Notes From Gaza: When Will Death Stop Falling From Our Skies?

Our home keeps rocking. I hear constant blasts. My heart races ■ A Gazan woman's personal account of a weekend of fear

Rima Fathi
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Palestinian girl walks by a house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, May. 6, 2019.
Palestinian girl walks by a house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, May. 6, 2019.Credit: Hatem Moussa,AP
Rima Fathi

While I was lying in bed keeping track of the news in Gaza through social media, the loudspeaker at the mosque by my family home called out words and expressions, including the word “Qamar” – moon. At first I thought they were declaring the appearance of the Ramadan crescent moon and the start of the fast on Monday. Suddenly my brother ran in, shouting as loud as he could, “Open the windows, open the windows.” My second brother called to the neighbors to open their windows and doors: “They're going to bomb Burj al-Qamar.”

Burj al-Qamar, the Moon Tower, is 120 meters southeast of our home, next to the Barcelona Garden, in a neighborhood called Tal al-Hawa, south of Gaza City. Dozens of people, including babies, women and the elderly live in the 10-storey high-rise.

I jumped out of bed and went to my father in his room. I knew in my heart that nothing could protect us from the death descending from the skies.

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My father put a lot of effort into reassuring me, my brothers and my mother, trying to ward off the monster of terror and make us feel safe. Inside, I wondered where safety could come from when dozens of drones, which we call “zenana”, helicopters, and F-16 jets are flying through the Gazan skies day and night, like ravens seeking destruction.

Dozens of people from the neighborhood gathered by Burj al-Qamar. An officer from the Israeli Occupation Forces called a resident, telling him to evacuate within two minutes. Meanwhile, the zenana fired warning shots, one after the other.

A man from the civilian rescue and emergency service intervened, took the mobile phone and asked the occupation officer for more time, since the high-rise has no elevator and there are babies and old people whose evacuation would take time.

The IOF officer asked: “Is that you, next to the scooter?” He answered yes, it was him. The officer replied: “Stay where you are and scream. Ask them to evacuate quickly.” He asked him to tell the gathered people to disperse, lest a rocket land among them.

As they talked, the zenana fired a rocket next to the high-rise, so the people would move off. One man sobbed about his cats, whom he hadn’t had a chance to take with him before fleeing his apartment.

About 40 minutes passed between the first warning shot by the zenana and the roar of F-16 engines. And then, a thunderous explosion. My neighbor and I hid underneath a blanket. We felt the building shake. I heard the sound of bricks falling everywhere. From the window of my room, I saw dozens of young people and children running, shouting and crying.

Before I could calm down, the news arrived that an Israeli fighter jet had bombed a building in the Sheikh Zayed neighborhood north of Jabalia refugee camp, in the north of the Strip. Four Palestinians had died, among them a four-month-old baby and a 12-year-old boy. Before them, five died in Beit Lahia. The deaths bring the count of martyrs to 25 from Friday.

Our home keeps rocking. I hear constant blasts. My heart races from fear. I keep asking the same question: How long must we live in the shadow of the hell of occupation? When will the killing stop? When will the destruction stop? When we live in freedom? When will death stop falling from the skies?

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