Getting from A to B means risking your life in Gaza

Deir al-Balah has been under frequent attack. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Um Muhammad was in serious danger.

In the early stages of the current war, she fled her home in Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp.

At first, Um Muhammad, 40, took shelter in a local school. She and members of her extended family remained there for a number of days.

When Israel’s shelling intensified, Um Muhammad took the difficult decision to leave the school.

Along with her children, her sister and her brother-in-law, Um Muhammad headed toward Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. There, they also took shelter in a school.

They stayed in Deir al-Balah for a long period. But on 14 April, Um Muhammad and her daughters set out for Gaza City.

Um Muhammad hoped that she could return to Beach camp.

Early that morning, Um Muhammad heard a number of people speaking about those who had returned to Gaza City.

She gathered her daughters and told them to get ready so that they could begin their journey.

As they approached an Israeli military checkpoint, some women told Um Muhammad to remain as far away as possible from men who were trying to cross it. Israeli soldiers targeted Palestinian men, the women warned.

A short while later, Um Muhammad heard a woman close to her screaming. The woman had been shot in the leg.

“I saw a young man lying on the ground,” Um Muhammad said. “He had been shot dead.”

Full of fear

Israeli soldiers opened fire on countless people seeking a return to their homes.

Some were killed. Others were injured.

Um Muhammad and her daughters ran. They kept running until they reached Nuseirat, another area in central Gaza.

Their journey was full of fear. They were especially worried about Um Muhammad’s 17-year-old nephew as they were unsure of his whereabouts.

After thinking he had been killed, it was a huge relief to know he was still alive.

The boy was actually “trapped in a mosque with other men,” Um Muhammad said. The Israeli military besieged the mosque, surrounding it with two tanks.

The boy was able to escape from the mosque through a window.

Although Um Muhammad’s home in Beach refugee camp had been attacked by Israel, she is still determined to live in it.

“I have relatives and friends here [in central Gaza],” Um Muhammad said. “But I miss my house in the north. I miss my life.”

Nevine, 28, had to leave Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza during the current war.

First, she took shelter at a school in Gaza City. After Israeli soldiers besieged and then invaded the school, Nevine and her three children fled for Deir al-Balah.

The journey was terrifying.

Israeli soldiers were firing on people. Nevine and her children could see the Israelis flying American made warplanes overhead.

Bombs were being dropped from the planes.

Nevine made sure to hold her children’s hands throughout the journey. They could easily get lost amid the chaos, she felt.


Her husband has remained in the northern part of Gaza.

Being away from their father is heartbreaking for the children.

Nevine recalled that “my eldest son Thaer cried his heart out when he spoke to his dad on the phone” during Eid al-Fitr.

Her home in Beit Hanoun has been severely damaged but Nevine keeps thinking about returning to it.

Ahmad, 19, fled Gaza City in the early stages of the war.

He first went to a school in Deir al-Balah. As the school was overcrowded, he moved into a tent.

On 14 April, Ahmad set out on a journey back to Gaza City. He recalled how people on the road raised their IDs and white flags.

That did not prevent the Israeli soldiers from opening fire. “They even started shelling around us,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad tried to help one person with head injuries.

“I carried him and kept running until I found a cart,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad tried to help another person with a leg wound by also placing him in a cart. Then some people that he knew shouted and told Ahmad that his cousin had been injured.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I ran, searching for my cousin.”

Ahmad found his cousin, carried him and placed him, too, in the cart.

Ahmad’s family home was destroyed by Israel during the war. So when he set out from Deir al-Balah, his aim was to reach his sister’s home in Gaza City.

Israel’s extreme violence means that getting from A to B involves risking your life.

Khaled Al-Qershali is a writer and translator.

Khaled El-Hissy is a journalist from Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip. Twitter: @khpalestined