DAY 29 - We are breathing dust
Once again, we woke up screaming. Yesterday Israelis bombed the building next to us. Our door crashed on the ground. The night before they hit two buildings in our street.
Missiles are dropping on us from everywhere without any warning, every day, every night. We are like mice in a trap under non-stop shelling. We are breathing the dust of the houses collapsed next to us. We don’t think “IF that will happen to us”, but “WHEN it will happen to us”. In that moment, we hope our 37 dead bodies will remain in one piece under the rubble of this tiny house. We don’t want our dear ones to have the duty of recognizing the arms and the legs spread over this 100 square meters apartment we share. Some parents already started to put colored bracelets on their kids’ ankles and wrists, hoping for all their body parts to be wrapped in one white sheet before their burial. Not even when we are dead, we are given dignity.
Even with extremely little connection to the rest of the world, bad news are the ones reaching me anyway. This time got the news of our friend Ismail, he was so close to my family, he got married a few months ago, and he is gone now. With him and his wife, 18 of their relatives got killed after the Israeli military bombed Jabalia refugee camp, they are all gone.
Some of my friends from Gaza City moved here to Khan Yunis as well. We barely manage to communicate by phone right now, and we can’t meet. Bombs might come while we are on the way, and IF I know about any shelling alerts, I only know about my area. For 36 hours in a row, I couldn’t talk with them, when we could connect to telecommunication services back again, I was terrified about the idea I could have lost more friends in this massacre. For almost two days we just listened to one channel at the radio. One channel broadcasting many bad ones was enough. I wish I could listen to my favorite songs.
My body and mind are exhausted. It takes me 3 hours standing in lines to get bread, the only thing I’m eating right now. While waiting at the bakery I try to focus on thinking, to rationalize what is happening. I’m afraid to get crazy, I take a deep breath and try to put the events that shocked my life util now in order. Then I hear what people are saying, I see them getting disappointed to get a bread. All around there are flies, mountains of trash and smell of death. I lose the focus. I try again, but my brain tries harder to refuse the reality. I’m forgetting how I used to think before the war, I’m forgetting what was in my mind back then, what my daily worries and hopes were.
Today I took a sort of shower with salty water, the same water we drink, and I felt guilty. I wash myself every 3 or 4 days, I know this is a luxury for many. I boil some water in a little pan, and I mix it with the cold one to have it at least a bit warmer. Every time I wash myself I feel ashamed because I’m using precious resources. I don’t know if there will be enough water for the others living with me to wash themselves tomorrow.
I’m afraid of dying, I’m ashamed of getting a shower, I’m hungry and thirsty, and I’m angry, we all are. We are not objects, Israel behaves as if we were bowling pins to strike down, but we are 2 million HUMANS.
WILL all of this come to an end? WHERE is the ceasefire United Nations are talking about? WHEN are we given justice and accountability for the crimes we are subjected to?
There are constant noises around me. Rumbles of missiles, explosions, buzzes of aircrafts, people yelling, children crying. Where is the rest of the world? Can’t they hear us screaming? Are we dying in silence?
DAY 13 - Evacuation
I feel like this is the first time in my life I woke up early. It`s 6:00 a.m. and I can’t understand anything, we are at my sister’s house and my parents are speaking loudly, nothing seems to go any better. I`m looking at the sky from this old window that witnessed 4 wars, this the 5th.
I open WhatsApp to check on my friends, to ask them if they’re feeling the same thing I do. Everyone is awake, no one has any clue of what`s next. Everything we know is that “another shelling is on the way”.
I don’t want to be one of those pictures on the news.
My father said “pack your bags, we’re evacuating”. I knew it’s something big, this is the first time my dad says something like that. We lived other wars, we were begging him to leave, he always refused. This time we left the door on our backs, without hesitation.
We are evacuating, in where? Just a few days ago, my parents, sisters and I headed in my older sister`s apartment, the bombing started even in that neighbourhood as soon as we arrived.
Shelling is on the way, we call it “the party”, where the night is so fucking long, and the day is too quick to get water and food.
When I close my eyes, I hear glimpses of panic that repeat over and over again.
I hear someone knocking at the door. One of the neighbours told us to stay safe, the Israeli occupation had threatened the people in the next building, they will target the area soon. We run to the corridor to stay away from the windows. We stayed there for 3 hours covering our heads with our hands, until the neighbours came back, “I’m sorry, that was a false alert”.
I hear my father screaming. He is at the phone. My blood was flowing quickly waiting for that call to end. Most of the time the question is not “what”, but ”who”. My head is full of names that God might have chosen to take with him. He said “Riyad” – my father’s cousin, he’s so close to us – my mother screamed “what happened to him?” “He’s martyred”, my father said. They were crying. My dad went the hospital and told me to stay with my family. Finally, I got the call he said he is not martyred, he is just injured, he lost 3 fingers and his car, “alhamdullilah”, thanks God.
We are evacuating, is still early in the morning. We are heading to our house in Al Shujayya. In the car the fear is eating my heart, is our home still there? The walls are standing, no doors or windows anymore. We got the most important things we couldn’t get, documents, few clothes, my camera. We left quickly and took the way for Khan Younis. One uncle is hosting some families there, in a studio of 80 square meters there are already 30 people. The population of Khan Younis just doubled in one day. I don’t know how many we are, 800.000 or 1 million. Some people are sleeping in the street, schools, hospitals, mosques are full. We are all coming from the north of Gaza.
There is no water to take a bath.
There is no water to clean.
There is no water to drink.
The electricity is cut off, there’s no fuel for the generator.
I woke up at 6, again. We are trying our best to get food before everyone awakes. I got some noodles, few cans with beans, tomatoes and tuna. People gather in lines to get bread until the bakery finishes the flour. I’m in the shopping mall to get internet and charge my phone while families rush in here to take everything they can from what remains on shelves.
We are getting salty water from the mosque, and I feel I’m getting a cold. I have fever, but I can’t stay inside that small studio all the time, other people are already getting sick there.
I don’t know anything in this city, I walk around and the sound of the alarms follows me wherever I go. Bombing on people fleeing from the north on their way to the south, bombing on UN food reserves, bombing over the only crossing way to Egypt, in Rafah, again. They are bombing hospitals, they are bombing mosques and churches. This echo, the noise of the air raid, became the background sound of every conversation. I still feel it even when is not there.
The first day we arrived in Khan Yunis a relative went out to bring food for us, he never came back. He was on his way when an airstrike hit him. Since then we are lying to ourselves. “If you don’t stay out too much is safer here”, my father recommends. We look at each other eyes, we know it’s a bullshit, but we need it. We pretend, we fake it without saying it. We need it to believe that every effort to get food and water is still worthy for surviving.
DAY 5 - Locked for every side
My name is Mohamed, I turned 23 on the 3rd of October, a few days before the war started here in Gaza. People usually express a desire blowing on the candles of their cake, I didn’t, I don’t do this kind of things. I’m wishing now, for all of this to end soon. I wish the war ends asap and we make it alive, my family, friends and me.
Nobody is safe right now. Our home is in Al Shujayya neighborhood, in Gaza City, close to the border. We heard the news of a possible land invasion by the Israeli army, so me and my father left immediately. We are now at my sister’s house, in Al Nasser Street.
While I was in another room, I heard my father talking about my aunt. She is not doing fine, he didn’t want to tell me what happened to her. Israel is bombing the area, they might come here as well.
There are no shelters in Gaza. They told us to escape. Where should we go? This is a small piece of land of 300km with 2 million people. We are locked from every side, we can’t take the sea, we can’t cross the land, and there are rockets coming from the sky.
While I’m writing here on the phone the electricity is gone and my battery is about to die.
We are dependent on Israel to receive supplies, food, fuel, electricity, and water. Hospitals are running out of fuel. No fuel means no electricity, no electricity means that doctors and nurses are left with few hours of functioning life-saving machines. There are thousands of people injured by bombings fighting for survival, newborn babies in incubators, people that needs breathing machines to stay alive.
During the day I check on my family and friends and I read the news. Today I went home to get some books for the night, so I can read to distract from the sound of shelling. I put a candle next to me and immerse myself in the story. If the electricity and phone are gone, I can still read.
We have been told to leave because our land will be destroyed. I’m not leaving anywhere.
Israel bombed with air strikes the Rafah border, the only crossing way between Gaza and Egypt. People were gathering there hoping to cross the border to get safety, and they were bombed. No supplies are coming in either. The Israeli forces sent a message to Egypt warning that if they bring any aid to Gaza they will bomb the trucks.
I saw a lot of people killed, some people that I knew, I recognized their faces. There was a guy, a college student, he died yesterday. His name was Mohamed, like me, we were in the same class in high school.
The last time I lived something like this I was a kid, in 2008 and 2014. I was asking why, why all this? Why us? My father used to tell me that this is our land, and they want us to leave. I didn’t get it back then. Our house was destroyed in 2014. I have glimpses of how my room used to be. I remember the animals dead on the street. I hope everything goes well this time.
When we were kids, my father used to distract and cheer us up, my 5 sisters and me. My sisters have children now, and this time around it’s our job to calm them down, because kids recognize the sound of rockets. We are playing, we eat candies in the night. When there is no light, we play with our hands. My fingers are big and yours are so small, can you catch me in the dark? We laugh. It’s a job to be kind.
I’m lucky because we have some solar panels in this building. I update people with my Instagram account. I post videos and stories about what I see and what is happening. I’d like to do more. I’m a video maker and I can’t use my editing program now, my laptop is off. I usually publish my videos about Gaza, the people, our beautiful sea, the colours, arts and tastes of our land. I make little teasers, spots of products and short documentaries.
Now I share updates about the war. How we went to get little food in the few shops available – for one day we couldn’t buy anything, and we were worried nothing would be left the day next -, the sounds of bombs we heard blowing nearby and none knows where they are coming from exactly, – sometimes we receive alerts, sometimes rockets are just falling from the clouds out of nothing – there was a big curtain of smoke from a tall building at the horizon.
I directed a short documentary about a group of musicians here in Gaza, about their sound and vision. I like their rhythm and way of seeing the world, it`s worthy to see for everyone. Recently me and my friends were working on a creative agency. We took a place to work together on video making, video editing, voice-over, graphic design, and animation. Then the war came suddenly.
I can`t think right now. It feels like I can`t dream, but I know I want to be a director in the future.
My father is telling me that many things will change once this war is over. I don`t know more. I’m alive right now but I don’t know about the next hour. What I know is that this bloody injustice can`t remain unseen and untold.