By Awni Farhat
Awni is a 25 year old freelance interpreter/translator, social worker and community activist. He has lived in Jabalia refugee camp in The Gaza Strip all his life. We have republished some of his writing here on Revolution News with his permission. Please visit Awni’s tumblr to read all of his first hand accounts of his life during and after the Israeli offensive in July 2014.
Nowhere Else To Go, Living Amongst the Rubble in Al Shujiya
Last week I walked through Al Shujiya, which was one of Gaza’s most crowded neighbourhoods until it was turned into a new Hiroshima overnight during the Israeli offensive in July.
The massive devastation left behind after the Israeli incursion ended is unbelievable and deeply shocking. Nothing remains but the rubble of peoples’ homes. They intended to erase the stones, the trees and most of all the humans.
There is no sense of any life, just the smell of death, rubble and destruction as far as the eye can see. As I walked through this I thought of all the people, memories and homes that have been annihilated. I noticed a little boy hurrying along with three water bottles, and I followed him until he disappeared. I looked around to find him and heard the sounds of children from inside the remains of a house. I climbed the rubble to what remained of a gate, where a cloth hung as a makeshift door.
Pushing the cloth to one side, I found five children playing amongst shrapnel and rubble, surrounded by clothes hung to dry on the exposed masonry of their destroyed home.
I knocked and entered the building, finding the Asmaa Hasanin, the mother of the family. I asked why they were here. She told me;
“We have nowhere to go! We don’t have the money to rent a house so we decided to stay. Isn’t it better than being on the street?
We stayed at UNRWA schools for more than a month in miserable conditions. When the war ended we came back to check on our home. We couldn’t even recognise our street – everything looks different now that its just piles of destroyed houses.
My husband used a cloth to make our new gate, then we moved back in to live in two rooms full of sand and rubble. We can survive these hot summer days but winter is coming and we don’t have money to rent a house or buy warm clothes for our children. We’re living here with no electricity or water or any kind of infrastructure.”
I asked Asmaa about the night that Shujiya was destroyed;
“It was Sunday, before dawn. Thick, black smoke was billowing up from nearby houses and there was an unbearable smell of gas. A shell hit the house and set it on fire. We thought we would burn alive so me and my children left the house. Our neighbours were all leaving too, the Israeli artillery was heavy and random. I was holding my children, the streets were full of people and there were dead bodies lying in the street. People were screaming, ‘Keep walking! Don’t look at anything!’. We didn’t know where to go or where to hide.”
The shelling of Shujiya was a bloody massacre. People were killed while they were trying to flee their homes, shells landing in the streets. 17 children and 14 women were among 75 people killed, with hundreds more injured.