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No place is safe

GAZA / The inhabitants are running for their lives and leaving their homes, without having a safe place to seek refuge from the massive attacks of the Israelis.


(18.5.21) Every night is a nightmare in the Gaza Strip, which stretches along 45 kilometers of the east coast of the Mediterranean. The people living under airstrikes and constant bombardment by the Israeli military – for the ninth day in a row.

Following the military escalation between the Israeli army and opponents in Gaza, the people of Gaza are waking up Gaza after the night's Israeli bombardment to a sunny morning that reveals new piles of masonry and concrete remnants mixed with torn clothes, curtains and crushed flower pots, but also pieces of dead people.

According to many Gaza residents with whom MODERN TIMES spoke, Israeli forces deliberately doubled their fighter jets at night to launch continuous attacks on residential and commercial buildings after power lines were bombed. The night thus became twice as long.

At dawn on Sunday, May 16, hundreds of displaced families – from the eastern border of the separation fence to Israel – were observed heading west after Israeli artillery began firing right at civilian homes.

The attacks, which also affected some homes, were a signal to the population to evacuate their homes. They went at night, to the center of Gaza and Khan Yunis, hoping that it would be safer there.

Fleeing to the hospital

"I do not know where to flee. I only hear terrified screams ('Over there… Over there'). We are trying to reach the Al-Rimal area or the Al-Shifa hospital on foot, "said Samaher al-Harazin, 47, as she wheeled her deaf daughter in a wheelchair through the dark, paved alleys of the Al-Shujaiya neighborhood, which was hit by extensive destruction during the summer war in 2014, which lasted for seven weeks.

However, the journey to Al-Rimal, where Samaher and his daughter went with other terrified families before dawn, was a source of panic. The ground shook, and the vibrations caused by the intense airstrikes and the continuous rocket attacks turned buildings into rubble over the heads of the residents of Al-Wehda Street. The street is one of three main arteries in the city and leads to Al-Shifa Hospital, where the terrified mother hopes to sit safely in the hospital garden.

400 meters from the hospital, shouts and screams were heard from Anas Al-Yazji (24) on the night of 16 May. He dug his way through the remains of the five-story Abu Al-Auf apartment block, which oozes smoke after the bombing of Israeli fighter jets. Al-Yazji, a graphic designer, called his fiancée Shaima Abu Al-Auf (21). After climbing over the brick mounds, he managed to find her wallet, some loose pages from the Koran and a dusty jacket.

The two got engaged in 2019 and were to get married at the end of May. The couple prepared the marriage by buying furniture for their shared home and other necessities, says Waleed al-Shurafa (24), store manager and friend of the couple.

Death is everywhere

Half a day after Anas tried to find her future wife, a bulldozer from the municipality carefully dug between the bricks. "I want to look at every stone that is lifted up," said Anas as he knelt on the stones.

"I was in contact with Shaima on the phone when the bombing took place, and the conversation was interrupted, which made me think that the signal was lost due to the bombing, but the news of what had really happened was shocking," Anas tells MODERN TIMES while receiving condolences in the tent of his intended in-laws.

"Why else would the Israelis use missiles that are suitable for attack in the mountains or open?
desert landscape, when Gaza is full of buildings where children play? ”

"There is no place in Gaza that is safe anymore," he said. A few hours earlier, he was told that his fiancée was at the morgue. Her brother identified her, and he called Anas to ask him to stop looking.

The hospital's garden and backyard are filled with families who have been displaced from their homes. Many go to great lengths to reach the hospital. They believe that the hospital garden is safe, while the ambulances continue to leave new bodies at the morgue, which is located right next to the garden.

"Death is everywhere, and the night often brings with it alarming news. "I'm afraid the Israelis are crazy enough to bomb the hospital," said Samaher.

The home will be leveled

Sawsan Abu Taqia, a 56-year-old housewife, evacuated her apartment in the Al-Jala tower and moved to the childhood home, which is ten meters away. Shortly afterwards, she saw the apartment being razed to the ground during an Israeli air strike.

On Saturday, Israeli airstrikes destroyed one of Gaza's tallest buildings, a 13-story building that housed various media outlets, including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, lawyers, doctors and dozens of families.

Photo: Ashraf Amra

"Every now and then it feels as if the deafening explosions will never end. The heart beats faster, it gets darker around you, and you think you will never feel happy again ", Sa Sawsan told MODERN TIMES while inspecting the ruined home.

"I was forced to flee, and when you only have twenty minutes to leave home, your brain stops working and you can neither choose what to take with you, nor where to go," says Sawsan. "Then you decide that getting to safety is the only choice."

"Is everything alright?"

Every morning offers crowded inboxes of text messages and WhatsApp messages from friends and relatives who after a night of bombings ask: "Enta Bekhair?" "Is everything alright?"

Walking through the streets to visit someone is a risky venture. Mohammed Isleem, a 46-year-old taekwondo trainer living in Gaza City, says the only way to communicate with his family in Rafah – 35 kilometers away – is via WhatsApp. It is impossible to go to Rafah in southern Gaza because of the war.

"I'm afraid the Israelis are crazy enough to bomb the hospital."

His wife, Nariman Isleem, 41, who works with her husband at Friendship Sports Club, says: “We are mentally and physically exhausted. I believe that everyone in Gaza needs a psychologist because of the pressure they have been living with for years. Most of us have a four-year bachelor's degree in the Gaza war, ”she said, referring to the wars in 2008, 2012, 2014 and the current military escalation.

"Experiencing having your home destroyed is demoralizing and heartbreaking. Why else would the Israelis use missiles that are suitable for attacks in the mountains or open desert landscapes, when Gaza is full of buildings where children play ", she says to MODERN TIMES. "I think the goal is something beyond killing. They want to see our bodies crumble, and this is proof of hatred ", Nariman adds.

"The war here is unlike any other war in the world," said Wissam Saqallah, 50. "In an area of ​​360 square kilometers, you can not escape anywhere because of the closed borders. We do not have underground shelters, and border controls with Egypt only allow entry in rare cases. I do not want to compare our situation with the war in Syria. It is true that the war there is tougher, but they can flee across the border to Turkey and on to Denmark if they are lucky, but here you can end up under tons of stone – dead or alive ", says Wissam.

See also: Gaza: The causes need attention

Translated by Iril Kolle

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