May 9, 2023, 2:49 a.m.: I wake up abruptly in the middle of the night to the ding of numerous text messages. I don’t usually leave my Wi-Fi on when I go to sleep, so if my friends or family need to reach me, they either text or call. I grabbed my phone from my nightstand to see messages from my friend, Luna, who doesn’t usually text. I felt my heart beating in my throat and had this feeling that something bad must have happened.
Luna had just heard a very loud bombing and was wondering if I had heard it, too. To Gazans, every slight sound, even the shutting of the door, can sound like a bombing. As people who have lived through four official Israeli aggressions and countless escalations, we are traumatized by the smallest of sounds.
I did not hear the sound of the bombing but something didn’t sit right with me. I rushed to open the news channels on Telegram that I had just muted because they were a constant reminder of the imminent threat and danger in which we live.
All news channels reported similar headlines: “Israel announces the assassination of 3 leaders from the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza.” Another announced: “Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip, killing 13, including 3 Islamic Jihad leaders.” I knew then that the short-lived peace and quiet that had only lasted a week was now over.
I kept tossing and turning in bed, checking the news for more bombings, and praying that a bomb would not fall on my home and no escalation would happen — which I knew would be impossible.
When I heard the Fajr call to prayer, I called it a night and went to pray. Afterward, I turned on the TV to the news channels while following up with the news on my phone to find out what was being reported.
Social media platforms were showing demonstrations and pictures of the destroyed buildings, the bombarded homes, and the children weeping over losing their homes and loved ones. The broadcasts displayed pictures of the 13 martyrs, which included women and children. In the attempt to assassinate the targeted individuals, their wives and children were also murdered as collateral damage.
And not just them, but also their neighbors. Dr. Jamal Khaswan, a highly respected dentist, his wife, Mirvat, and their son, Yousef, my former schoolmate and a second-year dentistry student who was supposed to graduate and work with his father, were also murdered.
Eman and Dania Addas were also collateral damage. Dania’s fiancé had just left her house 15 minutes before she was murdered. Their wedding was supposed to take place on July 21, yet now she will be wrapped in a shroud instead of a bridal gown
Mayar, 11, and Ali Ezz-el-Deen, 9, went to bed early that night because they were excited to wake up the next day to go on their school’s field trip. They were clueless that the Israeli military had planned a different trip for them, one to the seventh sky.
The Israeli government was now waiting for the Palestinian Resistance movement’s response and the period of cautious silence began. While waiting, they evacuated their settlers to places far away from Gaza and placed them in underground shelters, while we had no place to hide as we are surrounded from every corner by the Israeli warplanes.
I was glued — alongside my sister, Lama, and mother — in front of the TV waiting impatiently for the upcoming events. My other sister, Rasha, who lives abroad, was calling us every 30 minutes to make sure we were safe and alright as it was her first experience of an escalation away from us.
Being outside of Gaza, during a major assault while having loved ones stuck in it, is one of the worst experiences. The fear of losing someone you care about while away is the permanent companion of any Gazan outside of Gaza.
The silence became more suffocating and stressful with each passing hour. Anxiety and fear crept into our bodies and we were starting to lose our nerves. The Israeli drones and F-16s started bombing random places to provoke a response, and more innocent civilians were killed by their raids.
After almost 36 hours of paralyzing silence and a sleepless night, the response came. On May 10, 2023, 1:27 p.m. — the second anniversary of one of the deadliest assaults on Gaza — a new wave of aggression began.