Behind Gaza’s walls: Resilience and heartbreak

By Hisham Allam

Behind Gaza’s walls: Resilience and heartbreak

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants enters its 28th day, the number of lives extinguished in Gaza has neared a staggering 8,800, with innocent children constituting about half of this heartbreaking tally. The situation is not just serious, it is deteriorating, casting a pall of unimaginable suffering over thousands of families.

Safety has turned into a phantom in Gaza overnight, with its about 2.3 million people having no way out, and no displacement to the south, as has been demanded by Israel, securing anyone’s safety.

For Hala, a former resident of the Al-Nasr neighborhood in northern Gaza City, the south proved to be even more lethal than the north, which she and her family fled to escape the intensity of the bombing. They managed to reach her husband’s house in the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in southern Gaza only to see their children torn to pieces following a bombardment without warning.

“The bombing was accelerating that day, and no evacuation warning was issued. Hala’s four children, Basma, 15, Bisan, 14, Abdullah, 12, and Mustafa, 9, were turned into pieces along with 29 others of their uncles and cousins who took refuge in the house, while my sister and her husband and their youngest child, who is three years old, survived, along with a few other family members,” Hala’s sister, Huda Baroud, who is settled in Belgium, told DevelopmentAid.

“My sister’s son, Mahab, was traumatized by the explosion and the collapse of their house, and the long hours they spent under the rubble. He keeps asking about his siblings, but no one can answer him. He clings to his mother’s neck all the time and never leaves her. The sound of shelling and fighter jets that never stops day or night triggers his panic and constant crying. Hala, on the other hand, has not overcome her shock and lives in complete silence,” Huda said.

Muhammad Tawfiq Al-Najjar, a Gaza journalist, claims he has not seen his family since the war began on October 7, 2023. He went to work in the field, covering the conflict non-stop alongside his colleagues. Shortly afterwards, his family moved to the Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip, as their house had been destroyed. However, this came as no relief to Muhammad as the camp “is being subjected to indiscriminate bombing that has led to hundreds of deaths and injuries,” he said.

Muhammad, just like thousands of other people in Gaza, has witnessed his neighborhood targeted by airstrikes, his friends, relatives and colleagues dying and others losing everything they had to the bombardments.

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In the meantime, international relief workers are struggling to provide shelter and aid to the extent possible to those trapped in Gaza, putting their own lives and work at risk as poor phone and internet connections make it difficult for their organizations to remain in contact with them.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has relocated its central operations center and international staff in Gaza to the south of the enclave. The World Food Programme has announced it has lost contact with its aid teams in Gaza. The Red Crescent has also lost contact with its medical teams and operations room. The Norwegian Refugee Council has said that it has lost contact with 54 of its workers and colleagues in Gaza as well.

Adding to the dire situation, the Rafah border crossing, a critical lifeline for Gaza’s citizens, remains closed. This has left the residents of Gaza with no choice but to stay put, whether they are in the North or the South, and endure the relentless bombardments. The closure of this crucial exit and entry point is further exacerbating the already severe humanitarian crisis in the region.

However, Egypt has announced it would allow 81 critically injured Palestinians to exit via the Rafah border crossing to receive medical treatment in the country.