Little comfort for people from Gaza in Egypt

Scenes of destruction continue to haunt people from Gaza if they leave it. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

A few months have passed since my family and I evacuated the Gaza Strip for Egypt.

Even now, I am haunted by the scenes of destruction I witnessed in Gaza.

Whenever I hear a plane flying above me, I am terrified. The noise of military aircraft in Gaza has left with me a lasting sense of fear.

At the time we left Gaza, there were almost 300 Palestinians gathered at the Rafah crossing, the entry point into Egypt. They did not have suitable luggage; many were using bags that used to contain flour.

We had gone to the crossing under bombardment. Once there, we had to wait until the Egyptian authorities would allow us through to their country.

The scene was miserable. The anxiety and terror could be seen on all the pale faces.

You could see the confusion in people’s eyes. They were uncertain about their destination.

After we went through the crossing, we boarded a bus for Cairo.

We were accompanied by Amal, a friend of mine. Amal was leaving Gaza and heading toward Turkey so that she could complete her studies, which she had to pause for many months because of Israel’s aggression.

None of us had the energy to say too much. But we did talk about the ordeal we experienced: displacement, living in tents, the inhuman conditions.

As we followed the news from Gaza during the journey, I felt nothing but desolation.

In Gaza, I had been surrounded by victims. That slightly alleviated my own sense of survivor’s guilt.

Now I had no choice but to leave. My family decided that we would either leave together or stay under the bombs together.

Here in Egypt, the only thing that brings me a little comfort is meeting other people from Gaza. We constantly reassure each other that we will return to Gaza as soon as there is a ceasefire.

We managed to leave Gaza before Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah in May. That resulted in the closure of the Rafah crossing.

Everyone evacuating Gaza had to pay the Egyptian authorities $5,000 per adult or $2,500 per child.

Usually, people had to wait 25 days before their names would appear on a list of people whose travel had been authorized.

“I could not bear any more pain”

Huge numbers of people in Gaza could not afford the amounts demanded by the Egyptians.

Nour, 30, is among many who launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of leaving Gaza.

A mother of two children, aged 1 and 4, she and family were displaced four times during the current genocidal war.

When Nour was forced to leave her home in Tel al-Hawa, a Gaza City neighborhood, “I could only take some clothes for my children and our passports,” she said. “I never imagined I would not be able to return to my home.”

As the war continued, her father lacked the medicines that he needed. And Nour struggled to provide her children with food and clean water.

After many months of displacement, she decided to leave Gaza. Her husband, who works for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, has remained in Gaza.

“I feel very tired since I evacuated the Gaza Strip,” Nour said. “Although I feel that my children are safe, I feel guilty that my husband, his family, my friends and many people that I love are still in Gaza under bombardment.”

“I cannot bear any more pain or loss,” she said. “The Israeli airstrikes have killed my uncle, my cousin, my friend and some of my neighbors.”

A key factor behind Nour’s decision to leave Gaza was that “I could no longer bear seeing my father’s health deteriorate without medicine.”

Nour’s mother has lived in Belgium for a number of years. As connecting to the internet or making phone calls from Gaza can be extremely difficult, her mother has struggled to keep in contact.

The inability to communicate regularly caused her mother great anxiety.

“Our plan for the future is still very unclear,” Nour said.

Even if a ceasefire is agreed, she will have nowhere to live in Gaza. “The occupation has bombed my house and destroyed hospitals, schools and other infrastructure,” she said.

“But I am sure that I will return to Gaza sooner or later,” she added. “I want to raise my children in Gaza, exactly where their father and I grew up.”

Aseel Mousa is a journalist from Gaza.