Gaza City – Fatima el-Alayan sits in her wheelchair, surrounded by her family and hundreds of other people in Shifa Hospital.
The 80-year-old grandmother’s deeply lined face is resigned. Displacement is not a new experience for her but, she says, this time feels somehow worse than the Nakba she lived through in 1948.
“We don’t have any food,” Fatima said. “This is far harder than what I remember from 1948. The Israelis keep killing children.”
Fatima came to the hospital from her home in the Shuja’iyya area west of Gaza City four days ago, seeking safety from the relentless Israeli bombing.
She is from al-Majdal, which, along with four other ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, was flattened to make way for the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
“I was five years old [in 1948],” she recalled. “I remember we helped the new Israeli settlers out, we gave them wheat, and food.”
Fatima and the rest of the 750,000 Palestinians who were forcibly displaced more than seven decades ago were never allowed to return to their homes.
Orders to leave
On Thursday night, the Israeli military dropped leaflets and called residents in the north of the Gaza Strip to evacuate and head south in the besieged coastal enclave.
The el-Alayans had to leave their home in Shuja’iyya after an Israeli attack bombed their neighbour’s house, where 60 people had been sheltering, hoping they would be safe.
“Where are the Arab leaders?” Fatima cried out. “No one in the world is coming to our aid.”
Fatima is among the thousands of Palestinians now crowding the Shifa Hospital grounds, all of them forced to leave their homes due to constant Israeli bombardment.
According to the government media office in Gaza, at least 40,000 have taken refuge at the hospital, believing it to be the safest option.
Families have set up blankets in the corridors, outside on the hospital grounds, and around clinics. They are here, hoping that at the very least a hospital will be spared Israeli bombs.
The Israeli war on the Gaza Strip has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children. More than 6,000 others have been wounded, and entire neighbourhoods flattened.
Imm Ahmad Abu Ateina, 60, fled her home on Hmeid Street with her daughters and grandchildren, 20 people in all.
“Where else could we go?” she asked. “If I were to leave the hospital, where would I go with my children?
“We didn’t have time to collect our belongings,” she said. “We slept on the floor on a blanket. Shame on the Arab leaders for watching this happen to us.”
Sabreen Jaradeh has been at the Shifa Hospital since she left her home in Beit Hanoun. She has been taking care of an unidentified young girl who had arrived a few days ago at the hospital after an Israeli bomb hit her home in the Shati refugee camp.
“My brother told me there was a girl crying because she lost her family. I’ve been taking care of her since last night. She cries out for her mother a lot but at least she is eating.”