The following stories from inside Gaza were compiled by the Institute for Middle East Understanding
Sabah Al Barakoni
“I am writing this in the middle of the night. I can’t sleep. There is bombing and rockets all around us. I feel like my heart is cutting into pieces. Every morning I phone all the staff and they tell me they can’t
sleep either. They say they are suffering from headaches. Our hearts are very tired. My colleague tells her four-year-old daughter the loud noise is just thunder so she won’t be frightened. But then she asks, ‘Where is the rain?’
“We huddle here in the house away from the windows that might shatter if the bombing gets too close. We’re afraid to go out, even for some bread. The bakery is not so close. My husband is taking care of his paralyzed father and can’t leave him to go to the bakery. I’m too afraid for him to even try. We’re lucky. We have enough food to last maybe a week. We have rice and sugar, cooking oil and lentils and a few vegetables.
“There is a rising feeling of fear. There is no safe place to hide. We can’t leave Gaza to find refuge elsewhere.”
Read Sabah’s full piece in The Huffington Post
Sami Zimmo, 14 years old
“We cannot sleep. If we sleep, then we wake to the sound of bombs. Each time one hits the ground, my little sister cries out in fear. We have started to dream about the possibility of sleeping for just one day without the killing and bombing.
“The war started in a way that surprised us. Every day we say to one another that today is the end, but then we realize that it is just another beginning.”
Raneen Haddad, 19 years old
“The Israelis bombed an empty piece of land next to our living room window last night. It lit up the entire house. It was so loud that I felt like the bomb landed on top of us. I heard the shattering of windows and all of our things crashing to the floor. But I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even leave the room where we were hiding.
“We are not the only ones. Every single person living in Gaza is suffering the same fate. In my opinion, acts such as these are the most heinous, hateful acts one could ever commit against their own species.
In three days, there have been more than 900 airstrikes. The death toll among Palestinians is a hundred times that of the Israelis. Should I tell you what the Gazans feel when they hear the sound of Israeli rockets? The fear in the children’s hearts? What about the helplessness of our parents to protect us?
“We Palestinians are not terrorists; we are resisting against the Israeli occupation. If someone took your land by force, and systematically controlled your entire community with walls and checkpoints, destroyed your universities, sewage systems and economy, what would you do?”
I wish I could get rid of the smell of burned bodies in my nose…Horrifying in Shifa hospital.
Dr. Ghada Ageel
My 3-year-old nephew in Gaza, Abdallah, is a funny boy. He is very scared of the bombs and the constant shelling. But he told me that now he has a technique to calm himself down. He goes under his bed, closes his ears and starts shouting so that his voice would cover the sound of bombs and rockets. Today, he has a more creative solution: “When the missile comes to our house I hope my strong and big parents will hit it and push it away. But if that doesn’t work then I will give it all my chips, sweets, and candies so that he won’t hit me.”
“As soon as my daughter, Noor, tried to fall asleep last night the glass from our windows was shattered due to heavy bombing. Glass fell all over her body injuring her face. She thought that our house had been bombarded and started shouting in a hysterical way and calling to be rescued from under the rubble. I woke her up and treated her wound. We stayed awake
“If I was able to steal a few hours of sleep before, now I am afraid to close my eyes because if I do death might steal my children. I don’t know what to do. As parents we are supposed to protect our kids but we cannot do this anymore in Gaza, the terror machine hits us from the air, land and sea. It follows us day and night in our homes, in the streets, in our beds, and in our dreams.”
“I have to control my emotions and play with my children. As soon as the shelling starts I begin to make jokes and be playful. I am terrified but I want to make sure they don’t panic.” The mother of four, Beesan says that what she feels as a mother in these times is not comparable to anything else. “We live knowing that today could be the last day. I may close my eyes but I can never sleep. I don’t want my children to leave my sight because even if it were the last moment in life, I want to be next to them, holding them, and trying to make them feel safe.”Keeping her children safe is almost impossible for Beesan. She knows that she has no control over where a missile could hit or when Israel would fire the next nail bomb, an explosive that is banned internationally.
“My son Karim is only 12 years old. He has not yet been able to forget everything he saw when he was eight years old in the previous Israeli invasion of 2008. He has a lot of anxiety. He asks me questions that are so hard to answer: Where do all the people that are killed go? I am worried about his reaction and about how he will deal with all these experiences. No matter how smart he is or how anyone tries to explain things, the feelings of fear and anxiety are uncontrollable for the old and the young alike.”
Aside from worrying about missiles dropping, Beesan says she has to worry about her children’s well-being. “It is very cold now. We have to keep all windows open so that the pressure from the shelling does not cause the breaking of our windows and shattering of glass. It makes the nights unbearable. I hear my children’s voices but I am constantly looking at them making sure they are still breathing.
“The worst feeling is that I feel helpless. I cannot protect them. I cannot give them a sweet, peaceful life like other kids in the world. They are young. They have energy. They are bright but I do not know what the future holds for them. I feel they are isolated. I am a faithful woman but when bombs are falling from the sky I feel helpless.”
Mohamed Abu Safia
“Today, I went to the Salah family home – or what used to be their home before it was completely destroyed by bombs. I saw women and children who were buried under the rubble but managed to climb out from beneath the ruins of their home. They told me they were able to survive because of their strong will to live and resist.”
Taking a deep sigh, Mohamed says that the children in the neighborhood were having a hard time processing what they were witnessing. “They see what the occupation forces are doing to them. At their age, children in European countries are in sports clubs and enjoying their time but here children in Gaza can barely make it alive each day. I was speechless in front of these kids and their pain. They were all less than fifteen years old.”
“Tonight four children and their mother sleep in a hospital’s mortuary. Are they firing rockets? Are they threatening security? Children at the Shifa hospital are standing at the doors and saying goodbye to their friends. We want this brutal occupation to end. We want freedom for our children.”
The above footage shows an Israeli strike on the Haddad family home in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza on the morning of November 17.