Fares Akram: Our home is bombed – where will we take our baby?

Gaza Diary
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The Independent Online

The sounds of explosions and clashes boomed all night and into the early hours. We guessed that Israeli foot soldiers were trying to press deeper into the city from the south. Whenever the firing salvoes paused for few seconds, we could hear the tank engines. The Gaza Strip was already pretty small before this conflict began, but it has got even smaller after being divided into three isolated sections by the Israeli army.

In the past 17 days of the onslaught, there hasn't been a night without heavy strikes on Gaza but last night the shelling never stopped for more than a few seconds and aircraft, artillery cannons and gunboats fired their missiles into Gaza all at the same time.

"It's OK, it's still a long way from us," I said to Alaa, who is nine months' pregnant and due in hospital this morning, where the doctors are planning to induce the birth of our first baby. We've been taking refuge at my in-laws' place in the middle of Gaza City.

But to the north, where our evacuated apartment building is located, missiles had been landing. Alaa fretted. It was difficult to comfort her since there were reports the al-Andalous tower, a 14-storey residential complex only 30m from our home, had been hit.

When the darkness lifted, I hurried to check on the family home. Turning into our street, I saw scores of people gathering under what remained of the al-Andalous tower. The road was filled with stones, dust and glass. One look at our own building was enough to let us know how things would be on the inside. No windows were left.

Residents of the tower were saving what they could of their damaged furniture and belongings. The stairwell was gone so they dropped everything to the ground, from mattresses and bedcovers to televisions, using a rope.

In our building, the doors of the lift had been blown off by the strong air concussion, the timber doors of my uncles' apartments had been blown open and everything was covered in dust and broken glass.

I found my mother at her apartment, which is next door to my own; she was showing the local media the destruction, including the window frames that had crashed on to my father's bed. "They killed Akram and now they're destroying the few belongings he left behind," she was saying. It is just 10 days since my dad was killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Inside, I retrieved all the baby clothes that we had bought for my daughter. It seems we're going to be away from our home for longer than we imagined.

Later, Alaa looked sadly through the photos I took of the destruction at the apartment where we had lived for less than a year. She never expected, she told me, that our baby would spend the first days of her life outside of our home moving from shelter to shelter.

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