I have written many stories about the Nakba. Today, I lived it. – Mondoweiss
On the morning of October 13, I was woken up at 5:00 a.m. by a phone call from an Israeli number. I ignored it and used the little time I had to rest.
I was getting some after one of the most terrifying nights we have experienced here in Gaza. It’s hard to sleep in a house full of terrified children. They scream with every bomb around us, which makes it difficult to follow what is going on. I want to know where the bomb hit and who was killed in it, but I find myself busy trying to calm the situation inside the home my family recently found shelter in.
Israel says this war is against Hamas fighters, but I have only seen civilians like us suffering so far.
Minutes later, the number called me again. This time, I answered the phone and heard the Israeli army:
“You have to evacuate your home. Go to the South. Otherwise, you are responsible for your life.” The speaker identified himself as being with the Israeli Defense Force.
At such an early hour, everyone was still sleeping, I did not want to wake them up to tell them this news. I looked out from the window and thought if I saw people in the street evacuating, I would do something. But it was calm, except for the Israeli bombing.
I decided to go back to sleep. It had been a long day, and another longer one was waiting.
Later that morning, as with every day, the alarm that woke us was a massive bomb hitting near our location. The events that followed were even more terrifying than the bombs.
By Friday afternoon, I saw people in Al-Shujaiya, a neighborhood east of Gaza City, starting to get ready. They were loading their cars with their furniture riding on top. I saw other people just walking, holding their bags, and carrying their kids. I understood that the evacuation was starting and these residents were leaving their homes now.
To be honest, I didn’t take the Israeli army calls seriously. I thought they were only psychological warfare that Israel was using against us. But unfortunately, it was real. The people’s voices inside neighboring homes started getting louder, and the growing chaos became another source of terror.
Most everyone who received the messages to evacuate to the south of Gaza wanted to leave and go there at once. However, it was difficult to find a car to get from Gaza City to the southern areas of Gaza, such as Khan Younis, Rafah, and Deir Al-Balah. The shortest way is about 17 miles, but people could not find any cars to take them. Only those who owned cars were able to drive; other people traveled on foot, and it took over five hours to make the trip. Those who walked slept in the streets of Khan Younis at the end of their journey.
Luckily, we had time to collect our stuff. I did not have to evacuate my home because I had already evacuated in the first days of the war. But this second evacuation seemed to me that it would be our last. Luckily, we had cars to move.
We stuffed our temporary foam mattresses, cooking gas canisters, what remained of our food, and all the water we still had into the car, and we headed to Khan Younis as my father-in-law, who had been hosting us, has another home there.
As we headed south, there was massive traffic, a line over 10 miles long full of cars, buses, and wagons full of women and kids all heading south. We could barely move as the traffic was stuck. A trip that usually takes 17 minutes from Gaza to Khan Younis took us three and a half hours.
I have written many stories about the 1948 Nakba and have interviewed people who left their homes and lands. I have listened to their stories and have seen the tears they shed about what they experienced. This time, I witnessed all these scenes. What I saw on my way can only be described as a new Nakba.
Huge trucks loaded with women holding their children in their arms. Young people were holding their elderly parents. Women running barefoot on the side of the road with their crying kids on their shoulders. Small cars stuffed with over ten people inside, all sitting on top of each other. And in all of these scenes, there was panic clearly appearing on everyone’s faces.
The Israeli army told us that it would be safe for civilians to move from northern Gaza and Gaza City to the south from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m., and people panicked and moved. But they tricked us and bombed us on our way. They bombed a huge truck loaded with families, and we were forced to cross over dead bodies and torn apart children along our way.
Every scene I saw reminded me of the stories I have been told about the Nakba. People had told me all the same stories I experienced on my trip today. They, too, crossed over dead bodies to survive in 1948, and they also thought that they would get back to their homes. But they are still refugees today.
When we finally arrived in Khan Younis, we were surprised by the crowds with nowhere to go but to sit on the ground in public. We were also surprised by the crowds at the bakeries, where it took over two hours to get bread. There were also crowds at the supermarkets as people wanted to store food for the long war, and they know it will keep on going for too long.
As I’m writing these lines, I’m settled in Khan Younis. I am expecting that we will soon be ordered to leave Khan Younis and head to Rafah. And then, we will be forced to evacuate to Egypt. Very soon, I will start speaking about my Nakba, and I will remember that I spent my entire life trying to establish a home in Gaza and start a family, and when I finally did, I left it under the force of Israeli fire, again and again, and again and again …
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We are living in an unprecedented time. Israel is launching the largest assault on Gazans we have ever seen, bombing hospitals, ambulances, residential towers, mosques, and the border crossing with Egypt to prevent people from fleeing the bombs. They cut power, water, and food and prevented humanitarian aid from entering Gaza.
To block the world from seeing their war crimes, soldiers are targeting journalists covering the Hamas attacks and Israeli carnage. No journalist is safe in Gaza, including Mondoweiss correspondent Tareq Hajjaj.
Israeli officials and political pundits in the West are spewing calls for genocide of the Palestinian people on mainstream media without any push-back. Dubious sources have been publishing fake news, disingenuous videos, and outright lies. People and media alike are widely sharing them.
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