After more than a week of conflict left at least 230 dead and many thousands displaced, Islamic Relief’s Bodour Abu-kuwaik reports from Gaza.
A ceasefire came into force in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Friday morning, thanks to Allah. I still can’t believe that I’m still alive.
Just days ago I was sitting on the floor of my home in the Gaza Strip, trying to work. The roar of planes overhead didn’t stop for a second and I was afraid. It was hard to concentrate when explosions kept shaking my house like an earthquake had struck. Each time, I instinctively jerked my body, scared that my windows will shatter, showering me in jagged glass shards.
I rushed to switch on the TV, to check the news to learn what is going on around me. I then hurried back to my work, before the laptop battery ran out again. I couldn’t keep it on charge because power-cuts lasted over 16 hours a day.
For over a week, more than 2 million people in the Gaza Strip were subjected to relentless, devastating bombing from sea, land and air. This killed more than 230 people – many of them children, women and older people – and injured about 1,900 others.
Residential buildings, streets and vital infrastructure have been destroyed, and once familiar landmarks, such as Maldive Gaza Restaurant and Café now look very different. It is a sad and frightening sight.
My sister lives in the city centre, which is usually a lively, bustling place, thronged with people. A bomb hit a residential tower next to her home.
“The whole neighborhood is reduced to rubble,” my sister said when I called to check on her and her family. “It’s a ghost town now.”
Cut off from safety and necessities in Gaza
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the bombing drove about 91,000 Palestinians from their homes.
Those able to remain in their homes still faced disaster. For 3 days my family, like many others, struggled even to get water. Without electricity water won’t pump to our homes and both the electricity and water networks have been badly damaged.
The bombing has also damaged our sewage networks, triggering alarm about another looming health crisis. Our health services are already close to collapse after years of blockade and now the Covid-19 pandemic too.
Medicines and medical disposables are in critically short supply, and our hospitals struggle to operate with unreliable access to electricity and water.
My heart breaks for the children
I have spent all night trying to remember a year in which life was good. I can’t think of one. I keep thinking about every Gazan mother with her children trembling by her side, unable to calm their fears.
During the bombing, I couldn’t close my windows for fear they would blow out due to the intensity of the blasts – so with every explosion I heard the cries of children in neighbouring houses.
Fear and panic overtook the children here, when just days before that they were full of joy and looking forward to celebrating Eid with their new clothes and sweets.
Instead, they cried in fear and screamed in terror. My heart hurt for them then, and it still breaks for them now. This ceasefire is in place and the bombs have stopped, but what will their future look like?
This latest escalation in conflict came after more than 15 long, hard years of blockade. Unemployment is rife in Gaza, especially among young people, and poverty is widespread. Many households depend on charities like Islamic Relief to help them with food and other necessities. This latest violence will worsen the existing humanitarian crisis here.
With these thoughts swirling in my head all night, by the time morning comes I don’t feel a sense of relief. I fear we will see such destruction again, and mourn again.
When I go outside, I see sadness and pain and devastation everywhere. Smoke comes from a damaged plastic factory. I see families returning to their ruined homes, their hearts broken, anxious about what the future holds.
I am sure the houses and buildings that have been destroyed will be rebuilt – but what about all the shattered lives? Who will help to rebuild them?
Rescue workers are still searching through the rubble for the missing, and have retrieved the bodies of 9 Palestinians, including a child.
Islamic Relief delivers lifesaving aid
Islamic Relief is working very hard to ease the suffering of those who have survived this latest disaster in Gaza. Our desperately-needed medical aid is reaching intensive care, emergency, and surgical departments. Today I joined colleagues distributing food and basic items like bedding and hygiene products to affected families – we aim to reach about 10,000 families in total.
People are happy to receive the food and other items. We cannot give them what they want most of all – we cannot bring back their loved ones. But we can do what we at Islamic Relief have done through every crisis and difficulty here for over 20 years. We can stand by the side of vulnerable Palestinians.
I thank Islamic Relief’s supporters for their generosity, and for standing with Palestinians during this dark time. With your support, we will continue to do all we can to ease the suffering and keep hope alive here.
Help Islamic Relief to deliver vital humanitarian aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Give generously to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.