The week of the temporary ceasefire in Gaza felt like the fulfilment of a dream of a stranded person in the desert yearning for water. We had great hopes that this halt in Israeli aggression would turn into a permanent one, giving us the time and space needed to try and rebuild our shattered lives.
These last few days, after the ceasefire was broken, have perhaps been the toughest days of this war yet. The renewed bombings have certainly been just as devastating as before, causing even more destruction and displacement as Israeli ground troops make their way to the south of the Strip. But what has made this round even harder is that, for a brief few days, we had just tasted life and love again. Palestinians will never get used to the bombs descending upon our people, even though it feels like the bombs themselves have grown accustomed to us.
The first night after military operations resumed was the toughest night I have ever faced. It was like we were on the edge of death, with the bombardment dangerously close to the home in which we’re currently sheltering in the Shuja’iya neighborhood of Gaza City. We survived that dreadful night, but survival grants us little relief; it means we have to face the danger of another day. This is the price to pay for staying alive in Gaza.
We have become desperate in our daily search for bread, in what has now become our life’s primary mission, stripping us of our humanity and dignity. We pretend not to heed the Israeli missiles pouring above our heads; what matters, we tell ourselves, is to provide food for our families. But we are lying to ourselves. We wander out with our hearts trembling, quivering with fear from the sound of every plane and every airstrike. It is an hourly battle for survival.
Everyone I know in Gaza feels lost. We don’t know where to go, and we are constantly questioning if it would be wiser to relocate to another neighborhood or elsewhere in the Strip. There is no longer a functioning government or any authorities to even guide us or tell us what to do. We can only talk to each other.
The Israeli army recently published a map dividing the Gaza Strip into countless tiny blocks, some of which it claimed were designated “safe” zones. The map, however, is incomprehensible. A friend of mine, who is from Gaza but currently in Turkey, told me that her family in the Strip were asking if they were in a safe zone according to the map.
All my friends — on the rare occasions that they can get electricity or signal — are also asking about the Israeli map on social media, begging to know whether particular areas are dangerous or not. We know that there are no truly safe spaces in Gaza, but everyone wants to hold on to a glimmer of hope that we can do something to make ourselves safer, that we can have a moment of tranquility amid this horror.
When I recently checked in with a friend in southern Gaza, she responded in tears: “We evacuated from Al-Awda Towers in the northern Gaza Strip to Fakhoura in Khan Younis. Then we moved to Hamad Towers, but it was bombed on Saturday, so we had to leave again. We then went to a tent in a school. Now, we are being evacuated to another place, and we don’t know where.”
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When I hear accounts like this, among so many others, I can only be horrified by the collective punishment we are enduring. I fear that it will only get worse, and that the illusion of Gaza’s areas being distinguished by artificial “blocks” will simply enable Israel to justify killing more civilians under the false pretense of having offered them protection.
Trapped in Gaza City, I find myself yearning for my own home, missing the mundane routines I used to complain about in the past. I miss my office, and I miss my friends dearly. The joys of Thursday nights, which heralded our more relaxing weekends, now feel far away. All I wish for now, like every Gaza citizen paying the price of this senseless war, is for the mass slaughter and destruction to stop. We no longer have the energy to bear more loss; it is too heavy to hold.