As tanks reach southern Gaza, an Islamic Relief worker* faces the heartbreaking dilemma of whether his family, who have nowhere left to go, should flee yet again – or stay and pray to be spared.
Since I last wrote to you, my family and I have spent a terrifying couple of nights. We could hear gunshots and airstrikes all around. I told you about a friend who was staying with her family in an area near us. She had to evacuate as tanks arrived just behind their home. I also saw other people from that area walking with their belongings towards the middle of the city.
I was very worried about our safety, as my family lives on the edge of the city too. My nerves couldn’t stand the stress. I just lay down in silence. I couldn’t think what would be the best thing to do. Should we leave, or stay? Each option seemed just as challenging as the other.
At my parents’ home, we’ve managed to get solar panels to generate electricity. We can watch the news and connect to the internet when it’s available. We’ve managed to find a system for refilling our water tanks once or twice a week, though it’s costly and not very good. Things are – at the most basic level – working for us. We are among the lucky ones who have been able to adapt – most people don’t even have this. Leaving means taking a step into the unknown. On the other hand, staying would mean putting my family in danger from shelling.
We don’t have anywhere else to go.
Nowhere in Gaza has space now. Every residential unit is hosting 1-3 families. People are living in the streets. My friend told me people are even renting a storage unit with no water or electricity for around $1,000 (approx. £790) a month. I can’t put my family into a situation where I have to take my kids to a neighbour’s house to use the toilet or go begging for food and water.
I thought I would rather stay in the danger and accept whatever comes from Allah. Alhamdulillah, my story might have reached its end. I had a chance to raise my voice through this series of blogs, so maybe you will remember a Palestinian father who died trying to provide a good life for his family.
I am desperate and exhausted. At the start of the escalation, we lived a little further away from the danger. Now, the second round is happening in our backyard. Since the tanks took over the southern area, no food supplies have come our way. Most of the agricultural land is now empty as the Israeli army ordered people to evacuate.
My friend in Khan Younis told me: “People are just wandering in the streets. There is nowhere for them to stay. “Luckily, I moved to my parents’ home, but, even still, I feel like a stranger here. It’s not like my home”. I totally agreed, saying to him that I’d prefer to go to my own house, even knowing it’s been seriously damaged and uninhabitable, rather than remaining displaced.
But we are not able to do so. The owners of the gunpowder, airplanes and tanks have made the decision for us. I really miss my old life. Everyone does. I speak to my friends and colleagues in Islamic Relief and they are all telling me the same thing. We all want to go and see our streets, our buildings, the benches at the seashore, order grilled corn, spend time with friends, and most of all rest in our houses.
My children’s unmeetable needs and unanswerable questions
We are tired of every single thing becoming increasingly difficult. My mum and sisters have to walk to our neighbour’s carrying the dough they’ve prepared to bake bread for us. My brother needs to climb the stairs 10 times to make sure the water tanks are filled. It takes all my wife’s composure to handle my children’s requests for food.
Yes, my kids feel hungry at nighttime. But we do not have enough bread, or enough anything, to make food for them. We barely have enough resources to meet the needs of everyone in the house. Even if we could find everything we needed, it would cost a fortune. It is heartbreaking to not be able to meet my family’s needs. They’re not asking for anything lavish, only food.
On top of that, the kids keep asking me about the sounds of bombing we hear all night long. “Is that a tank bomb? Is it a rocket? Is it an airstrike?” I do not know what difference it makes; they’re just the sounds of people being killed. At one point it felt like there was a troop of soldiers shooting right outside our windows. It felt like hundreds of tanks were firing as our house shook with every explosion. I was trying to sleep but I kept waking up every few minutes because of the noise.
Hunger is a constant companion
We are living an unspeakable situation. We are almost dead. We can’t find food. It is not like we are asking for Italian restaurants or fast food chains – we just want bread, tomatoes, cucumber, some aubergine… we can’t find them. We’ve started making 1-ingredient meals now. Mashed potatoes, grilled aubergine, just tomatoes with chicken stock, or just bread with tea. Maybe we are going to die from hunger now.
I don’t know why Israel thinks depriving families of food or destroying our homes helps its fight with its enemy. I do not know anything. We are living in total uncertainty. Just feel happy that we’ve lived another day and then moving onto the next until there is no more of this story. Thank you, my dear readers, for everything: by reading this you are keeping my memory alive.
Please help Islamic Relief 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 and others mentioned. Read the other blogs in this series here.
Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis. The information was correct as of 6 December 2023.