Sunday October 15, 2023

As Israel orders more than 1 million people to evacuate northern Gaza amid an unprecedented escalation, an Islamic Relief worker* describes days of dwindling resources in his last blog before the internet is cut off.

Every day in Gaza now starts with artillery sounds. Warships at sea hit the beach and surrounding areas, while the east and north of the Gaza Strip are hit from land. Sometimes there are multiple strikes at once and we hear 4 or 5 huge booms in a row.

Today, I could hear the sounds of birds alongside the artillery noise, and I thought how life and death so often seem to go hand in hand in my country.

We started sleeping in the middle of the house – a somewhat safer place away from the windows. In the first few days of the escalation, the kids used to wake up afraid, so now we all sleep together; me, my wife, my kids, and the cat, if he is not hiding.

Sometimes I wake up, look at my kids sleeping peacefully and think to myself:

Sorry, my loves, that you have to grow up in this place. It’s an unjust world.

We’ve started thinking about how to secure the important things: water and electricity. Water is normally delivered to houses by tankers that pump it up to the tanks on our roofs.  But now the tankers can’t make it to the source on the outskirts of the city to fill up. The only available water right now is bottled water. It’s an expensive choice at the best of times, but today the price has doubled.

For electricity, I have a battery in the house attached to LED lights. It’s a system we already use in Gaza, where we’ve had to adapt to frequent electricity cuts. But now we can’t charge the batteries. Our phones and power banks will soon be drained. We will be cut off from the world. Each neighbourhood has a backup generator, but they will soon stop too as fuel is running out.

This might be my last blog: I heard the internet is soon to be cut off.


I fear people will starve here

I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel right now, in fact, it’s looking very dark. Humanitarian assistance is not being allowed into Gaza and people will start to starve. Our healthcare sector is already exhausted and dilapidated, every minute of every day is a struggle to handle the huge numbers of dead and injured.

Today, the Ministry of Health said they are running out of medical supplies and that they do not have enough intensive care unit beds or equipment.

Injured people are being left in hospital corridors because there is just nowhere else to put them.

Displacement is becoming a big problem too. I live near some United Nations shelters and I can see the neighbourhood filling up with people. They’re coming in cars stuffed with clothes, mattresses, and other belongings. The street used to be a quiet area. Now, we have people coming from all over Gaza Strip in search of help.

I am witnessing the water crisis among these uprooted people, many of whom are carrying empty gallon bottles around in the hopes of finding water. At night, I hear loud voices as arguments flare up over increasingly scarce resources.


A recorded message told us to evacuate south

At midnight, my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognise, and when I answered a recorded message ordered all residents of Gaza City and northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern half of the strip. That is about a million Palestinians forced to flee their homes.

I prepared quickly in the morning and started moving south.

There were hundreds of people walking and carrying their belongings. No one knew where to go or what to do, never mind what the hours ahead might bring.

Dozens of cars moved like a caravan, all crowded with passengers and their belongings. As I drove I saw damaged and demolished buildings, rubble all over the roads, and huge craters about 4 metres deep from the bombs. I was terrified more would fall while I was driving.


Gaza like scenes from a horror movie

The scenes from the road were like a horror film or a landscape from a dystopian novel where the world had ended and only destruction remained.

We arrived at my parents’ house and started unloading our stuff. Suddenly, my wife’s parents called to tell us they were fleeing south too and needed help finding a place to stay. There were already around 30 people at my parents’ house, we couldn’t fit any more.

I started calling everyone I could to check if they have an empty flat, a garage or a storage unit that could be used as a shelter, but everyone was saying they didn’t have space. Others from the north had already arrived and claimed any available shelter.

Finally, we found a kindergarten nearby. It’s empty because it’s too dangerous for children to go to school right now. The owner told us we can use it for shelter temporarily.


We don’t know how we’ll find food and water

Alhamdulillah, we managed to get my in laws a place with a roof above their heads, but we are still struggling to find proper water supply and electricity. They can’t wash to perform their prayers. My father-in-law has never missed a prayer in the mosque. Now, he has to perform tayammum [ritual purification without water] before praying at home.

None of us has proper food and it’s not clear how we’ll find some.

The population of the city where we are has doubled, while its resources have stayed the same. A man in the neighbourhood told me they’ve secured a generator to pump water from a nearby well, but can’t find any fuel.

I can’t keep writing. It is draining every drop of energy I have. The tension I feel inside is overwhelming. I am not sure this is end of our journey. I am afraid we are going to be displaced again. Maybe we will become refugees. People live in Gaza as refugees evicted from their home in 1948, and now we might die refugees fleeing for safety in 2023.

Please help Islamic Relief to support people in desperate need in Gaza. Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague.

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing situation on the ground, which has since continued to deteriorate. The information was correct as of the afternoon of Friday 13 October (BST).

Islamic Relief © 2024 | All Rights Reserved | Islamic Relief Ireland is a Company Limited by Guarantee 564903 and is also a Registered Charity- RCN. 20153557 with charitable tax exemption CHY No. 21756

Quick Donate