wife and daughters to the kitchen, away from windows. We lay down. Bullets struck the windows and the walls; my children and wife were screaming. I tried to calm them down. I was not any less afraid, I wanted also to scream! The shooting started at dawn, continued until 9 am the next day, when it became less intensive. Suddenly a knock at the door! Who is it? How could there be knocking at our door? Not opening is not a choice, opening is also a risk. The knocking continued while I was still reluctant.


I went to the door, and from inside I asked, “Who is it?” A weeping voice said, “Open please!” It was man crying, a broken voice from a broken human, the voice was carrying pain and agony. I asked again, “Who is it?” He said, “Please open, the Israeli army sent me to you, I have a message!”


I panicked! If I don’t open, they could come, and God knows what they would do! At least this is the sound of a man from Gaza. I opened the door. There was this man of around 50 years old, almost naked, in only his underwear, with his hands cuffed behind his back, trembling from fear and cold.


He said, “You and all males over 16 years old must come down and go towards the armoured tank on the left side of the street, and all women and children under 16 years old must come down and go to the right side of the street. You must come down to the street naked but for your underwear, otherwise they will treat you as a threat and shoot you on the spot!”


For few seconds I froze; frozen from shock, frozen from fear, frozen by a million thoughts and ideas passing through my mind, none of which I could keep in my head! The man was crying: “Please speed up, they gave me only 5 minutes to finish this mission! We must come down together!”


Like a robot, I went in, told my wife what was happening and what we should do. I was very neutral. My children were crying from fear, as they had already been doing all night, and I could not do anything to calm them down. I calmly told them the message and went to the door. I looked back at my family wondering if this would be the last look, the last time I would see them? I don’t know what is happening to me, suddenly I feel nothing, and I am telling myself, go hug them, go kiss them! I hear myself, inside my head while my body moves mechanically towards and out the door. As I went out of sight of my wife and children, I took off my clothes and went down with the naked and handcuffed man.


Down we went to the left side, where there were several tanks and armoured vehicles, not just one. The street was full of soldiers with guns. There was lots of rubble, I did not realise how many homes had been destroyed, it was like stepping into hell! A fluent Arabic-speaking soldier asked us to stop. I stopped. He told me to lay down with my face on the ground. I did. He told me to put my hands behind my back. I did. All of this while countless guns were pointed at me and my other naked neighbours, who had arrived before me. Suddenly a soldier approached me, pulled my arms brutally, tied them together behind my back, and blindfolded me with a piece of cloth. He told me to stand. It was not easy from my position; the soldier helped me by kicking me in my thigh! It helped; the pain obliged me to jump! They took me a few meters away, put me on my knees facing a wall, and started to ask me about myself, my family, about the activities of armed men in the area, about tunnels. With every answer of “I don’t know,” I was beaten. What could I do? I didn’t know!


After 20 minutes, they turned me to face a small drone which was flying near my face, scanning it, and then flew away. Then they put me back on my knees facing the wall. Little stones scratched my knees. A small stone was almost entering my skin under my knee. When I tried to move a bit to avoid it, it didn’t help, I felt more pain! It was not the only pain, they had cuffed my hands with plastic strips, very tight, so that I felt no blood reaching my hands. It felt very cold and painful in my back. Suddenly the pain began to move to every single part of my body, and I felt very cold everywhere. A light rain started, I felt the drops of water on my head and my back first, then my whole body became wet. I could not move, it was very cold, I started to feel freezing. I really don’t know, in fact I can’t remember if I cried during those hours facing the wall, I am trying to remember what I was thinking of during this time, but honestly, I don’t remember.


Did I think about death? Did I think that they were going to arrest me or to execute me!? Did I think about my wife and my girls? Did I think about my home, my friends, my job, my past life, or my future? I don’t know. Maybe I thought about all of this and more, I don’t remember….


At 4 pm they told me to stand, and God only knows what effort and pain it took for me to stand! I first threw my body to the side, then struggled to be on my back, then I realised this was not helping, so I turned again to face the ground, putting one leg forward and pushing against the ground with all that remained of my strength, until finally I stood, with many new scratches all over my back my chest, my bottom, my legs and my hands. A soldier took the blindfold off my eyes from behind. For few seconds, it was not easy to face the light of day. There was another soldier in front of me, pointing his gun at my face. He said sharply, “Go towards Al Rashid Street, the sea road! Walk towards the middle area! Walk and don’t stop, walk, and don’t look behind you, not a single time! Walk until you reach Nuseirat Camp. Go!


It was obvious that there was no possibility to argue or even to ask about anything, not my family, not my home, not my clothes, not even about the plastic cuffs around my hands.


It is 13 km from my home to Nuseirat Camp. I started walking. I walked and walked, with nothing around me but destruction, bombed buildings, smashed homes, uprooted roads, water and sewage leakage everywhere, dogs and cats, from time to time, dead human bodies in the streets, some with dogs on them.


I walked and walked, naked, cold, the rain was heavy for 15 minutes, then light, then it stopped. I wanted to wipe the water from my eyes and my face, but I could not with my hands cuffed behind me. I walked and walked, from time to time passing by armoured vehicles and tanks. Night fell, it was dark, I could barely see where to put my feet, but I walked, I had no other choice. I started to think, “I am alive, they won’t shoot me, they would have done it already if they wanted me dead, right? Where is my family? My wife and my children? Are they still in Gaza? Were they allowed to go back home? Were they forced to walk like me to Nuseirat? If yes, where would they go? We, they, don’t know anyone outside of Gaza City!”


It was 9 pm when I saw on the horizon the shape of a man coming toward me. I had already passed the Gaza Valley, I was near Nuseirat, maybe 1 km only. The man approached me, and I fell into his arms. Another 2 men reached us, they uncuffed me, one of them had a coat and put it on me. I wanted to cry, I looked for tears to cry, I tried to hear myself crying, but no sound came out of my mouth. l think I was crying inside me, my tears were dropping inside my eyes instead of outside. It burned, I felt it burn like hell! They had a small car, they put me in the front seat. We drove for 5 minutes, and reached a school, a shelter, where they provided me with some clothes. They brought me some food, but I could not eat. They insisted, but really, I could not. I asked about my family, my wife, and children. They did not recognise the names. Maybe my family is back home, how can I know? I asked for a mobile to ring my wife. Trying once and again, and again and again, it didn’t work! I did not know what to do! They brought me to a place, a tent in the middle of the school’s front yard. There were 4 men inside the tent, they welcomed me, and they pointed to a mattress that I could use to sleep. I lay down, I slept.


Here I am for the 5th day in the school, in the tent, trying to find my family, trying to call. I went to all the schools in Nuseirat, in Deir Al Balah, in Zawaida, in Sawarha, looking for my children and my wife, and I can’t find them! I went to the UNRWA Operation Centre, I went to several NGO’s, I called the ICRC, and yet still can’t find my family! I don’t know if they are alive or dead. Tomorrow I will go to Rafah, to look for my family amongst the 1.3 million people there. Please pray for me that I will find them! Please pray for their safety! Please….