Crisis in Gaza 2014, A Daily Journal

July 21, 2014 ANERA
Emergency Response, Gaza, Humanitarian Relief
Rania Elhilou, ANERA's communications officer in Gaza

Here are some words from our communications officer in Gaza, Rania Elhilou, who has asked that we share what she is going through.

Keep in mind that her story is just one from hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in Gaza who are fearing for their lives every day during this latest bombardment from Israel.


Monday, July 21, 2014

A few minutes ago there was a massive explosion right near our building. I heard on the news that some boys were playing soccer on the roof and they were killed.

We’re getting no rest at all. Things are changing and moving all the time and we are trying to keep up with it all.

This morning we smelled the smoke coming from Shaja’ya, the neighborhood that has been intensively bombed and is burning. I also have heard that phosphorous bombs are being dropped again, like in 2009.

Anyone can be killed at any time.

We feel that no one is safe. No one. There were reports that a clinic serving 200,000 people got bombed and doctors were killed as they treated the wounded. Doctors, journalists, mothers, children. Anyone can be killed at any time.

In the meantime, my children continue to scream through the night. My baby cannot be consoled. My five-year-old wants to sleep facing me and in my arms. She doesn’t want me to be out of her sight.

We are now 12 people hunkered down in the center of our apartment. My brother-in-law and his family have now come to us. The journalists in our building managed to get enough fuel to run the generators for a couple hours each day. So you see, we go back and forth between their apartment and ours. Back and forth we go, trying to guess where we might be safest or where we might be able to get a little electricity or water to sustain us.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

The sky was lit up with flames. I keep hearing reports of the dead and injured.

I feel like every day I say that the last 24 hours were the worst so far. You think it couldn’t get worse and then it does. Last night was really bloody and scary. There was heavy targeting of Shaja’ya, a neighborhood in the northeast of Gaza. The area was cut off and even ambulances couldn’t get in, despite the urgent requests of the ICRC. The sky was lit up with flames. I keep hearing reports of the dead and injured. Over 60 people so far have been found dead and there will certainly be more in the rubble of the houses. Hundreds of people have camped out in front of Al Shifa Hospital. They have lost members of their families, their homes and possessions. They have no where to go and are desperate. It breaks my heart.

My parents live very close to the affected area. So, when finally there was a brief ceasefire this morning, they left their home and went to my brother’s. Things have to be very, very bad for my parents even to consider moving from one place to another.

In one tiny bit of good news, we were able to get our water tank refilled. So now at least we have drinking water for a while. We have to conserve, though, on using water for cooking and cleaning. We don’t know when we’ll be able to get more.

I’m losing control of my children. Their screaming goes on for much of the night now and I am unable to calm them down. This ground incursion means that the threats and explosions are all around us, coming from every direction. Everyone feels vulnerable and no one knows what’s coming next. Will it be our neighborhood?


Saturday, July 19, 2014

We are back in our apartment. Yesterday we decided to come back in the hopes that the electricity situation would be better here. Our building has a lot of journalists in it and usually there are generators running more than in most other buildings. But we returned to find that the situation is no better than at my brother-in-law’s. There is no fuel for running the generators.

All day my husband has been calling the water supplier to get water delivered.

Without electricity, water can’t be pumped to our apartment. All day my husband has been calling the water supplier to get water delivered. It’s summertime. It’s very hot and we have about one day’s supply at our place. It is rapidly becoming our top concern. The little stores around the area that everyone relies on for basics are running out of everything.

Now we are debating about what to do. Do we go back to my brother-in-law’s? The reason is he is nearer to the main road, so if we need to evacuate quickly, it would be easier from his place than from ours. There’s also a little more water there – though for how long, who knows?

We’ve packed a small suitcase with some essentials. It’s ready by the door. Joudy, our daughter, asked “Where are we traveling to, mama?” If only…


Friday, July 18, 2014

One of my worst fears from the beginning of these bombings has come true: there is now a ground incursion into Gaza. We are being hit from three sides – north, east and west. Last night the shelling from the sea was particularly intense. Somehow those bombs feel more random and so they are much more frightening to us.

We heard on the radio that 80% of the electricity grid has been destroyed.

We heard on the radio that 80% of the electricity grid has been destroyed. Since no one can go out right now, it is impossible to do any repair work. Not having electricity means that we also will be running out of water, because our apartment buildings rely on electricity to pump the water into the apartments. Normally we might call a water tanker truck to come and fill our water tank on the roof of the building, but it also is not safe for them to go out.

So, now in addition to everything else, we are worried that we are going to run out of water. We have enough for 3 or 4 days, but then what?

One thing that has given me strength through all of this is the amazing outpouring of love and support I have gotten from relatives, friends and colleagues from outside of Gaza. People have been keeping in touch with me in every way they can find and I feel less isolated because of it. I thank you all for sharing these updates and for caring about what Gaza’s people are suffering through. Pray for us.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Well, I am still at my brother-in-law’s house for the time-being. The bombs continued last night, but we just had a ‘humanitarian pause’ in the fighting so we could do some errands. I saw a lot of people leaving their homes during these hours. They are going to stock up on food, get money and check in on family. I did not go out. It is hard for me to believe that a ceasefire can be trusted. So I stayed indoors. We cleaned, bathed and watched some news while we had a little electricity. We also were able finally to sleep some.

Time has lost all meaning for me.

Time has lost all meaning for me. I have to think – this is Thursday, it’s the 20th day of Ramadan and the 9th day of bombings. I am exhausted to the core and find that my mind isn’t working very well. Like the words I am writing now are not easy to find.

In the past few nights, our 5-year-old has been waking up screaming several times throughout the night. She screams, then she goes right back to sleep. It’s like she is storing the fear she feels all the time and lets it out in these bursts she can’t control. Will she ever recover from the psychological wounds she is suffering?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At midnight we evacuated our house. From the building behind ours, women and children were streaming out crying and in a panic. We yelled to them from our window and found out that someone had gotten a call from the Israelis saying that the building should be evacuated. When that happens, you have :58 seconds to get out before the bombs start falling.

It is hard for me to find words to describe how it felt to be running from our apartment and making a split-second decision about what to take with us. 

 It is hard for me to find words to describe how it felt to be running from our apartment and making a split-second decision about what to take with us. Or how it felt to think that we might never see any of our things again or this place that holds so many special memories for our family.

We rushed on foot to my brother-in-law’s apartment, holding our children and our few bags. When we got there, we watched the news carefully to find out if our area was bombed. Thankfully it wasn’t. Turns out that the whole thing was a terrible misunderstanding.

In more peaceful times, I remember going through emergency drills with all of these unfathomable scenerios. But I just experienced it for real: I had to leave my home fully believing I’d likely never see it again. At least it’s still there. For many in Gaza, the worst has happened and their homes and family are gone.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Today should should have been a day of celebration in our family. My husband’s niece got the highest score – 99.7% – out of all of Palestine on her Tawjihi [exam at the end of high school]. My colleagues also have children who did really well. But I heard someone say that our happiness today is courted by sadness and death. This is a perfect description of how we are feeling as the bombs continue to fall.

From 9 to 2 today, we had some peace, while there was talk of a ceasefire. We didn’t exactly sleep, but we got a little respite from the terror we’ve been experiencing. Now the bombs are back and my husband and I are having a serious conversation about what we should do in the case of a ground incursion. We think we may need to leave our home. But where do we go? Where is safe?

As I write this, my daughter is asking if she can put on a dress and go outside to play with her friends. Such a simple request! But doing the simplest things now look like bold acts of courage – or lunacy.



A building in Gaza struck by an Israeli bomb. Photographer, Mohammed Zaanoun

A building in Gaza struck by an Israeli bomb. Photographer, Mohammed Zaanoun

Monday, July 14, 2014

Yesterday, there were bombings in a nearby neighborhood where my brother-in-law and his family live. They had to leave their home and have sought refuge here with us. We all keep listening to the radio, hoping for some news of a ceasefire but up to now, there is nothing, just bombs falling all the time, day and night.

I have no words to describe what is happening here. How do I answer my daughter’s questions, why this is happening to us. She is only 5  and already she has lived through so much. What can I say to her? I try to keep her busy but the bombings never stop and she’s scared.

We call around to check on our friends and family and  my colleagues from work but what can we say to each other? The number of deaths and injuries keep rising.

Everyone is exhausted. I feel hopeless and helpless, wondering what will happen to my life and my children.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

When I spoke with my parents today, they told me they were seeing scores of families walking past their house. They are fleeing from their homes in northern Gaza, because they got warnings from the Israelis that the whole area will be targeted. It is unclear where they are all going. I have heard that UNRWA is opening up 8 of their schools for people to get shelter.

We’ve had no sleep for 7 days.

Things feel even scarier now. We have heard that 2 UN humanitarian coordinators were not allowed to pass into Gaza today and that the US embassy has asked all Americans to leave Gaza immediately. Will there now be no international witnesses to the things that are happening to us here?

We’ve had no sleep for 7 days. Yesterday was really intense: there were bombings from the sea and air and I also heard the sounds of rockets launching. I see smoke billowing from the middle area and beaches of Gaza. A house on my brother’s block was bombed yesterday. 

We always live ready to flee in a second. Our bags packed with passports, money and valuables. We never change into pajamas – ready to go outdoors or to meet God.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

I can hear explosions as I write this. They are so close, the furniture rattles and the lamps shake. It’s like I am living in a horror movie. You know, I have impacted wisdom teeth and I was supposed to have an operation last week (which I had to cancel because of the bombings). But the terror I am experiencing every day now is actually making me forget the pain of the wisdom teeth that was so excruciating before the bombs began.

We are glued to the radio, where we are now learning of medical facilities that are being targeted by bombs. Can you imagine, now we can’t even feel safe going to a hospital?

Rania-and-JoudyIt feels like there is no end in sight. We are not hearing of any ceasefires. In the meantime the crossings and borders into Gaza are only sporadically open. Very little food or fuel is coming in. The damage is really extensive – to farmland, buildings and a lot of other infrastructure.

We’ve been getting about 6 hours of electricity a day, but yesterday ours went off after 2 hours because a bomb apparently hit some infrastructure that delivered it to our place. We now camped out in the center of our apartment, as far away from the windows as possible. Flying glass causes the most injuries.

I keep thinking about the fact that Gaza was already in a terrible state before these bombings. Unemployment was high, food aid was common, people were living in poverty. So you can imagine how much worse it is now. 

My daughter has been through three of these bombardments – first in my womb in 2008-09, then in 2012 and now in 2014. I can see the question marks in her eyes. What do I tell her? Is there an adequate word to describe this situation?

Thank goodness for ANERA. I know I am working for an organization that is actually doing something to help people. It gives my life meaning.


Friday, July 11, 2014

I keep thinking, who is paying for this desire for blood and retribution? The children, that’s who.

Well, we’re alive. It was another terrible night. The park behind our apartment building was bombed and the explosion rocked the whole area. The noise was deafening. There isn’t a single street in Gaza that’s safe. I keep thinking, who is paying for this desire for blood and retribution? The children, that’s who.

This, of course, means constant worry and no rest for parents. Last night our chidren were really anxious and couldn’t sleep.

This morning we saw we are really low on milk. My husband ventured out to a nearby store. While he was away my heart pounded with worry and I watched for him every second he was away. Turns out that the errand was all for nothing, as the store is out of milk. Now we have to find other options for feeding our baby.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

For the third day the bombings have been incessant. I haven’t been getting any sleep and, last night, the kids didn’t. I hear explosions constantly.

I do my best to keep the children busy with with activities, to get their minds off of what’s going on outside our building. We play games, color, read stories. I want to make sure their fear doesn’t turn into trauma. I am not sure where I am getting the strength to hide my fear and play games – maybe it’s because I feel that the children are more important than anything else.

In the meantime, here it is Ramadan, our most spiritual time. It’s supposed to be a beautiful time of reflection and peace. But now, in Gaza, people are taking their first sip of water to break their long day of fasting while bombs are falling all around them.





12 Responses to “Crisis in Gaza 2014, A Daily Journal”

  1. July 17, 2014 at 7:43 am, virginia martin said:

    I am an Ex South African who’s family thankfully Immigrated to Canada leaving the Apartheid system in 1966…I feel much solidarity and My heart goes out to the Palestinian people in their time of much sorrow…there are so many of us World Wide who feel absolutely helpless and horrified as we see such Brutality to our Palestinian Brothers and sisters… our hearts are broken and we are praying that this will come to an end soon. We feel much empathy, sadness and love for you and we grieve with you… with Tears and Prayers in solidarity with you. Please let us know how we can help.God be with you as your liberation from oppression will come soon.

  2. July 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm, Diana said:

    Praying for peace,safety,for all.
    God Bless you all,always and in all ways.

  3. July 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm, Doaa Abdelrahman said:

    I’m so sorry ya Tant, your story is heartbreaking but I promise to share it. No one will forget Gaza or anyone that has died. I will pray for you and your family.

    If it comforts you at least a little bit, we are trying our best to spread the word for Palestine. Protests, letters, emails, phone calls to anyone that we can reach.

    It’s not much but I promise you we are trying.

    As for your daughter, tell her to not worry, tell her to imagine the bombs being angels. A mother from Palestine came to America before and said those words. Once the angel hits, you are happy, with no pain, you will be laughing. It did relax her daughter.

    Allah yesabarko inshAllah

  4. July 17, 2014 at 5:26 pm, naeemah said:

    we in south Africa are making duah for all the oppressed muslims. we love you stay strong. just remember u are not forgotten never. Give big hug for your daughter from me and say salaam to your family from a muslim sister.

  5. July 17, 2014 at 8:21 pm, Yumna said:

    Your story brought tears to my eyes as do all the pictures & videos of what’s happening in Gaza. We have so much to be thankful for where we are but our hearts weep for our brothers & sisters fighting to survive! We are flooding social media with the truth of what’s happening & will continue to make dua! Allah knows best!! #freepalestine

  6. July 18, 2014 at 6:06 am, Saiyida Tasmeera said:

    I am A Mother of a daughter and a son from Pakistan. I cannot imagine in my wildest of nightmares, something that you are going through. Palestine you are in my prayers. My children are praying. Allah knows that we feel your pain and are doing whatever is in our power. We are ashamed of the silence from the Arab leaders. I am a psychologist, i cried thinking about your daughter but she will be a strong Muslim woman.My prayers are with your angel. Love to your whole family. Assalam-u-alaikum.

  7. July 18, 2014 at 11:47 am, Linda A said:

    I am speechless, dumbfound at this horrific account of misery. I hated fire drills during my employment with Bank of America and here, the torture of attending such drills…Oh Lord! the earth waits for your arrival. Come and wash away the filth and scum of earth. I am ready to pawn my life to you lord if I worth anything to help atleast a single person subjected to this holocaust. Jesus, help those kids come out of such tyranny. Bless the families. Be with them.

    Love to humanity,
    Linda (India)

  8. July 18, 2014 at 10:40 pm, Rafat Elhilou said:

    I’m So proud of you Rania , Miss you and Praying for you. you’ve been always a Palestinian humanitarian ambassador.

    The blood of Gaza’s people crying for Justice !

  9. July 19, 2014 at 12:08 am, F said:

    I am a mother of two girls, my eldest is 6… I can only imagine the courage it takes for a mother to go through what you are going through. I feel ashamed to be so helpless and not be able to do anything for families like yours. I say a prayer every day and I can only have faith that God will listen to the many millions of prayers that are being said for the people of gaza. I am sorry for not being able to do more. I pray for the safety of your family. Please keep writing for as long as you can. You are an incredibly brave woman.

  10. July 19, 2014 at 1:01 am, vicky (USA) said:

    I am so grieved at the terrible suffering you are enduring and I sit here unable to do anything that can stop this. I often donate to Anera or Meca because I have deep empathy for the suffering people of Palestine. I long to see the day that there is Freedom and Justice in this sad and cruel world. Please stay safe, my heart is with you. Peace and Love, Vicky (USA)

  11. July 19, 2014 at 5:13 am, Fatima said:

    Asalaams sister from Gaza. ‘issta ee noo bi sabri wassolaah’. and Allah is with those who are patient. my heart goes out to you. these are words you proabably have heard many times. I have kids too and I admire your courage and strength, I don’t think I could be that strong.not one waqt passes without my duahs being with all in Gaza as well as all oppressed over the world. the people in Cape Town are with you all the way. much love. hugs and kisses to your babas and family. #love

  12. July 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm, zulpha said:

    I am a mother of 2 girls age 4 and 2 . I can only imagine what everyone is going thro in Gaza. everytime I c a video an artical relating to whats happening in Gaza my heart breaks I cant control my tears it is just to sad. so sad that this is happening. I keep asking the question why, why but I know Allah knows best I make duah for use my brothers and sisters. it is the last 10 days of Ramadaan and I make duah that Allah grant all of use peace IA always thinking of use wish I was a millionaire, but the only help I can give is my duahs. love u all so much. IA everything will b ok.

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