A young Palestinian from Gaza describes the horrors of Israeli air strikes and their impact on the human mind.
On the morning of May 13, when Muslims observed Eid, I woke up to bad news: my uncle had a heart attack that was triggered by Israel's intense air strikes on northern Gaza the previous night. He somehow survived.
The instinct of survival keeps every Palestinian in Gaza awake, as Israel unleashes terror--missiles, rockets, bombs and toxic gas--from its fighter jets on several occasions all through the day and night.
I recently recovered from coronavirus and I still haven't regained my sense of smell. The loss of smell can be fatal at a time when Israel has been relentlessly firing missiles and bombs and dropping toxic gas on Gaza. Every night, as I lay on my bed exhausted from the horrors of the Zionist regime, I often ask myself: "What if they attack us with chemical weapons, some deadly gas and I inhale it without knowing that it is death?"
Such dark thoughts are very common to take over Palestinian minds, especially on days like these. In my 24 years of existence, I have witnessed four wars that Israel imposed on us in 2008, 2012, 2014, and the current one.
The war machine
Looking back at those wars and the gruelling siege of Gaza, my hometown, it feels like a miracle to be alive. For Gazans, there is no end to difficult times. We have reconciled with the fact that as long as Israel occupies our land, we have to survive and navigate the siege. At times survival becomes so hard that you wouldn't wish this life on anyone.
Israel's war machine not only murders our men, women and children but also affects our brain and body. In the past 10 days, since Israel waged war on Gaza, I have lost track of time.
As the night arrives, my body stiffens up to prepare itself for the strain it will endure until the morning. The Israeli military takes sadistic pleasure to keep us awake in the night with constant air strikes. They want to drain us both mentally and physically.
I am afraid to go to sleep. I feel I may not wake up again. I fear that my existence will be reduced to a mere number. I have seen so many Palestinians with hopes and dreams being tallied up into a number. Last week's attacks took the death tally to 197, which included 58 children and 34 women.
While the war deprives you of sleep, it also steals your appetite. It also triggers you over small things – such as the loud ringtone on your father's phone, someone shutting a door with force. These sounds make your heart pound fast.
In the last few days, Israel has fired different types of missiles and bombs on Gaza. I can't differentiate them by name but I try to gauge their impact from the whistling sound they make in the air. The shriller the sound, the bigger the impact on the ground.
But there are other missiles that barely make any sound. You just hear the loud bang and you freeze in your tracks. All you could do is recite the Shahada, an Islamic oath: "La Ilaha Ilallah Muhammad-ur-Rasoolullah (There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger)."
In between the moments of calm, I text my friends and relatives to see if they are alright. Many of them have fled their homes in northern and eastern Gaza and taken refuge in the southern part of the city. I wonder whether that would help them escape the danger since the entire Gaza is getting hit.
A few days ago, I packed my backpack with my laptop, passport, ID card, wallet, and academic certificate. You never know when the missile will flatten your apartment building.
As I am writing this account and typing it up on my phone, I realised I may not be able to finish it. My phone has just 30 percent battery left. The Israeli air strikes and rocket attacks have caused power outages in the city. The last standing power grid has a few hours of gas left. Gaza will soon descend into darkness. The only lights visible in the sky will be of the Israeli firepower.
I will continue to record voice notes on my phone and share stories on my Instagram account until its battery lasts. I will keep recording the impact of each missile that hits our neighbourhood. If I die, at least I will leave some evidence behind.