Islamic Relief aid worker Mohammed reports from Gaza, where Islamic Relief is working on the ground to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid to those caught up in the latest outbreak of violence.
Today is day number 14, and the attacks are still going on. The death toll has reached more than 500, with thousands injured. I feel tension and worry. I am still not confident going to streets that are normally safe. I am still not able to visit my parents, who live in Dier El Balah City, mid Gaza Strip.
It is hard to write about conflict. What would anyone write? I wonder, why do we have to go through this? Why are human beings dying? Why are men, women and children especially, deprived of their right to live safely and in peace?
For me, it was a regular working day in the office when the attacks started to get really bad. Airstrikes started before noon, hitting densely populated places. Gaza city is a small place, everywhere is close by and every strike shakes your building and threatens to shatter the windows right next to your desk.
This is Gaza, there is no safe place
I thought, I need to find a safe place until this conflict ends. But then I remembered: this is Gaza, and there is no safe place. We all want safety, but all we can do is stay home with our families and pray that the next strike will not hit our own home.
Staying at home like this, I start to lose my sense of time. The airstrikes seem to get more intense after midnight and reach their peak at suhoor time, a special time during Ramadan when Muslims pray and eat in preparation for the day of fasting ahead.
They knock on your roof with a missile
I stay awake most of the night, worrying that the next name I hear on the radio will be of a friend or relative that has died. You need to stay awake because you might be instructed to evacuate your building. They tell you to evacuate by knocking on your roof. They knock on your roof with a missile.
After the missile hits, you have three minutes to get out – leaving behind all of your belongings: photos and mementos of special times, as well as certificates and official papers.
I know of one family that did not receive a knock on their roof. With no warning, when the bomb fell it erased their lives. It is like they have never existed. Eighteen people died. I do not know if there are survivors from that house, but how would it feel if you lived and your parents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters were gone?
We pray that the situation ends quickly
I live near UNRWA schools in Gaza City, where many Palestinians from northern Gaza are sheltering after being told to leave their homes. These families are facing hard times. As part of the Islamic Relief emergency team, I went to assess their needs and provide much-needed assistance.
Inside a school that is being used as a shelter, I met a young girl called Reem. At ten years old, she has been through three conflicts already. Reem and her family have been in this school for many days, hoping that soon they will be able to return home. It is not in her control, but she prays and asks God to end this situation soon.
In their shelter, a few toilets serve hundreds of people. There are no showers, and families must buy clean drinking water. When I asked her why she wants to go back home, she said ”I want to watch TV”. For children, it is that simple. She also told me, “I miss my friends.”
Eid is coming soon
Reem’s friends also evacuated but she does not know to where they went or whether they are alive. Her mother told me they ran from their houses without even taking basic things that they need. Four days since they fled, and Reem is still wearing the same clothes. ”Eid-ul Fitr is coming soon,” said her mother. “Instead of the usual new clothes for Reem, she can’t even change what she is wearing.”
I asked Reem, what do you wish? Her simple answer was, “I want the fighting to stop.”
Islamic Relief established its Gaza office in 1998, and remains on the ground amidst the gravest humanitarian crisis to face Palestinians since the eight day war of 2012. Please support our efforts to provide emergency relief and life-saving aid to those suffering in this conflict: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal today.Donate