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TESTIMONIES

The following section includes a number of personal testimonies that we complied from different sources including Voices from Gaza, UNICEF, UNRWA, OCHA. Naturally, the idea behind publishing these testimonies is to personalize the suffering of people who have endured beyond anybody’s imagination during the fifty one days of the attack on Gaza.

 

♦ Omar (27) ,Gaza

Profession: Journalist, blogger | Credit: Voices of Gaza,
July 14, 2014

Housebound, with death all around

(Omar is stuck inside the house, with death all around him.)

…………………………………………………..

“I miss Gaza. I miss the beach. […] I miss my friends. I miss walking around. […] We are a week into Protective Edge. Being under siege and occupation for so long makes you adapt very quickly to any situation, bad or good, which is totally unhealthy.”

Gaza shelter. Photo courtesy of UNRWA.

The last two nights were intense, with numerous nearby explosions. But how dare I complain about anything when whole families are being killed and Gazans have become refugees in their own country? Many families have left their homes in the north seeking refuge in UNRWA schools. Not that it’s safer, since Israel bombed them during Cast Lead. Thousands of people left everything behind seeking the illusion of safety, but nowhere is safe.

A multi-storey house was bombed. EIGHTEEN were killed and more than fifty others injured; all from the Batish family. Imagine losing your mom, and your dad, and your siblings. Oh, and your other relatives. Oh wait, there is more, and your neighbours.

More than 172 Palestinians killed, 1,150+ injured, nearly 750 houses and mosques bombed, 2,500+ Israeli attacks on Gaza, a 365 m2 strip of densely populated land. Hospitals, ambulance centres, cemeteries, farmlands, the beach, boats, cars, motorbikes, residential areas, banks, schools, colleges, universities, everything. Depressing, huh? Well, that’s what we are going through. According to UNRWA, about 70 percent of the fatalities are civilians, of which 30 percent are children.

We are a week into Protective Edge. Being under siege and occupation for so long makes you adapt very quickly to any situation, bad or good, which is totally unhealthy. There are two prominent types of explosions we experience: either you hear the sudden blast of the explosion, or you hear the missile fall and then the blast. This will sound crazy, but we all favour “Type 2,” We prefer to anticipate death instead of being blown up without any warning. But if you hear a missile falling, it means you’re lucky; it’s near you but not targeting you.

Every time the phone rings, you assume it is a call from the Israeli army telling you to evacuate your house, if you are lucky. Except now Israel uses the new system of “warning missiles.” They bomb the house with a warning missile and, after that, if you are still alive, you have one to three minutes to leave, or less. If you are lucky. Many houses have been bombed with no warning missiles, hence the huge numbers of fatalities and casualties.

Housebound for a week now. I try everything with my family to convince them to let me go out. It’s always a big fat resounding “NO.” I miss Gaza. I miss the beach. I miss having the freedom to choose whether to go out or stay home. I miss my friends. I miss walking around.

It hurts when you see children die. People with names, lives, families, and they are being turned into numbers. Statistics. It’s like you can smell death, overpowering the smell of gunpowder. Life was never normal here, ever, by any means, but I miss my normal life, whatever that was, before this Israeli war. Every day you live through the fear of losing a loved one. It’s nerve-racking.

As usual, the house was shaking while I was writing this story. It’s like I am watching an action movie, but instead of watching it this time, I am actually living it.

 

 

♦ Solafa ,(31 years old)

Credit: Voices of Gaza, July 19, 2014

Pregnant, displaced, and at risk of attacks.

…………………………………………………..

Solafa el Deabella (31), her husband Issa, and their three-and-a-half-year-old son, Adam, live in Gaza City. Over the past week, Solafa has shared her experiences during this military offensive.

Women and children in a Gaza shelter. Photo courtesy of UNRWA. 

I am in the seventh month of my pregnancy. I am so stressed. It is not good for me to live in these conditions. I’m also worried; I think I might be suffering from high blood pressure. I’m afraid I’m in the same situation as during my previous pregnancy, with high blood pressure caused by all the stress. And there is no way I can reach my doctor in these circumstances; it’s not safe to move.

(On Wednesday, July 9, the family experienced an attack on an adjacent building, which left their apartment damaged. Solafa, Issa, and Adam had to flee their home.)

(On Tuesday, July 15, Solafa writes the following words.)

Due to the damage to our apartment, we had to leave Gaza City. Now we are staying in Bureij Refugee Camp with my husband’s family. They targeted a house here a few hours ago. Thank God we are all safe. Still, it is safer for us to stay here than to go back. And at least there are other children with whom Adam can play. That way he forgets about the bombing, at least during the daytime. At night, it is terrible.”

(In a phone conversation today – Saturday, July 19 – Solafa has a worrying update.)

We’re fine so far but they’ve [Israeli jets] just dropped leaflets on Bureij, telling us to move to Deir al Balah. They’re going to attack this area and we’re supposed to move. They’ve dropped them just now, within the last 30 minutes. It is the first time that they’ve dropped the leaflets in Bureij Camp. I don’t know what to do. Issa is at the UNRWA schools, checking what the displaced people staying there need, and trying to get supplies for them from other people and charities. We have two UNRWA schools in Bureij that have been receiving people.

Adam is very worried and he is afraid. He was shocked to see the leaflets falling from the sky. But now, my phone battery is very low. I’ll have to go soon. Since yesterday, we have had only three hours of electricity. It will be off again soon. Our electricity might come back on at about 5:00 a.m. tomorrow.

(Not long after the end of the phone conversation, Solafa sends a message.)

Just after I got off the phone with you, Adam entered the room where we keep our belongings. He started collecting our stuff and putting it into our travel bag. I tried to stop him but he was crying and saying we should go to Deir al-Balah, to Uncle Mari’s house. Mari is Issa’s friend. You met him once at our home.

(After a long pause, another message follows.)

I called Issa and asked him to speak to Adam. Issa told Adam to join him in the nearby UNRWA school. But Adam continued crying and said: “I am afraid of the people who fled their homes and who are staying at the school now.” Maybe it is because of the pictures he sometimes sees of dead people. I try not to let him see any pictures. Maybe he thinks they are dead or wounded people staying at the UNRWA schools.

(In a rush, Solafa adds…)

And there is something else I wanted to tell you. On Friday, just two days after we arrived in Bureij, Mr. Abu Khaled, a man from Bureij, was killed in an airstrike. He is an employee of the Bureij municipality and he was targeted while driving in an official municipality vehicle. This man was very dear to Adam. On Thursday, just one day before he was killed, he spent hours with Adam. He used to take Adam to the market and buy him things. When Adam learned about Abu Khaled’s death, his first reaction was laughter, then he kept silent for several hours. This is not usual for Adam. At night, he did not sleep a moment. He kept talking about the Israelis, the bombing, and Abu Khaled. He has been wetting the bed every night since that day. I spend difficult moments with him at night. He gets up every few hours and keeps crying. This is too stressful for me.

(When asked about their decision whether to move or stay, Solafa responds…)

We have not yet decided to leave.

(Then Solafa has to disconnect, probably until tomorrow morning, unable to communicate what will happen overnight.)

 

 

♦ Asma AbuMezied, (26 years old)

Central area, Gaza Strip

Profession: Business Development Specialist with a local NGO
Credit: Voices of Gaza

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While her family home shakes under the bombardments, Asma writes about what it means if your home, your past, and your memories are taken away in a single moment.

Photo by Eduardo Soteras Jalil. 

Memories capture the moments of our lives that are gone forever. They become our own life companions whether in sorrow or happiness, whether we are surrounded by our loved ones or feeling lonely. A person without memories is a lost soul unable to look into the future or live in the present. Memories and little things that we keep from the past give us strength when we need it and the drive to have a better life ahead.

Imagine all the memories of your life ruthlessly taken away from you in less than ten minutes! All it takes is ten minutes and in some cases five minutes. That’s how much time the Israeli army gives us to leave our home, to leave our past – our memories – and run for our lives. Ten minutes to get what is important to us out of our houses to take with us. As if what is important can be materialised in a thing or two! What about the whole house? Is it possible to carry away the whole house in these minutes?

I fear the moment when our house will get “The Call” for evacuation. The Call is also called a “knock on the roof” warning when a drone fires a non-explosive missile at the roof of the building that is to be bombed by the Israeli air forces – nobody knows how long after.

How can I abandon all my memories and the life that I have spent in that house? Among the stones of my house resides the history of my sister, my brother, my mother, my father, and me. In my house, I have seen my tiny twin nephews, who were born premature, grow up and become the noisy and lively little kids they are today. This house has witnessed me growing up, graduating from university and becoming who I am today. It has witnessed our happy moments – graduations, birthday parties, my sister’s engagement party, and the 2008 and 2012 wars that we survived. It has also been our companion during the sad times when my grandmothers, my uncle, and my aunts died.

How can I abandon my room and leave everything in order to save my life? How can I allow them to take away all my accomplishments? My room has all my memories; one wall has all my pictures and memories of my friends when I was in London pursuing a master’s degree as well as pictures from my recent trip to the United States where I met so many inspiring people. My closet has the gifts I received from Japanese children when I was a kid participating in an UNRWA programme to reward top students – the gifts I dreamt of showing to my children and grandchildren in the future. Every corner of the room is a part of me. How can I see parts of me scattered among the debris of my house?

It took us more than three years to build our house – finally. Too long, isn’t it? But it was time-consuming because construction materials were rarely allowed to be brought to the Gaza Strip back then. My house is more than bricks laid on top of each other. It is a member of my family, it is our home, a living and pulsating thing to me that I don’t want to lose or think of losing. So how can I see my home crumbling in front of my eyes in one minute and stand still watching? How can the whole world expect me to stand still, watching and talking about peace when that rocket steals my memories, my past, my house, my land, and, probably, the members of my family?

Excuse me, World! I stopped believing you and calling out to you to stop the killing of my people because all you do is send some money after it is too late; as if money could compensate the sorrow, the pain, the hurt, and the loss of beloved ones. Excuse me, World! I don’t want to listen to you demanding that we stay calm and humbly accept the mass murder of our people – I haven’t been listening to you since I saw that F16 rocket kill another sleeping household in the middle of the night.

(Written while our house was shaking violently from continuous bombardment all night.)

 

 

♦ Yousef M. Aljamal, (25 years old),Malaysia

Profession: student, writer | Credit: Voices of Gaza

I can’t stop thinking about my family in Gaza.

July 28, 2014

…………………………………………………..

I spent my entire life in Gaza and only left last year to continue my studies in Malaysia. Being outside Gaza is really terrible right now, especially for those who have family back home. My parents are in Gaza, along with my four brothers and six sisters, and their families. My youngest brother Omar is just eight years old.

I’m in Jordan now. I have family here, and a wedding is planned soon after Eid. It is supposed to be a celebration, with family coming from the West Bank, aunts and uncles whom I have not seen in 15 years because of the lack of freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank. I decided to leave Malaysia and come to Amman early to be a little closer to Gaza at least.

I wish I could be there. It is much better to be inside Gaza at a time like this. If something bad were to happen to my family, it would happen to me too. I cannot stop thinking about them, about what is happening. I can’t sleep at night, and I spend my days and nights following Twitter, listening to local radio, and speaking to my friends and family when I can.

I am watching the situation unfold second by second, reading nonstop breaking news, hearing reports of airstrikes here and there, sometimes close to my family home, or sometimes in other neighbourhoods. The details are usually sketchy at first and I frantically try to figure out what happened. Often, when I try to call my family, I can’t reach them. They spend 21 hours a day without electricity, so their phone batteries die and they have no Internet connection.

One of my sisters had to evacuate her apartment and move to husband’s family’s home. Another sister evacuated her house with her children because it was especially dangerous. The area was repeatedly targeted.

But usually, when leaflets are dropped or people receive phone calls, they do not leave. Before the massacre in Shuja’iyya, the Israeli forces dropped leaflets, but many people ignored them because there is no safe place in Gaza. People don’t know where to go so they do not leave. They have also learned from previous experience that people have been targeted while leaving their homes or in the places they sought shelter. UNRWA schools serving as shelters were attacked in 2009, and it happened again in Beit Hanoun this week.

The devastation I see is immense. Entire buildings have been erased, and whole families wiped out. Israel is doing this because it feels secure. No one will hold it accountable. As long as the world is silent, Israel will continue to do the same thing to Gaza, targeting densely populated areas, in Shuja’iyya, Khuza’a, Khan Younis, Bureij – neighbourhoods and refugee camps crammed with hundreds of thousands of people.

Civilians of all ages have been killed. Journalists and ambulance workers, too. No one is safe. During the so-called humanitarian ceasefire on Sunday, July 20, Israeli forces were shooting at ambulances within ten minutes. Even if the temporary ceasefires hold, they only offer a short-term reprieve. They are not doing us any good. They are merely allowing a short time to evacuate the bodies. Dead bodies.

Israel kills more civilians when they suffer casualties on their side, especially if soldiers are killed. They carry out horrific attacks against Palestinian civilians. They are trying to push the people of Gaza to surrender, to stop supporting the resistance. But this backfires. The more they kill civilians, the more people support the resistance. We are defending ourselves. There is no one else to defend us. People whose houses have been destroyed usually support the resistance. They know that the UN and the ICRC cannot protect them.

My family are trying their best to keep going. They go to the market when they can. At night, they stay together in one room. War is war, and loss is loss. They are exhausted and they want the attacks to end, but they also want justice. We want a ceasefire that meets our demands for basic human rights, to be able to move freely, to have border crossings, to be able to cross in and out, to no longer be humiliated, to no longer see our people dying, to have access to raw materials, food, medicine. These are not “conditions,” these are basic human rights. The world is upside down when the basic requirements for life must be included in a ceasefire agreement. These things should be taken for granted.

Everyone is worried that they will lose someone, or that their house will be destroyed. They have no place to go. But they are still resilient. People have the feeling that Israel is killing us anyway, no matter what, with the slow and soft aggression of the blockade. The full blockade of Gaza has been in force since 2007, but people around the world don’t pay attention when there is no body count to keep track of.

I was in Gaza during the war in November 2012. People were calling me non-stop from the West Bank, from Jordan, and beyond. Now I understand how they felt – being outside, feeling helpless. But people around the world can help. The more people mobilise and become aware, the more the Israeli narrative can be challenged. How many massacres must take place before the international media takes notice, before politicians do something to end the siege and the occupation?

My youngest brother Omar is named after my older brother who was shot and killed by Israeli forces in 2004. He was born in 2006, just before Israel destroyed the only power plant in Gaza. He grew up in darkness. Gaza has suffered severe electricity shortages since then. Though only eight years old, Omar has experienced three major military operations. In 2008/2009, 2012, and now in 2014. He, like others his age, has survived countless attacks. He has heard thousands of explosions. His childhood has been stolen from him. What does Israel expect from him when he grows up? When I ask him, “How do you feel when Israel attacks Gaza?” his answer is “Normal.”

 

 

♦ No Sanctuary in Gaza

Courtesy of UNRWA GFOAugust 5, 2014

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The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Jabalia Elementary Girls School was supposed to be a sanctuary. When he and his family of 10, most of them children, fled their home in Beit Lahia, Ahmad Ramadan Ghaban thought they had reached a place where they would be protected from the violence and chaos engulfing the Gaza Strip. The UNRWA school may have been crowded, filled with internally displaced people in desperate circumstances, but at least it was safe.

At dawn on Wednesday, July 29, Ahmad was on his way back to the school from performing fajer (morning) prayers at a nearby mosque. He had barely entered the gates when the first artillery shell struck right in front of the school.

Terrified, Ahmad ran towards the classroom in which he and his family were staying. “I did not know what to do or where to go,” he says. “I kept thinking that we would all die. I kept thinking about my poor children. It is the worst feeling in the world, to be so completely helpless that you can’t save your own family.”

UNRWA had communicated the coordinates of the school – and the fact that it was sheltering over 3,000 displaced people, many of whom had been warned by Israel to evacuate their homes – 17 times to the Israeli authorities. A preliminary analysis of fragments, craters, and other damages, however, suggests that there were at least three impacts of Israeli artillery against the school.

“It was atrocious,” Ahmad says, remembering. “The carnage, the blood, the screams, dead bodies everywhere. It is indescribable.” His family members were among the lucky ones who survived the attack. UNRWA has been unable to confirm an official death toll, but there were multiple casualties, including children, as well as the UNRWA guard protecting the facility.

“Children, women, and the elderly were killed in the school. Why? For what reason?” Ahmad asks. “What crime did they commit to meet such a fate?” And, he wonders – “If even the schools are not safe, where can the people of Gaza go?”

 

 

♦ Ghadeer,(36 years old), Gaza City

Profession: Media officer| Credit: Voices of Gaza

July 20, 2014

My son asks if we are going to die today.

…………………………………………………..

Ghadeer is the mother of two small boys and works as a media officer for a human rights organisation in Gaza City. Hikmat (8) is now living through his third offensive on Gaza. Ahmad (6) was born shortly after Operation Cast Lead. In conversation with Voices of Gaza this morning, Ghadeer expressed deep anxiety about the on-going attacks, saying, “Things are getting worse and worse here. Last night was the worst ever. Wallah, I’m speechless.” Below, she describes the impact of the situation on her children.

Inside our weary bodies and souls, something will stay broken.

Photo by: Eduardo Soteras Jalil. 

I’m a mother of two little boys, Hikmat (8) and Ahmad (6). Like any normal mother in this world, all I want is to keep my boys safe and happy but, unfortunately, it seems that this wish is just impossible. Why? Simply and briefly, because I’m a Palestinian and I live in Gaza.

To be a Palestinian from Gaza means that you can be under attack from Israel at any time. It means that you are just a postponed target, and all you can do is wait to face your destiny. This is how we live in Gaza, both with and without war. I have experienced three wars in the last six years. During the first war on Gaza, in 2008/2009, my apartment was destroyed when the Israeli occupation forces targeted the Palestinian government complex. At the time, I was seven months pregnant, and I had been decorating my baby’s room! In the second war, which took place in November 2012, I learned exactly what being homeless really means. Israel targeted the building where my family was living and in which I was staying. We evacuated the building and went to stay at my sister’s house.

During war, the days are too long. Every single hour that passes feels like a whole year. Since the beginning of this war, I’m living the worst days and nights ever, as the peaceful moments are so few. As we are fasting, every day we have our morning and evening meals, listening to the bombing outside and asking God to keep us and the people of Gaza safe. Israeli airplanes are shelling houses. Many houses have.

been destroyed over the heads of children and women. These children and women are human beings. They have names, dreams, and beloved ones. The photographs of those victims are heart-breaking, and I can’t stop my mind from drawing awful pictures of me and my family with our house being bombed over our heads just like them.

Our bodies shake and our hearts sink with every single airstrike. I try not to freak out so my two little boys won’t either, but sometimes I’m just a big failure! During daylight hours, all of us gather together in the same place – a room or a corner – listening to the shelling, trying to figure out which are the targeted areas, and following the news second by second. I keep the boys inside the house all the time. I can’t even let them go out into the backyard or to the rooftop. I’m doing my best to keep them away from this insanity, but how can I when it’s everywhere?! I wish I could cover their ears so they wouldn’t hear the sound of bombing. I feel like I’m dying as I see the fear in their eyes.

At night, things are much harder. I spend every night moving my boys from one room to another, looking for safety. I’m too frightened to sleep, not only because of the loud noises caused by the continuous bombing, but also because I think I need to be awake, monitoring the situation around in order to decide, according to the sounds of the shelling, whether to keep my boys in this room, or to move them to another one. We have had no electricity for three days now and I guess you can imagine how it feels without electricity in circumstances like those we are facing in Gaza during this war.

The Israeli crimes committed against civilians in Gaza undermine my faith in international law and international bodies. It seems as though these bodies were created to defend Israel and cover up its crimes against the innocent people of Palestine. A massacre was committed last night in Al-Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza. The reality here is terribly bloody, and what is happening is so much more than any human can bear. Hundreds of artillery shells are falling on houses even at this very moment. The photographs of the victims are more than horrendous. People are running out of their houses, dead bodies are in the streets, and ambulances can’t reach those who have been murdered. Every single picture reminds me of Al-Nakba.

I guess that we Palestinians should only believe in the law of power. We face death every moment of every day, and the whole world is silent. When they speak, they tell us about Israel’s right to self-defence! Why? I need someone wise to tell me why. We are under occupation and Israel is the occupying force. These are not two equal sides.

This morning, Hikmat and Ahmad woke up to the sound of a huge explosion. I hugged their shaking bodies, asking them not to be afraid. Hikmat, who is 8, said, “I hate Israel. I hate all the Israeli people.” I asked him, “Why, sweetheart?” He answered, “Don’t you know why, Mum? Don’t you see what they are trying to do? They want to kill us.”

The Israelis claim that we teach our kids hate, but we don’t. This is how Palestinian children start to feel hatred towards Israel. After 13 days of war, my two boys are able to know the difference between F16s and Apache helicopters, and they play guessing games together, distinguishing between tank shelling and airstrikes. This is how our kids spend their summer!

Ahmad, my younger boy, asks me every morning, “Mum, we are not going to die today, are we?” Hikmat answers, saying, “Don’t worry, Ahmad. Mum and Dad will protect us.” This sentence makes me speechless. I don’t know what to say or what to tell them. I would die for my kids but I’m afraid because I know that I am helpless. There is no way to protect my boys and, except God, no one knows what will happen in the next second. The war is still raging in the Gaza Strip. There will be an end, but inside our weary bodies and souls something will stay broken.

 

 

♦ Maysam Yousef

A blogger and a body-language trainer from Gaza

Original testimony for This Week in Palestine

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Photo by: Eduardo Soteras Jalil. 

It never ceases to amaze me how twisted the world’s logic is. The Palestinian team is now in Cairo negotiating basic human rights, which are supposed to be granted to the people of Gaza without having to shed so much blood. The world is blaming a stateless, arm-less population that has been subjected to an inhumane blockade since 2006 for demanding their rights!

Since when does a people have to negotiate clean water and cooking gas? Since when does a people have to sacrifice so many lives so that the neighbouring countries would, or would not, very kindly open the borders and allow food in? Since when are entire families bombed inside their own homes and then blamed for being used as human shields? Where is a family supposed to be during war time? Since when does a country with 200 nuclear warheads and internationally banned weapons demand the disarming of the resistance who have hand-made rockets that do not pose any serious threat and that are used in a mere act of self-defence?

The world has to wake up from its self-imposed delusion and stand up for justice. There is nothing wrong with a people fighting their oppressor who’s destroying their homes and killing their families and ultimately denying them the most basic human rights. The world has to learn to distinguish between the victim and the victimiser, the terrorist who kills hundreds of children and shamelessly targets UN schools and civilian homes and the freedom fighters who are sacrificing their lives to gain basic human rights.

 

♦ Mona, (29), Central Gaza Strip

Profession: Organisational capacity-building
trainer | Credit: Voices of Gaza

July 15, 2014

A normal night in Gaza

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Mona Krees (29) is an organisational capacity-building trainer who lives with her family in the central Gaza Strip. On July 11, in the middle of the night, she received a distressing phone call from her sister, Daleen, in Khan Younis. In the targeting of the Al-Hajj family home, which resulted in the deaths of seven people, the house of Mona and Daleen’s relatives had also been destroyed. The Al-Athamna family arrived on Daleen’s doorstep in the middle of the night, barefoot, homeless, and utterly distraught. Mona describes receiving the upsetting call.

After three wars in less than seven years, you cannot remain as you once were. Since the current offensive on Gaza started, we wake up every morning asking ourselves, “Are we still alive?” If the answer is yes, we wonder who must be the new victims who have had their houses destroyed over their heads. This is how we pass our days in Gaza.

We are all at risk of death at any moment. What could justify the bombing of a house over the heads of its residents during the holy month of Ramadan? Where are the international conventions, charters, and laws? Are they all a lie? Just ink on paper?

‎Two days ago, I received a phone call in the middle of the night from my sister, Daleen, who lives in Khan Younis. Crying and shouting, she told me that a whole family of our relatives, the Al-Athamna family, had suddenly arrived at her door,‎ barefoot. They knocked on her door shouting, “Help, help!” When my sister opened the door, they fell to the ground on the threshold of the house. “Our home was destroyed over our heads.” They wept.

It happened during the massacre of the Al-Hajj family, ‎whose house Israeli warplanes bombed as the family was sleeping. Seven people were killed in this attack. The Al-Athamna family home was also destroyed due to the force of the explosion, and body parts of the victims of the blast, their neighbours from the Al-Hajj family, were scattered all around.

The Al-Athamna house had been home to four families of my relatives: Mohammed (50) is a father of 6 sons and daughters; Ashraf (47) is a father of 5; Mahmoud (36) is a father of 4; and Akram (33), who was recently married. Now they have no home for their wives and children. Mahmoud’s wife, who recently had a baby, had a heart attack due to the shock of the explosion, and she is in a critical condition in hospital. Doctors cannot say if she will recover.

As I listened to my sister cry, I thought to myself, “How would I feel if I saw the body parts of my neighbours falling onto my home while, at the same time, my home was destroyed and my family displaced, and my neighbours were asking me for help! Was this a drama or an action movie?! No, this was just another night in Gaza.”

 

 

♦ Karama, (24 years old), Gaza City

Profession: English teacher | Credit: Voices of Gaza
July 17, 2014

Please don’t kill my humanity.

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Karama is an English teacher who lives in Gaza City. During the November 2012 offensive, Operation Pillar of Defence, one of the first drone strikes hit the street near Karama’s house. It didn’t appear to be targeting anything but seemed like a message that the operation had started. Now Karama is enduring yet another offensive and describes her experiences.

Photo by: Eduardo Soteras Jalil. 

Communicating is no longer useful in these times. All we can do is say our prayers. We have cried, shouted, and screamed. But our voices are no more than an echo. Today, we live this tragedy anew with fear, terror, and trepidation, for the ninth day in a row. My name is Karama, I am a Palestinian, I am 24 years old, and I live in the Gaza Strip. I don’t carry a gun, I don’t fight, I don’t shoot, and I don’t kill. My former president once said, “Don’t let the olive branch fall from my hand. And today I say, “Don’t kill my humanity.” I feel that there is no place for humanity in our everyday life.

I try to get some sleep before a massive explosion wakes me up. Every day, we feel like it’s the last day of our lives. My house was one of the houses affected by bombing in the previous attacks and now we are just waiting for them to bomb our neighbourhood again. We always say, “This night it is our turn.” I am guilty of nothing. All that I have done is be a Palestinian. I have started to hate the night, because I can’t sleep at night. I am afraid that my heart will stop beating suddenly, as a result of this relentless aggression. If you think that killing me will satisfy you, please do it, but with mercy.

After the publication of Karama’s writing, her family was forced to evacuate her home in the early hours of July 18, due to the shelling of a nearby building. Karama and her family are now staying with her aunt.

 

 

♦ Nadeen, (12 years old) ,Gaza

Credit: Voices of Gaza
July 14, 2014

Between fear and gratefulness

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My Mom is the one who fears the sound of bombs the most. Zeina, my sister, or I come second and, in the last place, comes Dad. Dad is really strong. He doesn’t fear anything. He doesn’t fear things like Mom does, and he always makes sure that everything is okay. I got this from him.

My life, a story from Gaza

I will always remember the day it started, this war, as some people call it. For me, it is not a war; it is just the bombing of Gaza. I thank God every day because I’m not afraid of these bombings but, to be honest, on the second night of the “war,” I stayed awake the whole night thinking about images of people and children who had died, or lost their homes. I kept thinking sad things about them, and wondering, “What if this war lasts for a long time? What if my house is bombed like the others? What will I do? Will I cry or will I become mad?”

I can’t imagine myself without a home or a family! A home where I keep all my memories, a family to hug me warmly, and calm me down when I’m scared. I cannot imagine myself without my new room – I was flying with happiness when it was finished – without the clothes that Mom chose for me, without my favourite pair of shoes that Dad brought me from abroad, and without my favourite teddy bear that my brother bought me 10 years ago. People might think that these are just silly small things, but for me they are everything. I love every part of my home and my life.

On the third night, I woke up to the sound of a huge bomb. I got out of bed, afraid that the glass of the window would fall on me but my parents, who came quickly, calmed me down and told me to stay strong because God is always with us. My Mom is the one who fears the sound of bombs the most. Zeina, my sister, or I come second and, in the last place, comes Dad. Dad is really strong. He doesn’t fear anything. He doesn’t fear things like Mom does, and he always makes sure that everything is okay. I got this from him. I really thank God for everything. I thank him for my home, family, and life, and most of all that I’m from Palestine, the Holy Land, the land of prophets. I’m really proud, and I really LOVE MY LIFE.

 

 

♦ Iyad, from Nuseirat Refugee Camp, describes
airstrikes and “roof-knocking”

Nuseirat Refugee Camp, central Gaza Strip

Profession: Bank employee
Credit: Voices of Gaza

July 12, 2014

…………………………………………………..

Iyad describes one of the terrifying nights (July 11) that he and his family lived through, facing airstrikes and ‘roof knocking’.

It was 10:57 p.m., and I was on Facebook answering messages from friends. “I’m fine, don’t worry!” I was writing to my Spanish friend, Miriam, when my mother’s voice interrupted me with her usual three words, “It’s about time.” I put my phone aside and carried out my nightly routine of searching for the candle. After walking through the apartment three times, I heard my mother’s distant voice again. “It’s right above the dinner table.” Of course it’s there, it has always been there. But, somehow, you forget, since every morning you believe you won’t need to use the candle again that night.

A few minutes later, my father, my mother, my young brother, my three sisters, and I gathered in the same room around that one candle. I wanted to light more but my father reminded me that we would need the other two to see us through the night. That night, the explosions were so loud it sounded like they were on our roof top. My mother hugged my little sisters and started singing to them. They were really frightened and it was very dark once the first candle had melted. Eventually, they went to sleep. My little sister, Shahd, held my mother’s hand as she fell asleep.

My father and I were still awake, as usual. We haven’t slept for the past few days, at least not at night. The room was very quiet and we didn’t speak. We just waited for the unknown, hoping that nothing would break our silence as we waited for the sun to rise.

I was about to light another candle when I heard the whistling sound of a rocket falling, but there was no explosion. Two minutes later, I heard someone on the street, calling my name. “This can’t be good,” I thought to myself.

My next-door neighbour was on my doorstep. He told me that a warning rocket had fallen on his roof and that we needed to evacuate the house. I woke up my family and told them to move quickly down the stairs and go to my uncle’s house. My father, my neighbour, and I began to call the other families in the neighbourhood and tell them to evacuate. I spent the night outside, afraid every minute that my childhood home would be demolished, hoping that the worst would not come.

That night, they didn’t demolish our neighbour’s house, but they did demolish five other houses in the neighbourhood, leaving five more stories to be told. In the morning, we went back into our house. We took the decision not to move to another neighbourhood, but stayed that night in the same room, waiting once more by the light of a single candle.

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