An Islamic Relief worker* in Gaza recalls the fear and confusion of last weekend’s communications shut down as ground forces entered Gaza.
My family’s displacement continues as we approach the third week since we were forced to leave our homes. The news brings an unending stream of sorrow, sadness and pain.
My wife just learned that her cousin had died. She called her relatives to offer condolences, then, a little while later, she was worrying about the lack of water to wash our clothes… These days, death has become just a piece of news we pass along to others, we don’t have much time to think about those we’ve lost.
We hear that someone we love has passed and we say, “May their soul rest in peace.” But we’re also thinking, “We are next. We just don’t know when.” It’s really gotten that bad. Death is the norm now, surviving is odd. Seeing tomorrow’s sunrise is a privilege not everyone enjoys.
I go to sleep every night saying shahada [Muslim profession of faith] because I am not sure if I will wake up. My days begin with checking texts from everyone telling me they are still alive. We send texts and pray we’ll get a reply. We send prayers and believe they’ll be heard.
We are now alone with only one hope – that Allah will bring a change. It feels as if we are being let down by the world. We are counted as collateral damage in a war. We are regarded as less important, less equal and less human, and so we are ignored.
I do not know what to say anymore. My heart is burning, and my mind is awash with desperation, fear, agony, pain and exhaustion. You might read these lines, then again, you might not. I am writing just in case. It has become a practice to let go of my pain.
I can’t send these lines to anyone; I can’t call anyone. I am sitting here in the darkness alone with my words. I see them as a testament, like a story in a pharaoh’s tomb that might be discovered and read after I’m gone. But right now, I am alone, isolated, expelled, and useless.
Cut off from the world
On Friday 27 October my phone connection was suspended all of a sudden. The connection had suffered since the start of the escalation, but we could at least manage texting and some distorted calls. However, this time no communication whatsoever was possible.
We could not make calls or get any news. At first, we thought there was a problem with the internet. We restarted the router many times, but when I learned that we couldn’t make calls either, I realised something was wrong. I thought a bomb must be heading for our area. My legs froze and my heart sank to my knees.
Then, my brother said he’d heard there was a land invasion taking place. My mum remembered a radio my father used to have, and we rushed to start it but could not find a clear station, only channel after channel broadcasting evacuation orders.
Eventually we found a channel sharing news and learned that the land invasion had officially started. I could hear plane after plane roaring across the sky, passing over our heads and bombing Gaza. I could hear the sounds of far-off explosions and what sounded like hundreds of drones buzzing all around. It seemed like they were very low in the sky. Their noise is terrifying because we know these drones are armed and ready to kill.
The thoughts we have at nighttime
That night, every kind of thought imaginable entered my head. I thought we might start being bombed randomly; I thought our end had come. I was saying shahada and praying to Allah for forgiveness. I was thinking that we would not be able to call an ambulance because our phones weren’t working. I thought we might die, and no one would even know.
I was thinking of my friends abroad, my sisters, and my friends at Islamic Relief who are checking on us all the time. This is the end, I thought. We were all sitting in silence, everyone was just thinking their own thoughts and thinking of those who weren’t with us right now.
My wife’s parents were in Gaza City and we were in the south. She started crying, especially after hearing that airstrikes had intensified in the city. I told her that we are living in medieval times now, there is just killing everywhere, and no one knows what’s happening to anyone else.
If we died, no one would know. If we were hurt, no one would know. It’s a terrifying feeling, not knowing if your family and loved ones are safe. Yet, all I could do was simplify things down to this: Yes, this is the situation we’re living in.
We hope to survive but we are becoming worn down and desensitised. Our feelings are being taken away, our homes, our belongings, our family, our memories, our lives. Our country is being taken away.
As I was finishing writing these lines, communication was finally reconnected, and we managed to check on our families.
Alhamdulillah, we are all fine, so far. But this brutal, unfair violence has no end. This must end. We pray and hope that the international community can stop it.
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. This information was correct as of the afternoon of Monday 30 October.