Homeless all over again

Massive destruction in Rafah. 

Yasser Qudih Xinhua News Agency

It was after midnight when Samir Abu Shamala heard a knock on the door.

Some neighbors delivered news of an imminent attack. Israel had ordered everyone in Burj al-Masri tower to evacuate.

Samir and his family hastily left the apartment they were renting in the tower.

As they went down the stairs of the building, they saw many parents carrying their children. Other residents only had bags containing essential documents.

Many of the children were weeping. They had been woken up from their sleep.

Soon after the evacuation occurred, the Israelis fired a number of missiles toward Burj al-Masri tower.

And so one of the largest residential buildings in the southern Gaza city of Rafah was destroyed.

“I put my hands on my children’s eyes and ears after the first missile,” Samir said. “But all around me, the screams of women and children grew louder. I was about to start crying but I stopped myself.”

Darkness had enveloped the surrounding area when the evacuation took place. But Israel’s attack on the 12-story building lit up the sky in frightening shades of red.

“It was an awful sight that I will never forget,” said Samir.

Homeless once again

The attack has left Samir and his family homeless once again.

They had previously lived in Gaza City’s al-Rimal neighborhood. Yet they had to flee it during the earlier stages of Israel’s genocidal war.

Al-Rimal has been subjected to incessant bombardment by Israel. Homes, stores and other businesses have been reduced to rubble as a result.

After moving to Rafah, Samir and his family took an apartment in Burj al-Masri tower. Renting it cost them $700 per month.

With their apartment destroyed, the family sought shelter in a hospital. The hospital was so packed with displaced people that there was no room for the family.

Many other public buildings – including mosques – in the area were similarly full.

As the family have been unable to find any other shelter, they are now living in their car.


Wasim Afana and his family were among the last people to evacuate Burj al-Masri tower. They heard the news of the imminent attack later than other residents.

“The moment we stepped outside the tower, a missile was fired towards the building,” Wasim said. “It’s a miracle we made it out alive.”

Wasim’s children could not stop crying as they watched the tower’s destruction. He tried to calm them down by reciting verses from the Quran.

The family had moved to Rafah after leaving their home in Sheikh Radwan, another neighborhood of Gaza City where Israel has caused devastation.

Initially, they stayed with relatives in Rafah before managing to find an apartment in the tower.

It was a considerable relief for the family to have their own apartment as the relatives’ home was crowded. About 50 people were taking shelter there.

The tower’s destruction means that the family has now gone back to their relatives’ home. “We have no choice,” said Wasim.

Ahmad Abu Hassanien and his family have returned to Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza after Burj al-Masri tower was destroyed.

They had left Nuseirat a few months ago because Israel ordered its evacuation.

Heading to Rafah, they moved into a relatives’ apartment in al-Masri tower.

About 60 displaced people were crammed into two rooms in the apartment.

Although they had no space to themselves, the family took solace in how children could play with each other. It was less stressful than Nuseirat, where the children heard explosions constantly.

Following the attack on Burj al-Masri tower, the family stayed in their car until dawn. They then decided on going back to Nuseirat.

“It would be better to die in my own neighborhood than in a strange place,” Ahmad said. “It would be better to die with my friends and family than with people who don’t know me.”

Salma Yaseen is a student of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza.


A boy carries an item on his head in the ruins of a building that has been bombed in Gaza

A toxic war