‘The world wants Gaza to burn, why else are they all just sitting and watching us die?’

Anjuman Rahman

Ahmed Suhail Al-Hattab had eagerly awaited for the month of Ramadan, anticipating the warmth of family and friends gathering for the cherished tradition of iftar – the break fast meal – at his home in Tel Al-Hawa, nestled in the southern reaches of Gaza City.

For as long as he can remember, the spirited atmosphere of visiting night markets and illuminating lanterns with the neighbourhood children had filled the holy month with joy, etching memories that spanned over two decades.

Yet, Ahmed’s hopes for a traditional celebration were dashed as bombs continued to fall on the besieged enclave and famine edges closer. The vibrant colours of festive lanterns have been replaced by the sombre hues of destruction, while the lively chatter of loved ones has faded into a ghostly silence.

“This Ramadan is tasteless and colourless. Everything is bleak,” says Ahmed, his voice heavy and dry. “I swear to you, for over 100 days, we have not had a single piece of meat or chicken. We break our fast with any little that is edible and the rare food packages that arrive.” And any goods that are available are sold at exorbitant prices, he adds.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are “starving to death” due to restrictions imposed by Israel on the entry of humanitarian aid, while access to clean water “has become a matter of life or death.”

Even the limited amount of aid entering is diminishing, UNRWA has reported that the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza fell by 50 per cent from January to February in particular following the International Criminal Court’s interim ruling that Israel may be carrying out a genocide in Gaza and it’s order that the entry of humanitarian to the Strip aid not be obstructed.

“All we break our fast with is water and dates but we remain thankful to God,” Ahmed says. “Everything and all our habits have changed in this famine but our prayer, worship and reading of the Qur’an in Ramadan is firm, praise be to God.”

“It’s very lonely this month. And unfamiliar. Normally we’d all be gathered, the whole family would be with me, but now half of my family is missing. Some of my family remain under rubble too,” Ahmed explains, his words heavy with sorrow. “Today, as you can see, there’s no gas. We cook on a fire that we prepare ourselves that burns our hands. Everything has become, if not difficult, impossible to do.”

Not long before the war, the 24-year-old photojournalist, who has been displaced and forced into Rafah in southern Gaza, had fulfilled his long standing dream of purchasing a new home alongside his family of five.

After 14 years of hard work, the family had finally settled into their new home in the western Gaza Strip. And following his graduation from Al-Azhar University, he rewarded himself with an extra room at home for his cameras and video equipment – a haven where he could both work and unwind with friends.

It wasn’t a mansion nor a castle, he says, but it was a cosy home filled with laughter and memories.

As soon as Israel declared war on Gaza on 7 October, the area was bombed. Israeli warplanes launched a series of intense air strikes on the Tel Al-Hawa area and the surroundings of Al-Quds Hospital causing widespread destruction in the area and resulting in deaths and injuries.

“The house was something we all worked towards as a family together for 14 years, so when the war came and burned our land, it not only set the house on fire but our dreams, goals and future.”

My equipment was destroyed, and my room was bombed. In one blurry moment, our lives were shattered but we fled and survived. Four times. We escaped death four times

he says.

With Israeli occupation forces now threatening a ground invasion of Rafah, Ahmed is at a loss as to where to seek refuge next. His family, like many others in Gaza, had heeded the occupation’s warnings and moved south to alleged “safe zones”. However, the brutal bombing campaign followed them, inching closer to the designated “safe zones” and striking within them.

“When we were displaced for the third time from the city of Khan Yunis and the planes were shooting from above us while the tanks were shooting shells from around us, I prayed for God to take my soul so I don’t suffer such deadly scenes again,” recounts Ahmed.

“We were forced to walk for more than 20 kilometres! The children here walk hundreds of metres to get one gallon of water. Is it right for a child to be carrying this weight?”

I watched everything as if I was in a horror movie, the pictures and videos the world sees don’t show everything, the pain, the massacres, the blood and corpses, you can’t capture death in a photo.

“I learnt in this war that the worst thing in the world is when death, in all its forms, is right before your eyes but you are unable to do anything feeling completely hopeless,” he explains. “Death is terrifying my tired mother. She is crying everyday and I can’t do anything except hold her hand and beg her to be patient.”

Rafah is massively overcrowded, with nearly 1.5 million people crammed into an area that previously housed 300,000 Palestinians. Some have managed to secure tents, while others have hastily assembled makeshift shelters in an attempt to protect themselves from the elements and difficult conditions.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October and over 74,500 injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Despite the global outcry, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remains determined to carry out a ground invasion of Rafah claiming “no international pressure will stop Israel” from achieving all of its war aims.

“The world wants Gaza to burn, why else are they all just sitting and watching us die? Why aren’t the people and leaders moving with all their might if they know all that Israel is doing to us?” asks Ahmed. “Israel is killing us with illegal weapons in this illegal war and instead of stopping it, the world is facilitating it, because humanity has long been killed too.”

(Source; MEMO)