Panic in central Gaza

People fleeing their homes as central Gaza came under attack on Saturday. 

Abubaker Abed

I never imagined that I would live through such terror.

Despite living through eight months of the current war – and not knowing how I managed to stay alive – Saturday was the worst nightmare.

It was the day I had to recite the shahada – a Muslim’s final testament before God – because I saw death before my eyes.

Late Saturday morning, I was using my laptop, when I heard a bizarre sound. The sound repeated itself.

I climbed to the roof of an adjacent high-rise building to see what was going on. My cousin came with me.

We saw soldiers opening fire and heard Israeli tanks. That seemed normal as we have become accustomed to it.

Then, there was a huge explosion in the northern part of Deir al-Balah, central Gaza.

That also seemed normal. We have normalized terror.

“I’m leaving,” I told my cousin.

“Abubaker, Abubaker, come,” my cousin replied. “Look at that airstrike.”

I rushed to see it.

There was a huge cloud of smoke and dust in the sky. A massive explosion in the same area.

“Criminals,” I said to myself, cursing Israel, as I observed the cloud.

I asked my cousin if the war will end or if we will be killed.

“God willing, it will end,” he said.

Then there was a series of at least 10 airstrikes against different areas in central Gaza. Five of them targeted Deir al-Balah.

I opened my phone and started to film the attacks.

A blast occurred nearby and it felt like my eardrums had been pierced. A building mere meters away had been targeted.

Another airstrike destroyed a house in our area. Missiles kept falling around us.

We could see US-made Apache helicopters being flown low in the sky. From them, Israeli troops were shooting at civilians in the streets.


As the violence intensified, I came back home to see my family.

My mother was sweating.

My father was praying.

My pregnant sister’s eyes were filled with tears.

My nephews and nieces were crying.

My brothers were asking, “What is going on?”

The sense of panic was palpable.

I told my family that I had seen airstrikes everywhere, that Israeli soldiers had invaded the eastern outskirts of Deir al-Balah in tanks.

The bombardment did not stop.

We prayed that if we were going to be killed, that all of us would be killed. Then nobody would have to grieve or die in pain afterwards.

It was horrifying.

We could not breathe.

“I am afraid,” my 5-year-old niece Marwa said.

“Will Israel kill us?” my 6-year-old nephew Amr asked.

Another nephew heard the sirens of ambulances and started to scream.

I had a quick look out the window and saw people being displaced.

Exhausted mothers carried their infants, children dragged bags containing a few belongings, older people coughed.

Women wearing their prayer dresses implored God to protect everyone.

The traffic seemed to be more chaotic than it had ever been. Cars and other vehicles carried hundreds of people, who were seeking refuge, even though nowhere in Gaza is safe.

Amid the chaos, it was difficult for ambulances to reach places that had been targeted and bring injured people to hospital.

We live near al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah. I could hear people in that hospital, screaming in grief and pain.

A moment later, there were another couple of airstrikes toward the west. We panicked even more.

We were ready for death.

We expected that it would be our last day.

I couldn’t stand on my feet.

We stayed close to each other in one room, hoping that this horror would end.

Before I died, I felt I should have a look at my yellow rose. I water it every single day.

I went to the balcony. It seemed the end was near.

I immediately came back and stayed close to my family.

We stayed like this for a few hours until we heard some news.

We learned that Israel had been carrying out an operation to rescue some of its captives. We would soon hear that a few hundred Palestinians had been massacred as part of that operation.

Eventually the bombardment became less intense.

We were lucky. We had survived.

We felt relieved.

It felt like we would never forget the sensation of relief. But unfortunately the sensation may evaporate.

We are subjected to barbarity every single day.

We just hope that it will end.

Abubaker Abed is a journalist and translator from Deir al-Balah refugee camp in Gaza.