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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Xinhua News Agency/PA Images Palestinian families fleeing the destruction in Gaza, 20 May.
A mother in Gaza 'When we hear an explosion, I tell my daughter it's just loud, but not near. I know this could be a lie'
Rana Abdallah says the people of Gaza just want their children to live in peace.

THE WHOLE BUILDING shakes whenever Israeli warplanes launch an airstrike on our neighbourhood. It’s impossible to escape the horrific noise that they make even if the explosions are further away. It terrifies my children.

It hurts me deeply to see the psychological effect that the Israeli bombardment on Gaza is having on the children here, especially my own.

My youngest daughter, who is six-and-a-half, has barely left my side since the offensive began. She follows me to the bathroom at night to make sure I am ok, waking her father to check on him first before she does.

Whenever we hear an explosion, I tell her just because it is loud does not mean it is near. I tell her this knowing full well that at some point I will be lying, but I just want to comfort her.

As time goes on, I’ve noticed that she hasn’t been speaking as much and that she is not her usual self, but how could any child be under these circumstances? When I try to talk with her about what has been happening, her eyes fill with tears as she tries not to cry in front of me. We talk for a long time and she only laughs again when I tell her that she is as strong as the Hulk, a pink Hulk to match her pink pyjamas.

Unbearable fear

While we brace in anticipation of the next round of bombardment, I look at my kids and wonder what kind of life they would have had they been living anywhere else in the world. Would my eldest daughter be afraid to go to the bathroom? Would my youngest be scared to leave my side? Would my son be breathing so heavily in his attempts to hide his fear?

Night comes and along with it comes the dread and fear of the losses we will wake up to. We have not slept properly since the Israeli forces launched the offensive. My son asks me when do I think we will be able to get some sleep, but I find it hard to answer because there is simply no way to know where or what would be targeted by the airstrikes next.

I have lived in Gaza for over 20 years and I have witnessed several offensives during this time, but this is by far the worst one yet. Every night we say to ourselves that it was the worst night that we have ever experienced, but then the next night comes and it is more horrific than the night before.

There is not an inch of Gaza that is safe right now, and the damage is extensive. Israeli missiles are hitting everything, from schools to health centres to entire apartment buildings and even the very streets themselves. In some cases, the Israeli forces give prior warning to let people evacuate, but not in every case. Every morning we wake up, and we thank god that we are all still in one piece.

Gaza has over two million people living there and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, so I have found it almost impossible to find anyone who has not been impacted in some way by the airstrikes.

Mounting losses

At the weekend a relative of ours was killed by an airstrike. Six children are now left behind without their father. A friend of mine has to live in a warehouse with her husband and four children because her home was destroyed by a missile.

Another friend told me that she is sleeping in the same room as her four children so if warplanes strike their home, they would at least all die together. My brother-in-law saw the ruins of his antiques shop on the news after it had been destroyed. One woman told me that her children have packed their favourite toys in a school bag in case their house is attacked.

These are all ordinary people trying to live a normal life in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. The tragedy is endless.

I want the world to hear our voices. I want people to know of our suffering. I need you to know that we want our children to live in peace and enjoy their rights like everyone else, we have a right to life.

Time is running out for the international community to put an end to this nightmare. As they debate amongst themselves about what steps to take, tens of thousands of people in Gaza continue to be forced to flee their homes and many others are seriously injured or being killed.

I have survived previous offensives, but death is around us again and this time, I fear that we may not be able to escape it.

Rana Abdallah works for the Women’s Affairs Center in Gaza, a local partner organisation supported by Christian Aid.

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