‘Israel’s army tanks are here. We are facing imminent death in Gaza City’

In his last report before contact was lost on Monday, an Al Jazeera writer describes the terror on the ground.

Israeli tanks
Israeli tanks roll through Gaza, amid the ongoing Israeli army ground operation, November 21, 2023 [Israeli army via Reuters]

Gaza City – As I look out of the window this morning, the Israeli army’s tanks are just a few hundred metres away. They have apparently reached deep into the centre of Gaza City during the night.

My two-year-old has only just fallen asleep beneath the window. Up all night and terrified by the sound of the gunfire, he has been living off powdered milk and cereal for the past four days – his lips are dry.

In recent days, we have felt a growing sense that we will be unable to survive Israel’s bombardment much longer.

Fear and deprivation have been our constant companions – we are struggling around the clock.

My parents, in their 60s, have not taken their daily medication for more than a month. They’re defying horror and illness all at once.

My attempts to go out and get their medication have all been a failure. Walking out to the pharmacy is no longer possible – both the pharmacy and the streets have been destroyed.

Explosions drawing closer by the minute

Like hundreds of other families, we cannot leave Gaza City and go south – it is too dangerous. We are forced to stay by the relentless bombing of every major road leading to the south of the strip.

At night, we men keep up a mask of fragile strength so the women and children might have some hope of feeling relatively secure. Really, we are all anxious and terrified.

As the war jets hover overhead all night, the sound of the ground missiles fired from military tanks is even more terrifying: What if we are hit by one?

The explosions are drawing closer by the minute, shaking the building. It can surely only be a matter of time before artillery hits our walls. If we are struck, it is most likely that all 30 of us, huddled together in a two-bedroom apartment – including children, elderly and fleeing neighbours – will be killed.

Through the day, another form of torture rears its head, adding to the psychological warfare we are enduring. Thirst and hunger.

We used to go out to find whatever we could – clean water or tinned food. For the past few days, however, our ability to move around the neighbourhood has become completely impossible. We have a stark choice – stay inside and hungry or risk being shot if we go out.

If you can make it safely to an hours-long queue for clean water outside a humanitarian shelter, you are lucky.

‘Lucky’ if you die without suffering

Anyone who gets the chance to bid farewell to their loved ones is even luckier.

And, if you die without any suffering, you are the luckiest of all.

Entire families have died during the ground invasion and have been discarded where they fell to bleed to death. There is no safety to be had anywhere – not in hospitals, churches, mosques or schools.

What used to be the most beautiful places in Gaza are now the scenes of a horror movie. They have mostly been reduced to black debris.

The Israeli ground incursions across the city centre have obliterated every facet of our lives. Not only is the fighting endangering our very lives but forces us to wrestle with the lack of food and water as well.

Death is everywhere

Death is everywhere, so is destruction. Out on the streets, dead bodies lie on top of the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Injuries receive no medical attention. All the health facilities and ambulance services are out of service.

Hospitals have become a fighting ground as Israeli troops storm them, denying thousands of civilians their right to seek medical treatment.

The military tanks deployed on the ground, along with snipers on high rises, have blanketed the city with fear and death. We await an imminent telecoms and internet blackout, leaving us in the dark soon enough.

While we wait to be cut off, emergency services and civil defence crews, as well as ordinary citizens, make desperate attempts at communication with the outside. The news is hinting at a possible temporary truce, but we need a full ceasefire.

For more than 40 days, life has become more and more dangerous and unbearable.

Survival is our daily routine, and we are losing hope that we can continue for even a few more days.

My family and I hope now, that if we are to die, we die peacefully. If we are to live, we want only to live peacefully too. Neither of these options seems likely right now.

Source: Al Jazeera