It happened many times that I watched on news innocent people forced to evacuate either because of internal conflicts or wars being launched against their countries, but I never thought I’d be one them one day. One day during Israeli deadly military escalation against Gaza when the sky of beloved gorgeous Gaza was in flames burning like a pile of hay, and houses were trembling and shaking. Hearts were beating so fast, bombs were falling like acid rain killing every form of life, stress and tension in the air and only one question to be asked: To leave or not to leave? Would it be safe to leave anyway? And the answer was surely no.
My sisters and brothers were gathering in my room. Some were biting their nails, and others were crying, and they were wondering after tanks shells fell in our area and shrapnel strongly hit our house if we would be the next to leave this world? And if so, how would our parents, who had left for a prayer visit to Mecca before the attack, handle that? Each one was asking the other if they had heard anything yet about a ceasefire, and unfortunately the answer was also no. Apparently, Israeli soldiers are not satisfied yet with the gruesome killing of children, women and people with special needs –the numbers of dead being more than 1300 innocent civilians.
”What are we going to do?” I asked. “Bombs already fell next to us.” My sister suggested we move to my uncle Aref’s house immediately. I thought, ”What if they shoot us while we’re heading to there?” But I could never show what I was thinking because I couldn’t bear to see my sisters crying and more frightened. Our decision was finally made:We would go to uncle Aref’s house. My brother called his friend to take us in his car; indeed, my brother knew that no taxis would be available and only a friend would do us this favor.
It’s like death is hunting people everywhere down the streets and crossroads. The car finally arrived and was waiting for us, and I could finally take a breath after holding it for a very long night. I took a look in my older brother’s eyes and I was shocked and surprised by the amount of fear and tension that I could touch in his expression. ”Goodness, is this person really my brother? I mean it’s not the first time we’re going through an aggressive Israeli attack. Besides, during the last attack in 2012 when I told him that we should move to a safer place, he laughed and said: “Go to sleep and everything will be just fine.” What changed? Was he aware of any imminent danger? And if so, why was I not aware of it?” I was thinking.
Half of the fear that was constantly knocking on my heart was coming solely from my looking at my brother.
Bags packed, car waiting to take us to a new challenge,outcome unknown.” Thank goodness, we finally reached a safe place!” I said. My uncle’s family were very generous, welcoming and amazingly made it much easier on us to leave home; indeed, we even couldn’t feel the time that passed as we were talking and playing cards together. Our hearts stopped with each phone ring because it could have been bad news about someone close to us being killed or injured by intensive brutal Israeli planes, tanks and battleship shelling. Or it could have been an order from the Israeli occupation forces to evacuate quickly because they believed a civilian house in Gaza represented a serious threat to the safety of Zionist colonists; therefore, it must be wiped out.
A killing silence arose in the air when my uncle’s phone rang. ”Is it a bad news about any of our relatives? Or the Israelis?” everyone waited to know. Neither of our fears was correct. It was a call from a neighbor telling my uncle to leave home quickly because the Red Crescent directly next to my uncle’s house got a bomb warning from the Israeli occupation forces! Evacuate again? To where? We left quickly and headed to my other uncle’s house in the same area. The point of moving to Uncle Azzam’s was that it’s a little further and it’s a first floor apartment, while Uncle Aref’s was fourth floor flat, and it’s much more dangerous to stay in a multistory building. After waiting for an hour at Uncle Azzam’s, we went back to Uncle Aref’s apartment after he got a call from a neighbor telling him the Red Crescent would not be hit, that it was just a rumor.
That night when we returned, the Bader family,just a short street away from us, was hit. We could hear them shouting and screaming,calling for help, calling for ambulances. More than four ambulances went there and took dozens of martyrs and seriously injured people. In addition, many areas and houses were hit and we felt like someone was grabbing our hearts with each explosion. After three days of sitting in my uncle’s house, we made up our minds to go back to our own house. My uncle’s family had been welcoming, but we also didn’t want to be a heavy burden. We returned home safe and sound. We had missed our home a lot.
Apparently there is no such thing as a “safe place” in Gaza anymore. What did Gaza do, under siege for eight years, to deserve being attacked with this cruelty and barbarism? My family is a typical example of a Gazan family, and our everyday life during Israeli escalations is like the life of everybody else. Israel is equipped with military and technologically modern weapons and internationally-forbidden weapons. As I write, they continue to kill poor civilians. Only Allah knows how this will end….
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Mahmoud is a 19-year-old student of English Literature at the (recently bombed) Islamic University of Gaza. He has five lovely sisters and three lovely brothers. They live in Gaza City.