“There was blood everywhere”

More than 270 people were killed in Israel’s assault on Nuseirat refugee camp. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

The Nuseirat refugee camp massacre is one of the most horrific incidents since Israel’s current war on Gaza began.

More than 270 people were killed. Hundreds more were injured.

On Saturday morning, many warplanes were seen flying over central Gaza. Then Israel invaded the area in tanks.

Nuseirat is a densely populated camp, with a market in the middle.

Many of those killed were in the streets. Victims had to wait for ambulances for a lengthy period.

The intense bombardment impeded access for first responders.

Israel sought to “justify” the mass slaughter of Palestinians by presenting it as an operation in which four Israeli captives were rescued.

Around 11 am, Ahmad Labad heard the sound of missiles “falling one after the other.”

“It was terrifying,” he said. “I hugged my children and screamed that we had to leave the house and take shelter in a school.”

As they left their home, “we saw missiles exploding around us,” he added.

“People were screaming and calling for an ambulance,” he said. “I did not look back or around me.”

Ahmad carried his children as they were too afraid to walk.

It was only after two hours of extreme violence that Ahmad and his family could go back home.

“Many of my neighbors lost members of their family,” he said. “I cannot forget those moments and I cannot believe that I saved my children from this terrible massacre.”

“We will die”

Rawa, a 13-year-old from Nuseirat camp, was heading toward the market with her aunt on Saturday morning.

“Before we arrived, I heard the sound of bombing,” Rawa said.

“I grabbed my aunt and told her ‘we will die.’ She told me, ‘no, we will survive.’”

Rawa’s aunt held her and covered her head.

“I could see people running,” Rawa said. “They were saying that some had been martyred and some had been injured.”

“I tried to close my eyes so that I wouldn’t have to see the blood as I am afraid of it. The place was full of smoke.”

A photographer who carries out a daily livestream near Wadi Gaza, the nature reserve beside Nuseirat camp, could sense that “something abnormal was happening” as he worked.

The photographer noticed military aircraft flying low in the sky. Moments later, he saw tanks being driven into the camp.

After less than an hour, the photographer went to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah.

“I found hundreds of injured people,” he said. “People were screaming.”

Maryam Salim is a doctor at the hospital.

“The atmosphere completely changed,” she said. “Suddenly, we heard the sounds of bombing.”

The dead and wounded were brought to the hospital both in ambulances and cars.

“There was blood everywhere,” Salim said. “Most of the people injured were women and children.”

Some of the children had been taken to hospital without their families.

“They were screaming because they wanted their father or mother,” Salim added. “Many of them were trembling greatly from fear.”

As she tended to the wounded, Salim saw so much blood that “I almost lost consciousness.”

At one point, some of the displaced people who had gathered in the hospital shouted that Israel was going to attack its yard.

“Then things got more terrifying,” Salim said. “Everyone started leaving the hospital.”

While the hospital may have been spared, the fear of an Israeli attack was anything but groundless. Healthcare facilities have been repeatedly targeted during the current war.

Staff at al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital worked extremely hard to save lives on Saturday. Doctors and nurses did their best to help injured people but, as Salim noted, Israel “does not care about that.”

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.