Israel’s war on Gaza never ended

Palestinians wounded by Israeli airstrikes receive treatment at the Kuwait hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, 14 December 2023.

Bashar Taleb APA images

When I was 7 years old, I could not wait for mornings. My mother would prepare delicious breakfasts: eggs, avocado, toast and tea. After school, my best friend Muhammad and I would play soccer. In the evenings, we would do homework and prepare for school.

I loved my childhood in Gaza City until one afternoon in December 2008, when Muhammad and I and some other friends were playing soccer in the street, we heard loud explosions and saw ambulances and fire trucks zoom by.

We wondered what was happening. My friends and I ran to see where the trucks were headed. But before we could move, we heard an even louder explosion, a sound so terrifying that I ran home without thinking, leaving everyone behind, even my soccer ball.

I still think about that ball. It cost me just three dollars, but I still feel bad that I lost it.

My parents told me not to worry; that the explosions would end soon. It’s funny that, more than a decade later, now that I’m 22, the explosions still haven’t ended.

Something I will never forget

That day in December 2008, Israel dropped more bombs over Gaza City. In the news I saw people being pulled from the rubble, clouds of black smoke and crowds running in fear.

I watched TV for hours. So much so that when I closed my eyes I could still see the images from the screen.

December 2008 turned into January 2009, and Israel was still continuing its war on Gaza.

As the world celebrated New Year’s, I snuck out of the house while my parents were watching the news. I was curious about what was happening around me. I convinced my cousin Shadi, 9, to go to al-Shifa hospital with me. It was three minutes away from my house.

There, I saw blood. I heard screams for help and witnessed pain.

A young man whose brother had been killed by an Israeli airstrike was crying.

“My brother is now in God’s hands,” he screamed. He repeated this, even louder. The crowd around him was silent, and then we said the takbir in unison, “God is great. There is no God but God.”

I saw a mother holding her bleeding child.

“Please, please, anyone save him,” she said. “Oh my baby, please stay with me.”

He looked around my age, my size. I stared at her in shock, understanding that that boy could’ve been me.

I still hear her voice ringing in my ears.

I was ready to go home after that. On the way home I told my cousin, “I don’t want to die.”


Some time after that night at al-Shifa, my friend Muhammad knocked on my door. He told me that he was leaving Gaza. He had Belgian citizenship, and his family would be moving to Belgium soon.

In his hand, he had the toy car that he had won during a school competition. I had badly wanted to win that car.

He gave it to me then. I said thanks, but I felt angry. I wanted to hit him for some reason.

I never saw him again.

I overheard a conversation between my parents that night.

“Do we have enough money?” my mom said.

“I don’t know,” my dad responded. “’I hope this ends soon.”

“’What if we can’t buy food?”

“Don’t worry. God is with us.”

I felt sorry for my parents. I felt afraid that we might starve. Instead of going to the kitchen for dinner, I went to my room to pretend to sleep.

However, it was difficult to even pretend to sleep because I could hear explosions and the torturous buzzing of the Israeli drones.

The next morning, my mom woke me up early for breakfast.

“There’s no school today,” she said. She made me a cup of tea, but I couldn’t go back to bed.

The war is never over

On 8 November 2023, an Israeli airstrike killed my cousin Shadi. He had been going to help his friend when he was killed.

Shadi and I grew up together. He was the cousin I would call anytime I had a problem. He was courageous, kind and ambitious. He had a lovely smile that won over everyone he met.

We used to be a team, in soccer, marbles, work, even picking olives. Anytime he won something, he would divide up the prize equally among us kids. He graduated college two years ago with a high GPA. He wanted to be a web designer and to get married and have a family.

I miss Shadi.

My family evacuated our home in western Gaza City and headed to the south. We had to leave our cat Bisbis behind.

During the short truce, my brother returned home to check on our house. It was a pile of rubble.

Israel has been stealing my life since childhood. It stole my innocence, my loved ones, my cat, even my blue notebook that I used to write down ideas and thoughts.

They stole my peace, forever.

Anytime I hear a door shut or the garbage truck, I feel anxious. It is the same when a fast car passes by. I feel an unease.

I don’t want my kids, or any kids, to grow up in fear as I did. I finally have sympathy for my friend Muhammad’s father, for taking him away to Belgium.

Mahmoud Alyazji is a writer, photographer and video editor based in Gaza.