‘Wiped off the map’: Palestinians fight to survive Israeli bombardment of Gaza

Maryam Zakir-Hussain speaks to families in Gaza who say Israeli air strikes are raining down on them as they tell the world ‘We deserve life’

Friday 13 October 2023 10:57 BST
Palestinians evacuate wounded people after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah
Palestinians evacuate wounded people after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah (AP)

“Oh my God. It’s another attack. Oh my God.” The sound of an Israeli air strike overhead was followed by a choking silence.

The tremors in Motee’ Masbah’s voice momentarily settled as the Israeli plane continued to fly over him in Gaza. This air strike did not kill him, but he is fearing the worst.

“No one would believe what is going on unless they live in the Gaza Strip,” the father-of-four told The Independent. “Even now as I’m talking to you, any place could be hit.

“What I am seeing is abysmal. Entire neighbourhoods have been entirely and completely wiped off the map. It’s not just about targeting particular houses or constructions.”

Motee’ Masbhah said he has ‘no idea’ how he will survive the upcoming hours, let alone days (Supplied)

The promise of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to unleash “mighty vengeance” for the Hamas attack that will be remembered “for decades to come” is felt foremost by the civilians in Gaza.

According to officials at least 1,417 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and at least 6,268 injured since Israel bombarded the besieged strip with relentless strikes after Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Saturday.

At least 1,300 Israelis have been killed and at least 3,300 have been wounded since the violence began.

Hundreds of thousands of IDF troops have now amassed at multiple points on the border of the enclave as the army is poised for a ground invasion. Israel has issued an unprecedented order for 1.1m Palestinians living in Gaza to evacuate the north by 10pm on Friday, with the UN warning the demand is “impossible” and could have "devastating humanitarian consequences".

The whole strip of Gaza, with its 2.3 million residents, is being attacked with ceaseless Israeli airstrikes (AFP via Getty Images)

“This is an open-air prison and denying Gaza of any access to the basic needs throws the entire region into darkness,” Motee’ said.

But the worry for food and water comes second to the fear of the air strikes shattering Gaza.

Motee’ said he has located himself in a different area in Gaza to his wife and four children to increase the chance of the family’s survival.

“We shouldn’t all die together when a target hits,” he said. “Let one of us stay alive.”

The activist is constantly trying to contact his family to ensure they are alive, but with restricted internet and a lack of electricity, any communication is a miracle. “All batteries are dying. We are running out of fuel. I don’t know how we are going to survive.”

The ‘open-air prison’ of Gaza has been denied any food, water or fuel from Tel Aviv (AFP via Getty Images)

There is no real shelter in Gaza, though nearly 175,000 displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in UNRWA schools.

Najla Shawa, a humanitarian worker in Gaza with her family, said: “The schools that people take refuge in are not shelters. They are just normal schools with no reinforcement and no specific conditions for protection.”

Residents of Gaza are facing a total blackout as their phone batteries are dying with limited resources to recharge (AFP via Getty Images)

Trapped in demolished Rafah, southern Gaza, Dima Mohamed Abu Asaker is hiding in her home with her family of seven as each hour brings more terror.

Each person has a bag of essentials packed in case they have to run.

Dima Mohamed Abu Asaker with her nephews who ‘cannot endure the sounds of the bombs’ (Supplied)

“We hear the bombs come down but we don’t know where the sound is coming from, so we just pray we’re not next,” the 20-year-old student said.

“We are not terrified about the resources running out, just about the bombs that are raining down every day and every second,” she said. “I am scared for my people, for my nephews. They are just babies, they cannot endure these sounds.”

Dima said her family is ‘so scared right now’ as Rafah is being obliterated by air strikes and missiles (Supplied)

In the small window they get internet, they scour social media to make sure their friends and loved ones are alive.

“The photos we see in these few hours break our hearts, we see the martyrs, the blood everywhere. The images of the dead stay with you even when the internet goes,” she said.

Before the violence began, Dima was studying software engineering at university - a life she now mourns.

“Two software engineering students from my uni were killed. I swear to God, if I can go back to university, I won’t complain about homework or long hours. I used to get such high marks.

“I want people to know we are worthy of life. We have dreams, we have ambitions. We deserve to live.”

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