Separated by Circumstances: Witnessing Gaza's Struggles from Afar After Leaving for Work

Separated by Circumstances: Witnessing Gaza's Struggles from Afar After Leaving for Work

"Witnessing Gaza's Tragedy from Afar: A Personal Chronicle of Loss and Desperation"

I hail from Gaza, my birthplace, my home. Recently, I managed to secure a nearly elusive permit from Israeli authorities, enabling me to leave Gaza for work-related meetings. The plan was to return on Oct. 11, but that plan never materialized. What unfolded from afar has become the most agonizing experience of my life.

The nights are sleepless, days blur with a persistent headache, and I navigate a haze of uncertainty about how I am managing. Alone in a room, my only solace comes from my family's messages reassuring me that they are still alive. Yet, more than 9,500 people in Gaza, many of them civilians and children, have reportedly lost their lives amid the relentless Israeli bombings in response to the deadly Hamas assault.

My journey into this nightmare began in a hotel room in Jordan on Oct. 7, awaiting Israeli approval to return home. That's when the horror started unfolding. The helplessness is overwhelming as I witness Israeli forces bombard a tiny strip of land, just 140 square miles, home to over 2 million people. Nowhere to escape, no shelters or safe havens. Residential buildings, mosques, refugee camps, schools—entire communities reduced to rubble.

On Oct. 13, Israel issued an order for over a million people to flee the northern Gaza Strip—an order nearly impossible to implement. My family, residing in Gaza City, had no refuge in the south, so they packed essentials and sought shelter within the evacuation zone where my sisters live. Tragedy struck on Oct. 19 as Israeli forces pounded the area, forcing my family to wander the streets amidst the bombardment, discovering my sister's home destroyed.

My 79-year-old father, 71-year-old mother, siblings, nephews, and nieces scattered among relatives in a different area within the central part of Gaza. While I wish they could be together, a small comfort remains in knowing I won't lose them all at once, a fate suffered by too many families.

In Gaza, the innocent pay the heaviest toll, and the Israel-Hamas war leaves a generation traumatized. The world's attention is implored not to forget these children, their futures hanging in the balance.

"Voices from Gaza: A Personal Account Amidst Tragedy and Blockades"

Every passing day amplifies the grim reality that my contact list is dwindling, marked by the loss of journalists and acquaintances. The question looms: how many more colleagues and neighbors will I lose? A recent call to a friend sheltering in an overcrowded UN Relief and Works Agency school within the evacuation zone revealed a heartbreaking reality—she had lost her wheelchair. In the event of an evacuation order, she wouldn't be able to run like others, a thought that terrifies her.

The prospect of a ground invasion adds another layer of fear for the vulnerable in Gaza. Communication is a lifeline, but with Israel cutting electricity to Gaza, even charging phones becomes a challenge. A recent telecommunications blackout intensified concerns, as messages to family members went unanswered. Reconnecting with them on Oct. 29 brought tears of relief.

Yet, the suffering in Gaza predates the recent Israeli response. For over 15 years, sweeping restrictions on movement and goods, compounded by Egyptian restrictions, have turned Gaza into an open-air prison. In 2021, Human Rights Watch categorized these measures as part of Israeli authorities' crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. The closure, affecting travel and blocking opportunities for education and professional pursuits, has imprisoned the majority of people under 30 who have never left Gaza.

Surviving prior escalations and interviewing countless victims, I've witnessed firsthand the oppression faced by Palestinians. From parents mourning lost children to individuals with disabilities struggling to flee attacks, the resilience of the people in Gaza is a testament to their enduring spirit in the face of adversity.

"A Plea from the Heart of Gaza: The Unending Toll on Mental Health"

Through my own experiences and the stories of those I've interviewed, I've come to understand that the mental health scars inflicted upon us are enduring. The echoes of explosions and the omnipresent specter of death create memories that linger perpetually. Israel's systematic cutting off of electricity, water, food, internet, and fuel to Gaza has pushed essential health, water, and sanitation services to the brink of collapse.

The blackout has forced water pumping wells out of service, leaving Gaza residents reliant on groundwater, which is largely unsuitable for human consumption. Despite recent aid deliveries through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the supplies fall woefully short of meeting Gaza's urgent needs. A friend's desperate text revealed a stark reality — her family had run out of food, and the last of her money was spent on water for her children.

In the midst of this ongoing nightmare, I anxiously await the day when I can return home. However, with each passing day, the uncertainty grows about what remains of the Gaza I know. The world must take action before it's too late. Abier Almasri, Senior Research Assistant at Human Rights Watch, urges the global community to recognize the urgency of the situation unfolding in Gaza and to intervene to prevent further devastation.

As I reflect on the mental health toll endured by myself and those whose stories I've documented, it becomes evident that the scars of our experiences are indelible. The haunting sounds of explosions and the constant shadow of death linger as memories that refuse to fade. The deliberate deprivation imposed by Israel—cutting off electricity, water, food, internet, and fuel—has not only brought essential services to the brink of collapse but has created a humanitarian crisis that jeopardizes the well-being of Gaza's residents.

The water pumping wells rendered inoperable due to the electricity blackout leave many relying on unfit groundwater for sustenance. Despite recent aid deliveries, the supplies remain woefully insufficient, with heart-wrenching messages from friends detailing the desperate struggle for basic necessities.

As I yearn for the nightmare to end and contemplate my eventual return home, the pressing question lingers: What will be left of the Gaza I know? With each passing day, the uncertainty deepens.

This is a plea for urgent global intervention, a call to action before it's too late. The world must not turn a blind eye to the crisis unfolding in Gaza. Abier Almasri, Senior Research Assistant at Human Rights Watch, implores the international community to recognize the gravity of the situation and take decisive steps to prevent further devastation. Time is of the essence, and collective action is imperative to avert further suffering in the heart of Gaza.

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