All people fear death, yet this fear turns to terror when you are waiting for it.
More than 2 million Palestinian citizens lived a state of terror in the besieged Gaza Strip since May 10, when Israeli forces began raining the enclave with continuous bombing for 11 days, until a ceasefire came into effect. The heavy bombing left Palestinians in Gaza waiting for death in their homes, expecting to be turned into corpses beneath rubble at any minute, by yet another missile.
At least 248 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza throughout the Israeli assault, including 66 children and 9 women. Meanwhile, the shells fired by Hamas Movement which governs Gaza, killed 12 Israelis. While the Israeli Iron Dome intercepts most of Hamas’ thousands of rockets, and Israelis can take shield in shelters from Hamas’ fire, Palestinians in Gaza are unprotected, without any shelter from death and terror.
This is what Banyas Jawad felt in Gaza on 16 May when she wrote the following post on Twitter:
حاساها اخر ليلة.
والله اخر ليلة شكلها النا
— Banyas Jawad (@BanyasJ) May 15, 2021
I feel this is the last night.
By Allah, it seem like its our last night
The Israeli bombing of Gaza came in response to rockets fired by Hamas towards occupied Jerusalem, after Israeli forces and settlers ignored a deadline Hamas gave for them to withdraw from the area of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Muslim's holy site, and Al Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which have witnessed violence for weeks. Israeli forces have used rubber and live bullets in both sites against Palestinian demonstrators who rose to protest eviction orders made against Palestinians to leave their homes, resulting in the injury of hundreds. These events have evolved since the beginning of Ramadan in mid April, resulting in what became known as Damascus Gate Attack.
As Israeli bombs fell, causing destruction and death, people of Gaza tweeted to the world about their pain.
On 14 May, Ahmed Mortaja wrote on Twitter:
يارب احنا مش ارقام، احنا مش حيوانات نموت بهيك طريقة..
— أحمـد. (@Ahmed_Mortaja) May 13, 2021
“Oh God, we are not numbers, we are not animals to die in such a way. Remember our names, how we look, our feature, stories and dreams. Remember that we are not numbers
Meanwhile, Marah Elwadia, a journalist residing in Gaza, recalled her experience in the 2014 war on Gaza which lasted for 7 weeks and left more than 2.200 Palestinian dead, most of whom were civilians. She compared it to the current war, now that she's a mother.
بحرب عام ٢٠١٤ كنت بين أهلي ومش متحملة، اليوم أنا أم. بفكر في إبني اللي معي، وبفكر في زوجي اللي بيشتغل بالميدان، وبفكر بأهلي اللي تحاصروا الليلة في بيتهم والسما كانت تمطر صواريخ وقذائف https://t.co/3ZSk8bY0J0
— Marah M. Elwadia (@MarahWadia) May 14, 2021
In 2014 war, I was among my family and couldn't bear [what was happening]. Today, I'm a mother and thinking of my son who is with me, and husband who is working on the ground, and my family who were besieged last night in their home, while the sky was raining rockets and missiles.
Nour, another Gazan citizen, wrote on Twitter:
أصعب تجربة ممكن يمر فيها إنسان على وجه الأرض هي إنه يكون أب أو أم في وقت الحرب. شعور العجز التام أمام خوف طفلك، وعدم قدرتك على توفير الأمن إله شيء أصعب من الوصف.#GazaUnderAttack
— Nour Gaza (@NourGaza) May 13, 2021
The most difficult experience in this life is to be a father or mother in a time of war. It's the feeling of utter powerlessness before your kid's fear. Your disability to make him feel safe is more difficult than any words can describe.
Meanwhile, on 15 May, Riham Al-Kolak wrote on her Facebook page, “Oh God, please have mercy on us, we can't bear this”. The following day, Reham wrote her last post: “Oh Allah keep us safe”, which was shared over 8,300 times, after she and her whole family were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
This state of terror isn't limited only to those who are living in Gaza nowadays, but is felt by every Palestinian even if abroad, especially Gazan people who are away.
Said Yacoubi, a doctor from Gaza who lives in the United Kingdom, posted on 18 May on Facebook:
“My dad sitting on the rubbles in front of our damaged house in Gaza following the night when 10 of our neighbours were murdered by Israeli terrorist army (2 women and 8 children). His eyes are full of pain, his body is exhausted, his left hand is injured with blood on his clothes and his heart-wrenching face says a lot about how we feel.
Coexistence, resistance and escaping death
Rasha Abushaban, who lives in Gaza, tweeted constantly to share details not known to people outside Gaza, including Gazans’ attempts to coexist with the bombing while keeping a seemingly ordinary life and celebrating Muslim's Eid el-Fitr, which marks end of the Ramadan fast, and through which Israel continued its bombing. She tweeted about her family keeping with Palestinian tradition of cooking a dish of beef stew to mark the occasion:
— Rasha N. Abushaban (@TeaRash_Rash) May 11, 2021
The bombing is ongoing and we are preparing chard for Sumaghiyyeh. My mother swore that, death or not, we should not have Eid without making Al Sumaghiyyeh. Is this resistance, or not?
But her tweets also reflected the horrifying situation people in Gaza lived through, which she described in another tweet as akin to ” a tryout for Judgment Day”:
I don't know how our nerve system is taking all of this, or struggling to, but what I know that whoever still alive in #Gaza after this aggression comes to an end will carry a trauma that will spend a lifetime to recover from it #GazaUnderAttack
— Rasha N. Abushaban (@TeaRash_Rash) May 14, 2021
لا أعرف كيف تتحمل أجهزتنا العصبية كل هذا، أو تكافح من أجل ذلك، ولكن ما أعلمه هو أنه من يكتب له النجاة بعد انتهاء هذا العدوان على غزة فسيحمل معه صدمة سيمضي عمرهكله في التعافي منها.
Another Gazan mother wrote about her attempt to ‘escape death':
رغبةٌ ملحة راودتني. غسلت وجوه صغاري وسرحت شعرهم الجميل الناعم، ألبستهم أجمل ثيابهم. حضنتهم مطولًا، وشممت رائحتهم الزكيّة. أصبحوا أجمل من أن يشتهيهم الموت، لعله يخطأهم لهذه المرة أيضًا.#GazaUnderAttack
— Nour Gaza (@NourGaza) May 16, 2021
I had a strong urge to wash my children's faces and comb their beautiful soft hair and dress them up in their most beautiful clothes and I held them long and tight, and took in their beautiful smells. They became too beautiful to be targeted by death. May it overlook them this time too.
Khaled Safi's tweet, in which he wrote about a similar attempt to trick death, was retweeted thousands of times:
“أغرب ما فعلته اليوم هو أنني تبادلت أولادي مع أخي، أخذت منه اثنين من أولاده واعطيته اثنين من أبنائي حتى لو تعرضت لقصف الاحتلال يبقى من نسلي أحد ولو قُصف هو يبقى من ذريته..
وربنا يحفظنا ويحفظ شعب فلسطين”#غزة_تباد #غزة_تحت_القصف pic.twitter.com/rjGZvkgBhe
— خالد صافي #فلسطين ?? (@KhaledSafi) May 18, 2021
The strangest thing I did today was exchange my kids with my brother. I took two of his kids and gave him two of mine. This way, even if bombed by occupation forces, our offspring would live on. May God protect us and the Palestinian people
Civilians in Gaza also used mobile phones and cameras to document the instants in which residential towers got hit across the city, airing them live across social media, including Al Galaa Tower in which international news outlets had their offices, but was targeted by Israel on May 15.
Now that a ceasefire has put an end to the bombing – although many fear its temporary – Gaza survivors share details of the scale of destruction left behind to their souls and city's infrastructure, which has suffered significantly from the 11 days of relentless bombing.