I cannot protect my children

children walk in rubble

Children walk under the collapsed roof of al-Huda Mosque, destroyed in one of Israel’s airstrikes on Rafah. 

Mohammed Talatene APA images

Every day brings new challenges for a mother in a war zone.

I struggle to provide even the most basic necessities, like diapers for my 2-year-old daughter.

My once-beautiful city of Rafah is now overrun with people fleeing their homes in search of safety.

Israel is targeting the local police, who are trying to ensure the delivery of aid and stabilize prices.

Both Israel and Egypt have trapped us in this small area, hoping we’ll turn on each other.

Desperate people are resorting to stealing aid and merchants are hoarding goods. It’s so chaotic that you can’t walk down the street without hearing fighting and screaming.

Families are turning against each other and the war has dragged on so long that people are starting to lose hope.

Every police car is a target. The city is bursting at the seams, with families sleeping on sidewalks and in makeshift shelters.

Providing for our basic needs has become unimaginably difficult.

Everyone is just trying to survive, scraping by on whatever they can find. Prices have skyrocketed.

Sometimes I picture myself in an alternative universe where my people and I are like mice trapped in a cruel experiment. They starve us and force us into cramped quarters, driving us to desperation.

This analogy is the only thing that makes sense and keeps me sane. There’s no way those on the other side see us as equals.

If they did, this genocide would have ended long ago.

Being a mother in times of war is a constant battle to shield my children from the horrors that surround us. The fear that grips my heart is overwhelming, especially when rockets pierce the air, sending my children running into my arms, seeking refuge from the chaos outside.

In those moments, I feel a crushing weight of responsibility, knowing that I may not be able to protect them from the dangers that lurk beyond our doorstep.

Being a mother in a war zone

After the news about Israel’s plan for a ground invasion of Rafah, the intensification of the aerial bombardment of Rafah in apparent preparation, and several failed attempts to leave for Egypt, we gathered as a family to discuss our options.

We decided to stay put in our house and wait for whatever befalls us.

I am so scared for my children; I fear that I have failed them. I fear I have not done enough to protect them.

But living in a tent in this cold would be far worse than dying in our homes. Leaving our home doesn’t mean we’ll survive.

Many flee their homes to escape death, only to die where they sought refuge.

There is nowhere safe.

Being a mother in a war zone is to live in a constant state of fear and uncertainty, grappling with the overwhelming responsibility of protecting your children amid chaos and violence.

It means enduring unimaginable hardships, from shortages of food and basic necessities to the ever-present threat of injury or death.

It involves making impossible choices, such as whether to flee for safety or stay and risk everything to protect your family.

Being a mother in a war zone is to witness the innocence of your children rapidly and cruelly stripped away as they confront harsh realities – far too young.

It means trying to shield them from the horrors around them while knowing that you cannot always keep them safe.

It involves finding strength in moments of despair, drawing on the love for your children to persevere through the darkest of times.

Being a mother in a war zone is to carry the weight of countless fears and uncertainties while clinging to hope for a better tomorrow.

It means navigating a landscape of destruction and despair while holding onto the belief that peace and stability are still possible.

It involves fighting not only for the survival of your own family but for the future of all children who deserve to grow up in a world free from the ravages of war.

Sahar Qeshta is a writer in Gaza.