Writing Again – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023- January 2024

Writing Again

For a while I’ve been trying to write but something is pushing me back. Am I busy? Yes, but over the last days I was over-busy yet I was able to write.

In Rafah I could not write more than 5 or 6 times. Something prevented me. I think the situation around me here in Rafah is beyond words or description. When one million people are squeezed and pushed into less than 5km square, the image cannot be reflected in words.

Thousands of tents with thousands of families everywhere, in every empty space, in the streets, on the pavements, without water, without toilets, without food, without blankets, without beds or mattresses, without privacy and without dignity. Walking around I can see nothing but misery and heartbreak. Thousands of children in the streets, thousands of street sellers and the majority are children and young people. Mosques, almost every hour, are calling out names of lost children looking for their families. Crowds and crowds. Walking 100 metres takes more than 30 minutes. Using a car is impossible and there is no fuel anyway. Some cars are using cooking oil instead of fuel making the price of cooking oil increase by treble the original price, like everything in the market. Scarcity in all types of basic needs.

10 days since Abeer arrived with her family and I found them this terrible place, a closed store, like a prison cell. At least they have a roof above their heads. I left them there and went back to Abu Khaled Abdelal’s home to stay there with my mother. The second day I passed by them, brought them some food and went to the UNRWA clinic in Tel Al Sultan in west Rafah. The UN agencies are taking a space there for humanitarian coordination meetings. I went to one of these meetings. No point in mentioning anything about it – complete catastrophe and helplessness – all UN agencies are unable to help or do what they should be doing. UNICEF, the WHO, the World Food Program and many other agencies and International Humanitarian Organisations – they do their best and their best meets almost 5% of the real needs of the people. They are weak, they have no power over the Israelis, to oblige them to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, so they coordinate and distribute whatever the Israelis allow into Gaza.

I went out, walking, in the place that has become the most crowded spot on Earth. Tel Al Sultan neighbourhood in Rafah – almost half a million in 1km square – and in this crowd, from nowhere, someone is calling my name. It is the oldest son of my brother who I left in Deir Al Balah at Al Aqsa Hospital.

  • What’s up?
  • They are bombing beside the hospital and sent messages to people to leave. We left yesterday, we spent the night in the street near Alnajjar Hospital in Rafah.
  • Where are your mother, father and brothers now?
  • They are still there.
  • What are you doing here?
  • Some people advised me to come to Tel Al Sultan to look for a place.
  • Ok. I will leave you for now, I will call you back.

I did not know what to do  I must find something. I start calling friends, looking for a tent. In the afternoon, a friend working for a local organisation called me to say that there is a small tent available.

I went to him and called my nephew. He came and took the tent. I gave him some food and some money, asking him to find a place to install the tent and call me back about the place he found.

The next three days trying to call my brother, his sons, could not reach them. I got so worried. Finally, he appeared, for three days he was busy looking for a spot in Rafah to install the tent. He had not found a place yet. He was also busy with his mother’s dialysis treatment which takes hours and hours of waiting as all the dialysis patients are gathered in one hospital in Rafah.