After Israel’s massacre in Nuseirat … when will the world see us?

Maram Humaid writes of a harrowing day and night as Gaza hovered between life and death while Israel freed four people.

people run through dust
Palestinians walk through smoke and dust following an Israeli attack on the Nuseirat camp on June 8, 2024 [Bashar Taleb/AFP]

Deir el-Balah, Gaza – Yesterday was anything but ordinary.

It felt like descending into the depths of hell, the war returned to its brutality and intensity as the world erupted into chaos, engulfed in flames, shelling and bombing.

The night before, relentless artillery fire continued across central Gaza, from east Bureij and Deir el-Balah to Maghazi.

Around 11am, I was eating breakfast with my children before heading to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital to work on my stories when everything suddenly turned upside down.

The artillery bombardment escalated, warplanes filled the skies, and the air strikes shook our home; they were shooting at homes in Deir el-Balah, around us.

The roar of tanks firing was accompanied by relentless shelling, and helicopters, quadcopters and drones hovering.

Fear gripped us. Should we flee or hunker down at home?

The news said something was happening in Nuseirat, but the bombing was all around us. Then, a massive blow hit a house right by Al-Aqsa Hospital. Then we heard that the Israeli army had told the hospital to evacuate.

It was crazy. In that moment, I thanked God I hadn’t been at the hospital but I could feel the terror that was probably unfolding there.

The hospital, overflowing with displaced families and makeshift media tents, stood as the lone medical facility in central Gaza, dealing with a staggering number of casualties.

What fate awaited these people?

In moments, hundreds of displaced people began to flee in panic from the hospital, their faces etched with fear, wandering aimlessly through the streets of Deir el-Balah.

Amid the chaos, cries and screams filled the air, a collective question: “Where do we go from here?”

The reality was grim, conflicting reports muddying the situation. Some reported a ground incursion into Nuseirat, others said a specialised unit stormed a house near the Nuseirat market. The shelling, gunfire, and frenzied aerial and artillery bombardment continued.

In our home, amid a palpable sense of alarm, nerves frayed as we tried to process the onslaught of events. I was trying to reach fellow journalists who had evacuated the hospital but to no avail.

At one point, I realised they might launch a ground operation, so I started throwing essentials into a bag.

My brother, who had left for Egypt two months prior, called, interrupting the chaos. Concern etched his voice as he asked about our safety, cautioning against leaving because the streets were full of displaced people and bombs.

The relentless barrage of bombing and gunfire persisted for about two hours. Then news emerged from Israeli media, attributing the chaos to a military operation to free four Israelis taken captive on October 7.

A woman injured in an Israeli airstrike on a school
A woman injured in an Israeli air raid on an UNRWA school in the Nuseirat refugee camp at Al-Aqsa Hospital for treatment, Deir el-Balah, June 6, 2024, two days before the attack Maram Humaid writes about [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu]

There were moments of silence and hesitation as the situation calmed and the bombing and shooting quieted. Then we started seeing scenes of the dead and wounded arriving at hospitals.

People were documenting the victims who fell in the bombing of the market and homes. Dismembered body parts of children and the bodies of people lying along the road the tanks took to leave. The terror, chaos, and mass casualties inflicted by Israel to free its captives.

Initially, official figures stood at 50 civilian deaths in the operation, which climbed steadily to 226, then to 274, as confirmed by the Government Media Office.

The agonising questions began: Is Palestinian blood so expendable? More than 200 killed in less than two hours to release just four Israeli captives?

A heaviness came over my heart. Frustration and deep sadness gripped me as I watched the tragedies of those who survived the ordeal, grappling with the aftermath of their trauma.

Communications were down. I couldn’t reach several relatives and friends displaced from Rafah to Nuseirat. My husband got a call – his uncle’s wife and cousin had been killed.

My efforts to check on friends yielded no answers until, hours later, I came across their social media posts, detailing the horrors they endured.

Each survivor recounts a miraculous escape from death. My friend Nour, an UNRWA teacher and mother of three kids, shared on X: “I can’t believe what I experienced today. At 11 o’clock, we were next to the tent, Yamen and I, and suddenly the Apache was above our heads and started shooting bombs and bullets at people in the sea and the tents … We started running … as if it were the Day of Judgment.”

Islam, my friend who follows news of her family’s news from Malaysia, was told what happened by her sister. She wrote on X: “My sister … described the scene … ‘Like the Day of Resurrection, people are running and crying in the streets and do not know where to run to survive … Air, land and sea bombardment from everywhere … God is sufficient for us, and He is the best disposer of affairs, O mighty one of the heavens, avenge us and heal our chests. #Gaza’”

The story is the same for us all. We bear witness to what happened: chaos, hell, screaming, terror, relentless bombardment, gunfire, exodus, and death at every turn.

Amid these thoughts, I was interrupted by my daughter Baniyas, who experienced every moment with tears in her eyes, asking incessantly: “Mama, will they reach Deir el-Balah? Are those sounds far away?”

I can only reassure her: “Don’t be afraid, mama. Fear is etched into us; what lies ahead?”

The most distressing aspect of a massacre may be its portrayal in the media. Images of liberated Israeli captives circulated, statements lauded Israel’s success in freeing four people – but what about the 274 people killed?

Are we mere numbers? Is our blood so easily disregarded? Our suffering overlooked? The lives of Israeli captives deemed more valuable than ours? Why doesn’t the world see us? Why doesn’t the world feel?

We’ve been victimised time and again by war, and twice as much by neglect, oppression, and indifference.

Just two days ago, it was announced that the US’s floating dock would be repaired, that its negligible assistance would be restored. Yet its trucks were then used to perpetrate a massacre in Nuseirat to free Israelis.

By what rationale does the world permit this?

a carryon with three small shoulder bags and back packs around it
Maram started throwing a few essentials into bags, afraid of a possible land operation [Maram Humaid/Al Jazeera]

Is there a concerted effort to eradicate us? We’ve never placed our trust in the US’s role, and we never will. But how brazen can they be?

We’re facing hunger, bombings, and daily war, only for aid trucks coming through a corridor meant to aid us to be used to ambush us to rescue Israeli captives.

The world rushes to shield Israel, to turn against us, to conspire at our expense. Our blood, our sorrow, our tragedies – everyone dances upon them.

We’re labelled terrorists every minute while they murder, unhindered.

Gaza will not forget or forgive.

Words, reports, and statistics are futile. There’s no point in talking.

Every night, after each massacre, I retreat to my mattress in our overcrowded home of displaced people. I hold my son tight and implore God to envelop us in His mercy, to spare us further grief.

We lament to You, O Lord, the world’s betrayal, our brothers’ silence, and our allies’ pressure against us.

We will not forgive; we will not forget.

Source: Al Jazeera