Amid an unprecedented escalation, an Islamic Relief worker* in Gaza describes the rollercoaster of despair and hope as a temporary truce is announced.
We are now in the 48th day of the Israeli war on Gaza, and the situation is getting worse every day. Yes, they are now talking about a temporary humanitarian pause, but I still hear that more of my friends have been killed, more people have lost precious possessions, more destruction everywhere in Gaza.
I have begun to think there will be no place to return to after this war ends.
Will this war end? My questions never end. We are living in perilous, uncertain times. We have no idea what the future holds for us.
A huge stream of news engulfs us, but among this, any news about a possible ceasefire is the most important to us. Even a small mention or rumour of a ceasefire will see the news spread like wildfire across WhatsApp groups. One of my sisters spends most of her time at home, praying and reading Qur’an – but the smallest snippet of news about a ceasefire gets her out of the house, coming to share the news with us, hopeful that this time, it’ll prove true.
Every time I ask her, “Where did you get that information?”. From WhatsApp, she replies. I’m surprised, because I haven’t received this news – I don’t have an internet connection. Anyway, any time we hear there might be a ceasefire is the happiest moment of our day.
News of a ceasefire always begins in the evening. I think it’s because when USA officials start their day, the news starts coming to us here. I don’t know if the time difference is the correct explanation, but it makes sense to me.
However, the evening also brings fresh fear and misery, as the airstrikes and bombing intensify. In the morning, we wake to learn that scores more Palestinians have been killed, and more destruction inflicted on Gaza.
We feel sad, deflated, and like the news of ceasefire was just a cruel fake.
Hope running sky-high
In the last couple of days, news of a ceasefire has become more frequent. Our hopes for an end to this nightmare are now sky-high.
Here in Gaza we are all so exhausted it defies description. Everyone has tasted the loss of loved ones or belongings. Everyone has their own story of suffering. We want this to stop right now – not in 10 minutes.
Yesterday, we had confirmation that the humanitarian pause will take place. We were happy, feeling we have reached the end of this dark tunnel we have been going through.
Me and my brother can’t go home because our homes are in a place that’s still unsafe, but my sisters started planning to return to their homes in the south, from which they evacuated some weeks ago. One thought to travel on a donkey cart – few people have fuel for cars, these days – 20 km to see her house and her husband. Her children were so happy at the thought of seeing their dad for the first time in around a month. But, talking to my brother-in-law on the phone, he advised her to stay away the first day of the truce, worried that it could still be dangerous. My niece broke down in tears, desperate to go home – she missed him so much.
Myself, I talked to my friends in the south and my wife’s family, and we started planning to meet. I suggested we meet in the middle, but then we realised that without cars or public transport, a meeting wouldn’t be possible. I only have a few litres of petrol left in my car, which I’m saving – I’ll need it to get my family home, when this nightmare is over. Until then, I can’t go anywhere.
I had been telling myself that surely, at least humanitarian assistance will be allowed. We would find some food. I was dreaming of refueling my car or refilling the gas cylinders for my mum – all a mistake, hopes and thoughts that turned to mist, gone by sunrise.
A temporary pause is not enough to end our suffering
I’m painfully aware that this truce is only a temporary pause, not a ceasefire: Israel insists it will escalate its operation afterwards. I heard they may expand their assault to reach the south, where 2 million Gazans are trapped, many far from home.
This is not the end of this war, our suffering continues.
Tonight alone, there have been about 10 airstrikes in the area where my family and I are staying. In addition, there is still artillery shelling from land and sea. I cannot go check if my house and all my belongings are still there, I’ve no way to know if they have been destroyed. I can’t meet my friends who are still in Gaza City.
This pause does not mean things are over. Even if we returned to our homes, the work before us is vast. I heard tanks destroyed or damaged every street in the city, I have seen a report saying 60% of all houses in Gaza have been totally or partially destroyed.
My dear readers, we have lived in a besieged city for around 17 years, but we love every corner of it. We have memories in all the places, we celebrated every event, we tried all the new restaurants, we enjoyed every grain of sand on the beaches, we collected the olives, and we created our hopes and dreams in this city.
We really hope this pause will be extended, and will lead to a lasting ceasefire. We pray to return to our city. We dream of rebuilding shattered lives, and we want to assist the many others in desperate need of Islamic Relief’s help. As a member of Islamic Relief’s incredible family of supporters, I ask you to pray for us, and to join us in calling for a ceasefire now.
Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.
*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague.
Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis on the ground. This information was correct as of the afternoon of Thursday 23 November.