“Am I dead?”: A diary from the Israeli aggression on Gaza

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Bird on tree in war-devastated land. Text: REMNANTS WAR.
Artist: Gazze Afiş Sergisi. Courtesy the Palestine Poster Project Archives.

On October 15, I awoke to the horrifying reality of heavy rockets targeting my neighbor’s house. Salah Zanoun, a Ph.D. in accounting, lost his entire family. Their faces bore the weight of this tragedy as they came together in their grief. I found myself among them, determined to tell the world about the harsh realities on the ground. This is my firsthand account of the recent Israeli aggression in Gaza.

It was 5:00 a.m. when Israel targeted Salah’s house. I was deeply saddened and waited until daylight to rush and see how I could help. As I arrived, I saw neighbors banding together to clear the rubble. My cousin Mahmoud, who was already there assisting, told me the extent of the devastation. Every member of Salah’s family was trapped beneath the debris, except for his daughter Aseel, a 19-year-old who miraculously survived.

An hour of relentless efforts later, we had unearthed their lifeless bodies. Salah, his wife, his sons Ahmed, Sief, and Ihap, and his daughter Karima are gone forever. Witnessing the pain and loss was heart-wrenching, and despite our collective strength, we couldn’t alleviate the grief that hung in the air.

I returned home and shared the tragedy to my mother, my heart heavy with sorrow. She listened, her voice quivering, and replied, “I am here for you, but I, too, feel the fear and helplessness that looms over our lives. This is Gaza, where no one is safe.”

Amid this ongoing crisis, I have faced another struggle – ensuring my family’s basic needs are met. Providing food and maintaining our water supply, which cost 200 NIS (more than $50, a month’s savings for me), became a daunting challenge. I reached out to dozens of people for help. While some didn’t respond or couldn’t reach me due to the failing telephone network, a few managed to assist. Notably, my uncle Waleed, who is living under modest circumstances himself, stepped forward to refill our water tanks. It was a reminder that family support is invaluable.

Although relieved by my uncle’s assistance, I remained disheartened by my inability to provide sustenance for my family.

On that same fateful day, October 15, at 5:00 p.m., I headed downtown to Rafah to collect some food from my close friend Mohammed. As we met, the proximity of a deafening explosion jolted us. The world collapsed around me, and I clung to Mohammed, fearing for my life. The dust and smoke filled the sky.

“Am I dead?” I asked Mohammed, gripping his hand. The confusion and panic were palpable. A moment later, we learned that Israel had targeted the Women’s Christian Association close to our location. I felt an overwhelming shock. I implored Mohammed, “We need to find Alaa (our friend Alaa lives there) and make sure he’s okay.”

Mohammed and I ventured to the area, just 50 meters from the explosion. We found the Women’s Christian Association in ruins, and Alaa’s house was a site of devastation. His family had borne the brunt of the attack – his father Arafat Tartori, brothers Yaser and Abdallah, and cousin Mohammed had lost their lives. Alaa himself was wounded, and his sister was injured. I couldn’t hold back my tears; there was nothing else I could do.

I returned home with the weight of these painful images etched into my mind, a haunting memory that will remain with me for a lifetime. It was a stark reminder of the fragile existence we face in Gaza.

But it wasn’t just Alaa’s house; the destruction extended to other homes in the neighborhood – Jaber, Alsadawi, Alfraa, Hijazai, and Alrekai. What pained me most was that I considered these families as friends.

On my way back, I received a message from my brother – our house in eastern Gaza had sustained substantial damage due to heavy bombing. It was another crushing blow. My dreams of getting married there had vanished in the blink of an eye.

As we face ongoing hardship, I implore you to pray for the people of Gaza. We are weary; our future remains uncertain, but even amid the devastation, we continue to seek hope.

This story is co-published with Mondoweiss.

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