It is the 13th day of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza strip, the 20th of July to be exact. The time meter might have stopped, but the death meter is still claiming more and more martyrs.
A single room not wider than 4 meters hosts 17 individuals, 4 of whom are children. It is somewhat the safest at home and does not overlook the street. No power; no water; no security.
The scene repeats itself in reality, the way it does in my dreams. We were counting the seconds left for us to live, waiting for a bombshell to scatter our shreds, when we would become part of the past. We would be removed from civil records of the strip.
We shook as though it were Alexa thunderstorm all over again, although this time because of the fear and horror that swept us. Children were shocked, clinging to their mothers; no cries, no tears, only shrieks that were directly proportional to the strength and distance of falling shells.
In that corner of the room, which I considered somewhat safe, I held my little brother in order to absorb some of his fear. Even though the shells were falling all around us, we still made an effort. My mother did the same. She embraced my other siblings. My uncle’s wife took refuge in our home, for it was safer than hers which was on the top floor. My father, my uncle and his children and grandson; we were all cramped in one room.
The night passed as though it was a year, for time was slow and events were hectic. We never expected to make it, but we did.
As an eyewitness to the Shujaia massacre which claimed dozens of lives, I never imagined to be witness to events like the ones I saw and heard about in the media such as Sabra and Shatilla camps massacres in Lebanon committed at the hands of Ariel Sharon and the Lebanese phalanges.
Since 10pm of the 12th day of the aggression, and the escalation of events of the morning after, on the 13th day…there, on that night, we wished to die in a fighter jet missile rather than by a shell from the artillery stationed east of the city.
Soon, occupation soldiers became obsessed with spilling more and more blood, targeting homes, streets, even medical centers, violently and indiscriminately. Those events followed the bombardment of our skies with leaflets and our phones with recorded phone calls and text messages demanding that we, the residents of Shujaia, evacuate.
At first we thought it was Israeli psychological warfare that we have grown accustomed to, and we had full faith in our resilience even if our homes were to be shelled. Indeed, we did not give in to their demands, except for a few who preferred to leave in order to avoid Israeli madness and in an attempt to save their lives.
The pace of strikes began to escalate, along with artillery shelling and gunfire, which paved the way for the Shujaia massacre. Informants roamed the neighborhood in order to stagger its residents as well as resistance fighters. Gunshots could be heard everywhere. It was not the like the sound of an armed clash between the resistance fighters and the occupation soldiers. Since our neighborhood was somehow far from the borders, we were positive that the occupation forces couldn’t have crossed Nazzar and Baghdad streets and were in the heart of Shujaia. Not long after, resistance fighters announced that they were not involved in the shooting, but instead, it was informants and spies who did so in order to expose the resistance fighters, render them easy targets for the Israeli killing machine and expose resistance hideouts and sites.
The ground clashes between the resistance fighters and the occupation forces turned into an epic written by the resistance. The resistance’s resilience drove the neighborhood residents to support it and secure the safety of their members.
Unfortunatel,y however, the spies completed their mission to the fullest, starting with heavy shooting in an attempt to lure the resistance fighters into the streets so that they would be easy targets for warplanes, to spreading rumors that the occupation forces were in the heart of the neighborhood. And so the massacre was executed against civilians.
The neighborhood did not witness a night more horrific than that one, for it was the bloodiest and the most violent. The occupation’s ground losses drove it mad, and so the shelling was indiscriminate. Our home shook left and right with every shell. Shrapnel entered the room which we all considered the safest at home. Children and women’s screams and men’s prayers were heard on the street.
We could hear screams and rescue calls coming from a home located just a few meters from ours. Smoke was coming from the top floor. We almost choked at the smell of fire. There was nothing around us except clouds of smoke and fire.
Artillery shelling kept getting heavier and heavier. We were waiting for death to come. I waited for a shell to fall on us and began to imagine the horrific scene that the world would see. A red scene, with my shreds scattered everywhere. We only felt death that day whilst we breathed. I smile and then frown as my life passes in front of my eyes. In each corner of our home, there is a memory. But today, it has become our cemetery, awaiting an indiscriminate shell. I wasn’t the only one to give in. Shujaia residents were waiting to become martyrs. Mosques were silent for the first time in a long time, the only sound in the street was that of ambulances.
We thought that the morning hours would bring calm. We completely rejected the idea of leaving our home. But things took a rough turn, which forced everyone around us to leave their homes.
Our street was completely evacuated. We were the only ones who remained. A shell fell over a home in the back street. No ambulances, civil defence or Red Cross were able to reach any street in the neighborhood in order to recover the bodies and save the injured.
We decided to leave after receiving calls from relatives who said that there was no point in rebuilding our home if we were martyred inside it, that we had to live in spite of the occupation. We took our IDs, some water and our phones with us.
We left home expecting to be targeted at any moment. Streets were empty except of those who decided to evacuate as well and some photographers and paramedics. The smell of blood and gunpowder was everywhere. The wounded watched us from afar as they waited for death to claim them, for ambulances could not reach them due to shelling. When we arrived at Shujaia crossroad, we almost collapsed at the horror of the scene.
Entire families evacuated and flocked the street carrying their children, pushing their elderly on wheelchairs. Some youth carried some clothes while others left with nothing. Municipality and emergency vehicles, ambulances, Red Cross and a huge number of media crews were at the entrance of the neighborhood waiting to offer some help.
As soon as we reached somewhere safer than Shujaia, we began to digest what happened. We realized that the time of miracles has not ended, for how could we be here after the most violent night in the history of our lives had that not been a miracle?
We are still alive, physically well, breathing. But we are not ok. Sabra and Shatila massacre of Shujaia has killed the life in us, and we are still alive.
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