People in Gaza hate the night. All they can see are explosions

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Economist
October 10, 2023 at 22:34
Palestinians hide in the darkness, waiting for a ground offensive.
1843 20231010 1843 GAZA HEADER
1843 20231010 1843 GAZA HEADER

On Sunday an Israeli military spokesman posted a public message on Facebook urging residents of Daraj, our neighbourhood in Gaza City, to evacuate.

I live above my parents’ apartment with my wife and two-year-old son. We decided to flee to my uncle’s house across the city. Then we realised Israelis seemed to be striking a different neighbourhood from ours, so we came back.

Now there are explosions all around me. A building was hit just now, I can see smoke coming out of it. The bombardments keep coming closer. My walls are shaking.

Gazans are trapped. The entire strip is under fire

Outside in the street people are rushing around trying to take shelter in public buildings and schools – they believe residential buildings have become a target. My family and I are huddled in one room in the apartment clutching each others’ hands.

I haven’t had electricity since Sunday. People of Gaza hate the night: all they can see is the light of explosions and all they can hear are the horrific sounds that come with them. It’s like a horror movie, except it’s reality. Most people don’t have access to the internet to check up on relatives and friends.

The water service has been cut off, but we have enough bottled water to last the next ten hours. We will need to go down the street and buy some extra when we can.

Normally people would rush to the shops to stock up on food and water, but they couldn’t open on Monday, as there were too many airstrikes. In such times you forget about food anyway and just think about securing a place where you can be safe with your family.

Sometimes the wind would blow at the doors. It sounded like someone knocking heavily

Gaza has been under blockade for 16 years. Five years ago, when I was 20, I was offered a scholarship to study in Turkey, but I couldn’t get permission to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing. I waited and waited but in the end I had to give it up.

We have been bombarded before too. This is similar to what happened in 2012 and 2014. But the level of fear and terror is so much greater now. Previously Israel targeted security posts and resistance locations belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Now it’s mosques and refugee camps. People are afraid they could be a target any minute. We mask our inner fear with courage and try to be reassuring for our families. But I am personally scared.

Gazans are trapped. The entire strip is under fire. There is literally nowhere safe that we can go.

Mohammad R. Mhawish is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza City.

Editor’s note: Israel says it has targeted Hamas infrastructure inside mosques

“We just have to pray”

A young woman remembers the last Israeli ground invasion

I live with my parents. My dad has been following the news almost the whole time but my mum and I are mentally exhausted by it. We try to keep ourselves busy cleaning, cooking, anything to distract ourselves for a bit. Then we go back to the news.

My parents worked every day during previous wars because they were both doctors before they retired. My mum would always leave the house at 6am, when there was absolutely no one in the streets and it was extremely scary and dangerous. My parents try not to show how worried they are. My dad tries to stay strong. My mum, well, sometimes she cries.

I was a teenager during the last ground invasion in 2014. My two siblings lived at home then, we were all at the house together, but those times were super, super horrific. I remember every single night we would expect them to come into our house and kill us all. Literally we would think, “OK, this is going to be our last night alive.” It was winter then and sometimes the wind would blow at the doors. It sounded like someone knocking heavily on the door, and we would imagine the Israelis entering our house. Once they got close enough that we fled to the hospital where my dad and brother were working.

People of Gaza hate the night: all they can see is the light of explosions

We made preparations for what we would do if they came: we decided we’d all hide in the corner of the house downstairs and not move. We’d just stay in that corner all night long and pray. I would have nightmares of Israelis getting inside our house and killing us. And now, talking about another ground invasion, it scares us to death.

The bombing is getting really heavy. Every minute yesterday I heard bad news about someone we know or some friends or some relatives. We just have to pray, I guess. ■

Rozan was speaking to Abbie Cheeseman, a journalist in Beirut

Photographs: getty, eyevine, reuters

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