Gaza Blogger Tweets Harrowing Tale of Dodging Israeli Warplanes as She Crosses the Rafah Border into Egypt

Nalan Al-Sarraj

Nalan Al-Sarraj Twitter profile picture.

Taking advantage of the brief ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a group of around 70 Palestinian civilians escaped their homes and attempted to make it to Egypt through the Rafah border only to find it closed and deserted. The group was trapped between Egypt and Gaza up until a few moments ago when Egypt opened the border.

“We started praying and crying expecting to die any moment”

It just so happened that my friend blogger 23-year-old Nalan Al Sarraj, who has been tweeting about her experience living in Gaza ever since Israel launched another operation three weeks ago, was among those trying to escape. The daughter of a Libyan citizen, her mother, she hoped to make it to Egypt along with dozens of other foreigners.

Speaking to Mondoweiss’ Dan Cohen and The Real News Network’ Lia Tarachansky, she described the situation as such:

The situation over here is very scary. We’re more than 70 people, mostly women and children, and mostly they have foreign passports, half of which are Egyptian. I can see smoke and fire, and we can see the explosions very close to where we are. Israel has declared Rafah a closed area so we can’t even get out of this place.

Israel forces started heavy shelling in Rafah, targeting a hospital as well, 90-minutes after the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire commenced in Gaza. Seventy Palestinians were killed and hundreds more injured in Rafah, bringing the total death toll in Gaza to around 1511, among whom 330 are children.

Nalan sent the following tweets as soon as she reached the Egyptian border with her mother, sister and a friend:

Luckily, Nalan may find some rest now, a luxury which the vast majority of Gazans cannot afford to have.

Since Israel launched a massive offensive against the 40-kilometer long coastal strip on July 8, more than 6,780 have been injured. Israel has bombed schools, a playground, hospitals, shelters and refugee camps. Three in four people killed in Gaza were civilians. On July 28, Israel attacked the only power plant in Gaza, plunging the congested strip of 1.8 million people into darkness. As Israel forces bombs residential neighborhoods, tens of thousands have been made homeless and are forced to take refuge in makeshift shelters.

This is Israel's third military operation in Gaza in 6 years. Excessive restrictions from Israel in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank is why most of the world and the United Nations considers this territory “occupied” by Israel. 

Follow our in-depth coverage: #Gaza: Civilian Death Toll Mounts in Israeli Offensive


  • […] You can read more about their harrowing ordeal here […]

  • you write “Israel forces started heavy shelling in Rafah, targeting a hospital as well, 90-minutes after the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire commenced in Gaza. ” – haven’t you forgot to mention the reason?

    • Oh you mean the Hamas missiles, those that rarely land on anything? Or the Israeli soldier who was “kidnapped”, ie killed as a combatant in a war? Nothing justifies bombing civilian areas. It is too clear that Israel intends on destruction regardless of a ceasefire. Netanyahu himself said that he intends on destroying Hamas’ “terror tunnels” with or without a ceasefire. He literally announced that they will (as they have countless times) ignore ceasefires.

      You literally just read a 23 year old girl describing the horrors she went through and you’re saying that there’s a reason? There is no reason. There are excuses. The same excuses that politicians have always used to convince their own people that the unjustifiable is justified.

      This is no ‘conflict’. It’s a massacre lead by rabid warmongerers with elections and PR relations on their mind.

      • no, i just made the point that the sentence is not complete. this particular case “started … 90-minutes” .. was (as you know) due to the fact that Hamas (again) turned down the ceasefire and dangered his own people. Isn’t it so?
        I agree that her horrors are real and I’m sorry about that. I just think your sentence was incomplete, making the innocent reader to think that Israel simply broke the ceasefire. Facts are not excuses. but i understand your point of view is completely different.

      • Rachelle

        ‘Nothing justifies bombing civilian areas’? Really? How exactly do you think the allies won WWII? Israel is NOT targeting civilians. It is targeting Hamas infrastructure which this fascist, jihadist, suicidal , psychopath movement has very conveniently chosen to embed INSIDE civilian areas, and there is ample evidence if this, including statements of Hamas officials themselves. The only way Israel CAN respond is to bomb these areas and hope that the abused civilians there will have the prudence to heed to the warnings that Israel gives them and evacuate the areas. The death in Gaza is tragic, but not deliberate. How sad that after Israel evacuated this area completely in 2005, the Palestinians could have used this as a spectacular spring board for their economy and well being, but instead elected a terror organization bent on their own destruction.

      • Rachelle

        Regarding the Hamas rockets that “rarely land on anything,” I hardly think Israel has to apologize for not sustaining heavier civilian losses in this war. The rockets are deadly and have killed and maimed Israelis in the past. Not to mention the psychological and economic damage of having half the country running to shelters all the time. But thankfully, Israelis have a government that takes care of them and has built the Iron Dome anti missile defense system that keeps them safe. Hamas, on the other hand, has meticulously channeled international aid money earmarked for humanitarian aid such as food, education, and infrastructure, and used it to build fortified underground tunnels to attack Israel. We have yet to see one instance where Hamas has ordered its civilians down into these tunnels for protection. But the top brass Hamas leadership knows very well how to hide out in the basement of Shifa hospital.

        • Imago Dei

          Where on earth do you get the gall to compare this to anything like
          WW2? This is an unprecedented genocide of an occupied, entrapped,
          defenseless refugee population aggressed upon them by the most
          weaponized, militarized state in the ME time and time again since 1948.
          If you want to do a WW2 comparison this is more like the Nazi
          extermination pogrom of those deemed inferior because of ethnicity.
          Except mercifully for the 12 million victims of Nazi aggression it only
          lasted 6 years. For the Palestinians this has been going on for 70. And
          now the ‘final solution’? And like WW2, allies do need to intervene to
          stop the aggressor from massacring innocent civilians. Bombs should be
          dropped to stop this, and, to complete your analogy, that would be on
          Tel Aviv where Zionazi civilians would, and perhaps should, be
          indiscriminately massacred too.This would be wrong, just as wrong as what the zionist military is doing in Gaza. As an occupied population under years of Israeli siege and violence, Gaza does, under international law, have the right to resist their occupiers and oppressors. But Israel has no right to commit collective punishment and now genocide. They are war criminals.

          • Rachelle

            So let me get this right: According to your logic (?), ever since Israel’s inception in 1948, it has been bent on the destruction of the Palestinians because of their, ahem, “ethnicity.” With the help of ample political and economic aid, Israel built one of the most powerful and sophisticated armies in the world in order to carry out this ambitious plan. And you’re saying that after 70 years of conflict, despite Israel’s continuous attempts to inflict a “genocide” on the Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are indeed defenseless and many of whom are refugees, it STILL hasn’t succeeded?? They’re not very effective, are they? Also, it occurred to me that building a field hospital for the wounded and warning the Gazans of attacks in advance doesn’t seem to gel with this theory. So, either the IDF’s”genocide department” is a bit rusty…or you might just be full of BS. It’s also interesting that the role of the Palestinian terrorist organizations in the current conflict (in which the Gazans are sadly being held hostage) play no part at all in your account. Do you really think so lowly of the Palestinians that you deprive them of any agency at all?

          • Tanvir Ansari

            Correction please. If anything, people fighting to liberate their homeland cannot be called ‘terrorist organizations’.

        • No one is asking you to apologize. And I don’t deny that ordinary Israelis suffer psychological damage. But I think even comparing is surreal. Gazans don’t have shelters to run to. They don’t have warnings.

          If Israelis who are protected by one of the most powerful military powers on Earth suffer psychological damages, imagine the children of Gaza who have to watch loved ones reduced to rubble. Imagine what kind of life a 6 year old in Gaza has lived through given that he/she would lived through 3 wars already.

          For goodness’ sake, some humanity please.

      • Blah,blah, blah. We’re assuming we read a real and legitimate account. We also know that Hamas uses human shields, murders suspected collaborators and is the terrorist entity providing casualty counts.

        Good old Hamas who exploits Palestinians. They could have built bomb shelters for Palestinians. They could have brought in food, medical supplies and all sorts of other materials to help Palestinians but they did not.

        If you don’t hold hamas accountable you have blood on your hands and are a terrorist enabler.

        Making ridiculous remarks about missiles that don’t land anything doesn’t make it right or remove their deadly capabilities.

        The rabid warmongers you describe are people like Meshaal who hide in other countries because they can’t be asked to the dirty work.

        • ‘Blah, blah, blah’ refers to a real situation with real people suffering an extremely cruel and barbaric situation by a supposedly civilized entity.

          I’ll call Hamas a terrorist organization when you call the IDF one. In my view, they’re both terrorist organizations and the facts on the ground seem to suggest this. The difference here is that while the ‘intent’ might be the same, only one of them is anywhere near achieving the goal of ethnic cleansing, or as Israel itself admitted ‘to keep Gaza on the bring of economic collapse’ (

          All international organizations blame the majority of Gaza’s horrific situation on the inhuman and illegal siege that Israel has imposed on a largely defenseless civilian population.

          Hamas is a despicable organization, but their real life effects aren’t even comparable to that of Israel. Israel overwhelmingly slaughters civilians whereas most of Hamas’ victims are IDF soldiers currently IN Gaza.

          I find it utterly incredible that people can still believe politicians feeding them the most ridiculously surreal excuses even as countless activists, journalists and average citizens with Internet access show us the horrific unleashed by a terrorist state over a largely defenseless population.

          You’re free to call Hamas a terrorist group. But if you wish to be intellectually honest, and on the side of basic morality, I’d suggest you apply that same reasoning with the terrorist group that is actually murdering civilians rather than the one that “could have if we let it” because while the latter is the product of racist nationalist paranoia, the former is literally happening as we speak.

        • Tanvir Ansari

          Human Sheild?? my left foot. That’s what we have been hearing from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan to cover up barbarism.

    • John Mills

      Reason!!!! go and look at yourself in a mirror for God’s sake man.

    • Theurbanpoacher

      Israel is a State start by moving,and killing other people. You could get away with that up to about 1776 , but not in modern times with cameras like 1946.. The instagram wold of 2014 is going to change everything for Israel.. America will remove its support ..the jig is up

  • Larry Quentin

    Joey- seriously Israel could level all of Gaza if they wanted to. Countless videos show Hamas fighters shooting from hospitals, mosques, storing bombs at UN designated properties.

    Nalan was not hit precisely because she and the group were in the open and not amongst Hamas fighters.

    All those tunnels- Hamas could have let Civilians down there to be kept safe right?

    Hamas clearly is trying to shoot rockets at civilian areas. The fact they have not been successful in killing Israelis is not for lack of effort.

    • Nalan personally witnessed men, women and children slaughtered by Israeli fire. They were almost always in the open and utterly unrelated with Hamas. I’m sorry but after over 1,500 deaths, most of whom are civilians, it is a choice to be willfully ignorant to say that Israel doesn’t target civilians.

    • Imago Dei

      “Countless videos”? Really? The ONLY evidence that has been proven is that the UN found rockets stored at 2 ABANDONED schools. This did not give Israel the right to shell schools were refugees were staying. Israel has been indiscriminately shooting and shelling where ever it wants to, by it’s own admission. As far as your stupid claim that Nalan was not hit because of blahblahblah, neither were the children on the beach amongst Hamas fighters. Neither were the wounded and handicapped people in the hospital among Hamas fighters. Neither were the children in the playground near the UN shelter amongst Hamas fighters. Neither were the families in the shelter amongst Hamas fighters. Neither were the many families in their homes among Hamas fighters. Or the ambulances and journalists that were bombed in the streets during “ceasefires”. You are a transparent apologist for illegal Israeli aggression on an occupied civilian population who have been illegally invaded by this rogue terrorist state for many years. Yes, absolutely Israel could level all of Gaza. And that’s exactly what they are doing. Their mission is genocide. You are their enabler in this epic crime against humanity. Shame on you.

      • Hamas doesn’t wear uniforms so you don’t really know in all of these cases if we are talking about civilians or not. We’ll agree the boys on the beach weren’t soldiers and that was a huge and tragic mistake. I’ll hold Israel accountable for that.

        But I won’t let you use words like genocide because it is not happening and if you think it is you don’t know what the word means.

        And if you don’t hold Hamas accountable for exploiting Palestinians and for being terrorists, well you have blood on your hands. Well done.

        • Imago Dei

          Nice straw man. Can’t identify who they are so kill everyone. You won’t let me??! Just who do you think you are? While you serve as an apologist for war crimes and crimes against humanity, here’s a little enlightenment for you on Israel’s genocide of Palestine:

          • Apparently your reading comprehension and logical analysis are lacking so I will continue to educate you. Genocide refers to the destruction of a people and that is not happening. No one is being systematically rounded up and executed.

            I know some tools will claim otherwise but anyone with a modicum of knowledge and rational thought will agree that Israel is not trying to murder every single Palestinian. It probably hurts to admit that your lobby’s attempt to misuse, mischaracterize and abuse isn’t working.

            And my dear terrorist apologist you cannot refute the truth which is that Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization that uses human shields, is hated by Egypt and most Islamic countries and that they do not wear uniforms.

            Hence when you don’t wear uniforms you look like a civilian. You can attempt to ignore that point but I’ll push back every time. I already said Israel should be held accountable for mistakes but you refused to do the same which makes you a terrorist sympathizer, apologist and despicable human.

            You have blood on your hands. Keep supporting the people who exploit Palestinians. Keep supporting the people who knew they would go to war and didn’t make arrangements to protect their own. You probably support Assad and his brutal regime.


          • Let’s call it Ethnic Cleansing if you prefer, or Incremental Genocide as the Israel historian Ilan Pappe calls it. Too cruel? Call it a massacre. Whatever makes you sleep comfortably at night while defenseless children are still being slaughtered.

          • Imago Dei

            Show me your PhD in Middle Eastern Studies, asshat, or should that be murdering Zionist asshat for you?

            Yes, Israel is committing genocide.

            What we are witnessing now is the extension of the program of
            national erasure against the Palestinians that the Zionist project has
            always entailed, at times overtly, but more often covertly.

            As defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
            Article 2, it consists of “any of the following acts committed with
            intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or
            religious group, as such:”

            (a) Killing members of the group;

            (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

            (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
            calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

            (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

            (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

            The law protects national groups such as the Palestinians when they are targeted “as such,” i.e. for being Palestinians. Scholars note that
            “The ‘in whole or in part’ means that there is no lower limit to the
            number of people on which these acts may be committed. It is genocide
            even any of the Acts (a)-(e) are on one person with the intent
            described.” That is, it is not necessary that large numbers of persons
            be killed for a policy to qualify as a violation of this convention,
            though in the present Gaza campaign alone one in a thousand residents of
            Gaza has been killed by the Israeli military (the equivalent of killing
            310,000 Americans). The Israeli military deliberately knocked out the
            Gaza Strip’s only electricity plant, making it impossible for water
            purification plants to operate and so depriving most Palestinians of
            potable water. Infants and toddlers are at special risk of mortality
            from dirty water. The conditions of life imposed on the people of Gaza
            are indisputably causing serious mental and bodily harm.

            Ordinarily the Israeli campaign against the Palestinians is creeping
            and deliberate, involving processes of detention, and restriction: the
            abject denial of basic human rights and dignities that is integral to
            political and military occupation. It is “incremental genocide” (to
            borrow a phrase from the scholar Ilan Pappe).

            Israeli action against the Palestinians is slow out of political
            necessity; since World War II the world will typically not tolerate the
            attempt by one ethnic/national group to eliminate another (indeed on
            several occasions more powerful states have intervened militarily to
            attack those attempting to erase another people).

            But there are moments when the Zionist program against the
            Palestinian people involves a barrage of intensity and barbarity during
            which the complete scope of the nature of Israeli policy is unleashed
            full force. Israeli civil society is complicit in this ferocious drive
            as well. In addition to the horror of the current political and military
            assault against Gaza, groups of violent Israelis have been captured on
            video parading around Jerusalem and other cities chanting “Death to
            Arabs.” In one particularly disturbing scene, a splinter group of 3 to 5
            youths backed by a larger hostile faction set up a makeshift road block
            in west Jerusalem, stopping cars to inquire of the driver “Are you
            Jewish?” None dare answer in the negative; a horrific fate could await
            those who might answer “no.”

            These same radical groups (Im Tirtzu, among others) venerate Baruch
            Goldstein, the slaughterer of men, women, and children in the Ibrahimi
            Mosque in Hebron in February of 1994, honoring him with parties, street
            signs, and graffiti telling the world that “Dr. Goldstein was right”
            (Goldstein was a physician from New York).

            Likewise it is important to note that in a recent poll, 86.5% of
            Israelis surveyed said that they did not want to see a ceasefire take
            hold during the current assault on Gaza; the vast majority of Israeli
            citizens will the operation to continue even though 80% of the
            casualties have been non-combatants. (For a thorough investigation of
            contemporary Israeli society, see Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and
            Loathing in Greater Israel, 2013).

            The intent of Israel— – far removed from anything to do with
            immediate self-defense— – is to forever erase the Palestinian nation.
            If in the prosecution of this goal, women, children, the aged are killed
            by high-powered ordnance in the center of densely populated, civilian
            areas, so be it. The second purpose of this slaughter is to send the
            message that this kind of grotesquery can happen at any time of Israel’s
            choosing. Up to this point in the bombardment more than 400,000
            Palestinians—a third of the population of Gaza—- have been driven out of
            their homes and left without electricity or other necessities of life.

            The Israeli leadership behaves with utter impunity. Netanyahu’s
            government is able to push international opinion to the brink of
            condemnation and censure (Latin America has been the moral conscience of
            the globe over the course of the last two weeks). But the Israeli
            government then settles back into its normal pattern of “incremental

            Only a massive swell of negative global opinion, widespread protest,
            institutionalized boycott, broad divestment, and/or huge public
            condemnation can stem the tide of unchecked Israeli aggression. Internal
            citizen pressures against all governments who support Israeli atrocity
            might be able bring Israel to its senses; the Likud government clearly
            will not cease this destruction of its own volition.

            What we are seeing now are the horrible consequences of Israeli
            policy, laid bare for the world to see. If we remain silent, that policy
            may well prove successful.

            Luke Peterson received a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from The University of Cambridge in 2012.

  • Mahmoud almasri

    The experience must have been horrifying.
    Glad she made it out safe..

  • AtoZ

    Gentlemen, when the scared and brainwashed moderates begin blaming their war crimes on this little entity called Hamas, please remind them that Israel itself created Hamas. They state everything is Hamas’s issue, but never acknowledge that they themselves created Hamas so they have a religious group to bomb instead of a nationalist group like the PLO, which was more concerned with having their own country.

    Sorry war supporters, your lies and propaganda have been completely broken. You must pay for the crimes being done in your name. You can’t create a monster, unleash it on a population after you nurture it, then immediately kill that population with a 80% civilian death rate to hunt your own monster you sick disgusting monsters. Calling you a monster is an insult to many monsters out there and I’d like to apologize to the monsters I’ve offended.

  • […] incident described by Al-Sarraj is the most recent, and perhaps the most notorious, example of the tragedy associated with […]

  • […] incident described by Al-Sarraj is the most recent, and perhaps the most notorious, example of the tragedy associated with […]

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