The lonely death of a displaced woman

Suhaila had to leave Khan Younis in southern Gaza after Israel attacked it. 

Bashar Taleb APA images

Suhaila was alone in her apartment when Israel began its genocidal war on 7 October.

All she could hear were the sounds of explosions. All she could do was pray for the people being martyred.

Before returning to Gaza a few years ago, Suhaila had spent a decade in Egypt.

She came back as she wanted to see her nephews and nieces. Little did she know the horrors that would await her.

A 63-year-old wheelchair user, Suhaila lived in the Sheikh Radwan area of Gaza City. She remained there after Israel ordered everyone in northern Gaza – including Gaza City – to leave their homes during the early days of the war.

The situation in Sheikh Radwan became increasingly serious, especially after Israel sent tanks into the area. Israel showed no mercy toward children or older people.

The violence got closer and closer to Suhaila’s apartment.

All she could hear were explosions, the siren sound from ambulances, people screaming. The noises were so loud and intense that she thought she would go deaf.

When a lull took place, Suhaila heard her door being knocked.

“Is there anyone there?” a voice called.

“Yes,” she replied. “I am here.”

Her voice was weak and she could not raise it.

The knocking on her door continued and Suhaila kept saying “I am here.” She managed to get into her wheelchair.

A short while later the door burst open. A man appeared.

“Are you the only one in this apartment?” he asked.

Suhaila nodded. “Who are you?” she said.

The man explained that he was a civil defense worker. He told her that she needed to get out of the apartment quickly.

The whole block, he added, was about to be targeted by Israel.

Suhaila was shocked and angry at the news but suppressed her emotions. She asked the civil defense worker to help her get two thobes from her closet.

Then she bid a hasty farewell to her apartment.

Suhaila was brought to Khan Younis in southern Gaza. She went to stay with relatives there.

Her relatives’ home was not adapted for someone using a wheelchair.

Suhaila needed help going to the bathroom. She depended on her relatives for food and water.


She did not stay long in Khan Younis.

Not long after her arrival, Israel began bombarding the city, forcing a large-scale evacuation.

Suhaila headed with her relatives to Rafah further south. Unfortunately, she became separated from them amid a general commotion.

Alone on Rafah’s streets, Suhaila had no idea what to do or where to go. A young man came to her aid and brought her to a mosque.

I took shelter in the same mosque. It was there that Suhaila told me what had happened to her.

At the mosque, Suhaila became quite agitated.

A volunteer nurse named Samah noticed that Suhaila’s health was worsening.

When Suhaila was offered food, she refused it.

In her distressed state, she accused others in the mosque of trying to kill her.

On one occasion, she agreed to eat a little after hours of persuasion. She asked for an apple and some chocolate.

But neither of those could be found. If they were still available in the markets, they were too expensive for people taking shelter to afford.

Early one morning, Suhaila had a burst of energy. She requested to visit the bathroom and to change her clothes.

Suddenly, she started vomiting.

An ambulance came and took Suhaila away.

On the way to hospital, Suhaila died. No funeral was held.

Some people may attribute Suhaila’s death to “natural causes.”

Or her age.

Or illness.

But I am convinced she was tormented and died because of sorrow.

She died in a strange place.

She was hungry and thirsty and had nobody from her family around her.

Eman Hillis is a writer from Gaza.