Under a cloud of sadness

Rafah has been under attack for a long time. 

Jehad Alshrafi APA images

I will never forget the day that we were forced to leave our small, warm home.

I will never forget those feelings of tension and terror.

Where will we go?

What will happen next?

The night before had been bloody. We heard many noises: warplanes being used for bombing, shelling all around us, gunfire.

News came that morning. We learned from a neighbor that we had been ordered to leave our home in northern Gaza.

I froze. My thoughts became scattered.

I have three children, including a baby daughter.

How could I deal with their fear?

I placed as many necessary things as possible for my children in two backpacks.

Then I looked at every corner of our home, wondering if I would see it again. When I closed the front door behind me, I wept bitterly.

We got in our car.

The Israelis had told us that the road would be safe. No one would be shot.

That was a lie.

There were martyrs lying on the ground everywhere. There were wounded people bleeding and begging for help.

A strange new life

My children screamed at the sound of gunfire and bombing.

“Mama, my heart hurts from fear,” one of my sons said.

We heard Israeli soldiers opening fire but my husband did his best to keep focused on the journey.

And we eventually reached our destination.

It was the first day in a strange new life, one that we had never imagined.

We would have to make do without electricity or fuel.

We would have to search for firewood, which took a lot of time. On top of that, there was the effort of chopping wood.

Cooking took twice as long as usual. And there was the smoke, which harms the eyes and causes respiratory problems.

Water was lacking, too. Without transportation, we have to travel long distances on foot.

The water that we fetch is not suitable for the use of humans. But there is no alternative.

Not having water for household chores and having to wash clothes manually causes pains in my arms and back. I am 28 but I feel like I have aged by decades.

Our bodies are emaciated. Fruit and vegetables are scarce.

When they can be found, the prices are ridiculously high.

Our food is limited to canned goods. We are forced to eat them so that we can satisfy our hunger.

People have lost their sources of income.

My husband has to walk long distances in search of diapers and baby milk for our little girl.

We stayed in the city of Khan Younis for some time. Then we moved further south to Rafah.

The situation here is catastrophic.

Rafah has long been too crowded, leading to the spread of diseases. A number of my relatives have contracted hepatitis A, an illness linked to foul water.

They have not been able to receive adequate healthcare or even to eat the kind of food that would strengthen their immune systems.

Rafah was being bombed continuously. And then Israel dropped leaflets in various parts of the city, ordering people to evacuate.

Our children live under a cloud of constant sadness. These are the worst days of their lives.

Batoul Awad is a mother in Gaza.