It has been five days of non-stop aerial bombardment against the people of Gaza. The Israeli military is exerting tremendous violence and pressure, both on Hamas and the civilian population, as a response to the former’s Oct. 7 assault and continuing rocket fire from the strip. For us Palestinians in Gaza, this is the hardest and most brutal Israeli onslaught we’ve ever experienced, and we are all fearing for our families and our society.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, Israel’s aggression has so far claimed the lives of at least 1,354 people and wounded over 5,763 more — the majority of them civilians. The occupation forces are committing massacres, leaving neighborhoods in ruins. The Palestinian Civil Defense is struggling to reach survivors under the rubble of people’s obliterated homes.
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, a Geneva-based nonprofit, documented Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions to bomb civilians in the neighborhood of Al-Karama, in northern Gaza, destroying large parts of the neighbourhood and killing over 30 people. Indeed, Israel’s assault on the besieged strip is so severe that it has wiped out entire families, erasing any trace of their existence from the Palestinian civil registry.
Areeg Qannan, a Palestinian teacher who left Gaza two months ago to go and work in Kuwait as a maths teacher, lost every single member of her family in Israeli airstrikes on the Al-Sahaba neighborhood in eastern Gaza on Tuesday. On her Facebook page, she listed the names of her 10 immediate family members who were killed on Oct. 9: her father Mohammad, her mother Zuhayda, her sister Wesal, her brother Mohmoud, his wife Khitam, and their five children aged between 3 and 12 (Mayar 12, Mohammad 10, Reem 7, Omar 5 Lina 3). Khitam, Areeg noted, was pregnant.
“Half an hour before they were killed, I called my family to check on them,” she told the media. “My father told me, ‘Don’t worry, we are safe. There is shelling, but it’s not nearby.’ They were taken by surprise.”
Israel’s airstrikes have affected all of Gaza, but one area that has been targeted particularly heavily is Tal al-Zaatar in the Jabalia refugee camp in the north, where many families have been decimated and displaced. On Oct. 10, eight members of the Shaheen family were killed by Israel’s bombardment of this neighbourhood: Sami, 54, Fayza 50, and their six adult children — Yousef, 33, Mustafa, 30, Ismail, 27, Mohammad, 23, Hadeel, 25, and Lama, 19. “The brutal killing of Sami and his entire family caused collective heartbreak in such a small neighborhood, where everyone knows everyone else,” said the Shaheen family’s neighbor.
Another horrific tragedy befell the Shaaban family in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in western Gaza. Nathir, a medical specialist working in a clinic in Gaza City, and his wife Enas believed they were safe at home on Oct. 9, with their children Omar, Ghada, Batoul, and Ahmed, but Israeli planes bombed them without warning. No one could have imagined the direct bombing of this lovely family. I knew them personally.
I do not exaggerate when I say that the strip is facing a major humanitarian crisis on a scale that we have not seen before, and we genuinely fear that it could become a genocide. Israel is pursuing a policy of collective punishment, trying to pressure Hamas to meet Israel’s political interests at the expense of civilians and innocents in Gaza — with women and children accounting for 60 percent of the victims of the ongoing aggression, according to the health ministry.
There are no shelters or safe houses in the Gaza Strip in which civilians can seek refuge amid Israel’s unrelenting bombardment. Even hospitals, mosques, and schools are subjected to airstrikes. UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees, is currently sheltering over 216,600 internally displaced people in 92 schools, with many others seeking shelter in government schools and other buildings. Two UNRWA schools have already been hit by Israeli shelling. In total, at least 340,000 Palestinians have been uprooted across the Gaza Strip. We truly have nowhere to go.