“The impact is unimaginable”: A diary of a MAP staff member under attack in Gaza

During Israel’s military offensive on Gaza in May 2021, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s Programme Officer, Mohammed Aghaalkurdi, kept a diary of his experiences. Here, he shares the entries from two consecutive days last year, describing how his family were forced to flee their home, and the moment he and his brother experienced the bombardment first-hand.

14 May 2021

Last night was appalling for everyone in Gaza and particularly for those who live in the north, as this area was under such heavy attack from sea, land, and air. My relatives live there which made me and my family worry even more that night.

Israel’s bombardment of the north damaged the electricity and internet lines which cut the communication for people living there. We spent the night wide awake, all ears to the news, worried about our relatives and praying not to hear their names on the radio.

With the earliest rays of sunlight today, my cousins were able to flee their house in the north and take shelter at my father’s. The impact that horrible night had on them is unimaginable and they grew so much in the space of a single night. It is something I cannot put into words.

My aunt did not want to leave her home and relocate, but she was pressured to and now she is talking about it non-stop: “We should not have left; neighbours are still there, and they might need a hand. I cannot believe I left my home in fear. I would accept whatever was going to happen to me while there. Leaving under any circumstances makes me feel guilty.” Sometimes she speaks it loudly and other times she whispers it to herself. We are trying our best to help her and help each other make it through those nights.

Back in 2008, during Israel’s invasion of Gaza, my aunt and cousins were able to flee their homes just before the area they lived in was taken by Israeli forces. My aunt’s house was one of those which was taken by Israeli forces as a shelter.

When the 2008 military offensive was over, my aunt returned to find her house severely damaged. Before leaving, Israeli forces blew up the doors with missiles and opened random fire at walls and furniture. I just cannot image what would have happened if my aunt was still there.

Although she rebuilt the house and repaired the walls, she could never overcome the trauma that was left in her soul, that intrudes her mind whenever unrest is expected.

It is the same trauma that made her decision to leave her home during last May’s offensive such a difficult one.

“Since then, time has frozen still”

15 May 2021

I was working from home when I heard noise coming from the street. It was getting louder and I could hear sounds of crying kids. I opened my window to see dozens of families running down the street carrying their luggage and leaving the block.

In a matter of seconds, and just before my eyes, a drone fired a rocket on the rooftop of the building next-door. “Are they roof knocking the building? Will they blow the whole building up?” – I thought to myself. I rushed to shut down my laptop, put it in my emergency bag that I prepared earlier when the offensive started, and ran to my family.

At my father’s, there were 19 of us including my cousins, who fled their homes just yesterday thinking that my father’s would be a safe place to be. Carrying the kids, some of us ran downstairs and others helped with possessions and followed. I closed the door and hoped I would make it home safely.

We were crossing the street when two massive explosions happened, one after another. In an open area with the fear of being hit by scattered debris from above, everyone was in horror looking for their loved ones. I was shouting at my brother to crouch down and, since then, time has frozen still.

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Photo: Palestinians in Gaza looking on at buildings destroyed during Israel's May 2021 offensive. (Credit: Mohammed Zaanoun).

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