Heatwave amid a genocide

Huge numbers of Gaza’s people are now living in tents. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Living in a makeshift tent means being exposed to the elements.

In the winter months, Gaza’s displaced people faced rainfall and a frequently bitter cold. Now that summer has arrived, they have to try and cope with a heatwave.

Rawand Lafi and her family left their home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, after the city was invaded by Israeli troops.

They decided it would not be safe to stay with relatives as most of them also live in Khan Younis. So they moved to al-Mawasi, an area on the coast, where they set up a tent.

“The winter was the most difficult time in my life,” Rawand said.

“I have four children and they were getting sick constantly. There was no way to keep them warm.”

Rawand tried lighting fires beside the tent but found that they were extinguished by wind or rain.

“I prayed every moment that the war would stop before summer came,” she added.

Yet the family were still in the tent when temperatures soared recently.

“The tent was like an oven in the intense heat,” she said.

The family has nowhere else to go as Israeli forces have laid waste to much of Khan Younis, including their home.

“My little daughter Lamia asks me when we will return home,” Rawand said. “She does not know that we do not have a house. Our house is a pile of rubble.”

When Rawand went back to their neighborhood, “I was not able to recognize it.”

“It was as if a nuclear bomb had been dropped on the area and destroyed it completely,” she said.

“No air”

Salem al-Sufi had to flee his Gaza City home for Rafah in the south. He and his family are now living in a tent.

Conditions are extremely unhygienic.

“There is a pool of sewage next to us,” he said. “With the high temperatures, the number of mosquitoes and other insects is increasing.”

As the tent is uncomfortable, the family spends much of the time walking in the streets.

“I feel that we are having difficulty breathing,” Salem said. “There is no air in the tent.”

One key factor behind Salem’s decision to leave Gaza City was that his father was ill.

Salem was worried his father would be killed or injured by Israel’s bombardment.

His father subsequently had a heart attack and died.

“He could not bear the suffering of displacement and living in a tent,” Salem said. “He was exhausted. I buried him here in Rafah.”

Some of Salem’s old neighbors have remained in al-Sabra, the area of Gaza City where his home is located.

“I called them and they told me my house was damaged as it was hit by many shells,” he said.

“But I want to return and live in it. I do not care if it is damaged.”

Safiya al-Baz had to flee Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp. She moved to al-Mawasi Rafah, an area in southern Gaza, with her eldest son and six grandchildren.

“My grandchildren are crying from the extreme heat,” she said. “They cannot stand it.”

Safiya’s husband and her other children have remained in the northern part of Gaza. They are taking shelter in schools.

“I miss them,” Safiya said.

“There is nothing to protect us from the sun’s rays,” she added. “I hope this will all end soon.”

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.