In the shadows of destruction and despair: Voices from Gaza's devastation

The Israeli army destroys a house above civilian residents without warning in the Yarmouk area, west of Gaza City. Photo by Mohammed Zaanoun @m.z.gaza. Used with permission.

This piece was first published by Raseef22, on October 10, 2023.  It was written by Mohammed Atallah. An edited version is republished here, under a content sharing agreement.

With deep sorrow and anguish, Naama Abu Nada stands before the Palestine Tower in the heart of Gaza City. She gazes upon the remnants of her residential apartment in the hundred-unit building, reduced to rubble by Israeli airstrikes following a harrowing night of relentless Israeli military assaults across various regions in the Gaza Strip. Abu Nada recounts to Raseef22, her weariness and sorrow etched across her face:

We endured an incredibly distressing night after receiving a call from an Israeli intelligence officer demanding an immediate evacuation of the building without taking anything. It was slated for an airstrike. I hurriedly left with my children, with barely enough time to grab a bag containing essential official documents and identification that I had prepared in anticipation of this moment.

She voiced her frustration with an undertone of anger, “We are ordinary people with no affiliations to anything. Why are they doing this to us? The building had dozens of families. They have displaced us and rendered us homeless. Where can we go, oh God, where?”

The situation wasn't much different for Haj Abi Rami Al-Sharafi. His six-story home in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip was obliterated by Israeli aircraft, and he barely managed to wake his children and grandchildren to flee in time, saving them before the house became a pile of rubble on top of them.

Abu Rami clutches his wooden cane with trembling hands. Seated on a plastic chair before his shattered home, his eyes reflect the grief he feels after dedicating many years to building it and securing his family's well-being, as he narrates:

The house where nearly 30 people lived is now gone, and we find ourselves displaced and homeless, uncertain of our fate or what lies ahead for us. What matters most is that we survived, and none of our children were harmed. This is the policy of the occupation, which targets and bullies us, the unarmed and defenseless residents.

This is how Abu Rami describes what had befallen him before the interview was suddenly interrupted by the sounds of explosions perilously close to our location, due to the continuous Israeli airstrikes ongoing in the Gaza Strip.

Residents of Gaza endured a harrowing night of intense Israeli airstrikes which resulted in numerous casualties and hundreds of injuries. Palestinian civil defense teams continue their relentless efforts to rescue families whose homes were mercilessly targeted without prior warning, leaving them trapped beneath the debris.

Officials in the Palestinian Health Ministry have confirmed that the Israeli aggression has, up until this point, led to the loss of more than 1,055 lives and left over 5,184 individuals wounded. It has also forced nearly 20,000 citizens to flee their homes, seeking refuge in 23 shelters scattered across various regions within Gaza.

During a press conference detailing developments regarding the Israeli aggression on Gaza, Salama Marouf, the head of Government Media Office in Gaza, revealed that Israeli airstrikes have inflicted complete devastation on at least 13 residential towers and buildings, resulting in the total destruction of 159 residential units. 

Furthermore, 1,210 residential units have suffered partial damages, with 36 units rendered uninhabitable due to the ferocity of the Israeli attacks. Among the targeted structures are public facilities, including government administrative offices, several civil affairs offices spread across multiple governorates, two mosques, and 19 facilities affiliated with the Ministry of Interior and National Security.

The relentless Israeli airstrikes have driven hundreds of families, particularly those residing in border areas, to flee their homes and seek shelter in UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) centers, schools, and other designated facilities. Scenes of displacement continue to unfold as families carry their bags, mattresses, and children to the nearest available shelters.

Amid this mass displacement, Ahmed Naeem, a man in his fifties from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, now finds himself sleeping on the floor inside UNRWA Preparatory School “A.” He clings to a small radio, listening to the news bulletin after being forced to abandon his home due to the relentless bombardment.

Naeem described to Raseef22 the seismic impact on his neighborhood, where most neighboring houses were targeted. “There was nothing left for us. The bombings forced us to flee, leaving our homes and families behind until we found the nearest school to seek refuge from the relentless airstrikes.”

Across the hall, in another classroom, Um Saeed, a woman in her forties, covered the windows with a blanket she had brought along. She attempted to comfort her daughters and sons, saying, “I pray that this will not last long, and we'll return to our homes.”

The Al-Aqsa Storm operation

Concurrently with the aforementioned developments, Palestinian resistance factions persist in the operation they have dubbed “The Al-Aqsa Storm.” The confrontations continue within settlements that the resistance has successfully penetrated. Simultaneously, rockets continue raining down on Israeli towns. Meanwhile, Israel is endeavoring to reclaim its lost deterrence by targeting Palestinian civilian homes and causing the loss of hundreds of lives.

Dr. Walid Al-Mudallal, an expert on Israeli affairs and politics, believes that the situation in Gaza is primed for further escalation. He commented:

 We are talking about prisoners taken and the incursion into areas that Israel deems its own sovereign territory. The Israeli side is ready for escalation, and this time, the battle is not like any other.

In an interview with Raseef22, Al-Mudallal asserts that the resistance remains undeterred, having strategically infiltrated all Gaza border settlements, and they are unwaveringly pursuing a meticulously planned strategy.

Regarding his predictions for the coming days, Al-Mudallal points out that the Israeli military, faced with the crumbling of its deterrence and its repeated failures to regain control of the settlements for the second consecutive day, is grappling with a dilemma. The persistent presence of resistance forces in these areas poses a significant challenge, despite Israel's nuclear supremacy in the region and its ability to wield force oppressively as it pleases and with impunity.

Al-Mudallal anticipates that Israel will deploy an overwhelming amount of force, laying siege to certain areas, severing transportation routes in Gaza, and undertaking efforts to displace civilians as a means of exerting pressure on the resistance. This will precede the consolidation of their internal defenses and the recapture of the settlements. These actions will be conducted in tandem with operations to infiltrate resistance forces, apprehend captured soldiers and settlers, and secure control of strategic sites and weaponry.

Furthermore, he notes that the Israeli government has secured diplomatic and political support, garnering approval from various countries, most notably the United States, for its actions in Gaza, portraying them as necessary self-defense measures.

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