#GazaOneYearLater

Over 50 days of hostilities, the summer 2014 conflict caused unparalleled destruction and human suffering across the Gaza Strip. Families lost their children, entire neighbourhoods were torn to the ground, and tens of thousands were left with nothing as their homes were destroyed. Thousands remain displaced to this day. The 2014 conflict not only shattered homes and lives – much too often it has also shattered dreams. One year later, Gaza’s people still live in rubble, and the world has broken its promises about rebuilding the enclave. As one person portrayed in this photo essay asks, does anyone in the world listen or care? 

FIFTY VOICES FOR FIFTY DAYS OF CONFLICT: GAZA IN ITS OWN WORDS

Throughout the year, UNRWA has collected the voices of displaced mothers, frightened children, frustrated fathers, brave UNRWA staff members, hopeful teenagers, hard-working doctors, dreaming students, struggling business owners, and young talented poets. Read below to get a sense of Gaza described in the words of its people. New quotes will be added each day for the next 50 days. 


Day 50
#GazaOneYearLater: Yara Eid, May 2015
In my future, I want to be able to travel and see the world. And I want to become a doctor. In Gaza we need help, but we also have to help ourselves and this is what I want to do.
Yara Eid, May 2015

Day 49
#GazaOneYearLater: Fariz Husu, July 2015
Since the conflict, and over the past 12 months, my family has suffered a lot. We have lost our house and our stability, and even my bus, which was my only source of income, has been destroyed. Our area is not the same; people are full of grief and sorrow because of their losses. It is all gone; nothing is left but rubble. I am also worried that we will reconstruct our house and then another conflict will start and destroy it again. All I wish for is for us to live in peace, to be safe and to not have to suffer from more conflicts. We want a chance to raise our children and see them grow up.
Fariz Husu, July 2015

Day 48
#GazaOneYearLater: Salah Abu Hujaeir (on the right), July 2015
We need houses with wheels. When the war starts, we would pull it away with a tractor. Away!
Salah Abu Hujaeir (on the right), July 2015

Day 47
#GazaOneYearLater: Ahlam Ahmad, July 2015
The most common sufferings today are nightmares, as well as a profound feeling of complete insecurity and the constant expectation of the next conflict. Children in Gaza are growing up in a prison and many ask desperately: why are we not like other children?
Ahlam Ahmad, July 2015

Day 46
#GazaOneYearLater: Ahmad Ramadan Ghaban, August 2014
I did not know what to do or where to go. I kept thinking that we would all die. I kept thinking about my poor children. It is the worst feeling in the world to be so completely helpless that you can't save your own family. It was atrocious. The carnage, the blood, the screams, and the dead bodies everywhere. It is indescribable. Children, women and the elderly were killed in the school. Why? For what reason? What crime did they commit to meet such a fate?
Ahmad Ramadan Ghaban, August 2014

Day 45

##GazaOneYearLater: Hidaya al-Daalsa, September 2014
He had a chance to get some work for two days. We told him not to go because of the dangerous situation. We were broke and he said he will go so we have money for the girls for Eid. And he…[died]*. God willing I will be able to help my children get an education, so they will have better lives than the one their father had.
Hidaya al-Daalsa, September 2014 (*Her husband became another victim of the conflict)

Day 44
#GazaOneYearLater: Abdel Fattah Nidal Salem, July 2015
After the conflict, our school operated in triple shifts. When I was in the third shift, I came home late and did not have enough time to study and do homework. We had to learn the same amount of subject matter in less time, and this is difficult. Also, the school was not able to offer arts or sports classes anymore because of the triple shifts. Some of my friends were relocated to other schools after the conflict because there was not enough space in our school, and I felt very sad. Many children were sad after the conflict; two of my new friends had lost their houses. Over time, however, we all adapted and everyone became happier again. Now during the holidays, the children enjoy the UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks a lot. I hope UNRWA can organize these games every year, because it helps students to release all the pressure and find a place to play.
Abdel Fattah Nidal Salem, July 2015

Day 43
#GazaOneYearLater: Adnan Abu Hujaeir, July 2015
My first house was demolished in the ground incursion in a previous war. It took us five years to rebuild a new house. During the ground incursion in this war, the house was again destroyed. I hope we can rebuild the house yet again.
Adnan Abu Hujaeir, July 2015

Day 42
#GazaOneYearLater: Saher Fathi Zeyara, June 2015
With the holy month of Ramadan approaching, we are full of hope and positive feelings that this holy month will bring us good things and peaceful fasting, unlike the previous Ramadan, when we faced tremendous pressure, worries and fear.
Saher Fathi Zeyara, June 2015

Day 41
#GazaOneYearLater: Samira Hasan Muhaisen, April 2015
The UNRWA loans have given my life dignity. I hope that UNRWA supports me, my ideas and my business until the end, because there is no one else I can turn to for help.
Samira Hasan Muhaisen, April 2015

Day 40
#GazaOneYearLater: Husam Abdallah al-Absi, July 2015
Fifteen years ago, the sea was generous with us. Now we risk our lives for nothing. But we all want to hold on to this profession; fishing and the sea is in our blood.
Husam Abdallah al-Absi, July 2015

Day 39

#GazaOneYearLater: Dr. Fidaa al-Nadi, July 2015
For a recent graduate to work as a doctor in a collective centre after the conflict was tough. However, it was also rewarding as I was not only a doctor, but I also fulfilled an important social role. My house was destroyed during the last conflict, with me and my family in it; I was injured and so were my family members. I knew how it felt to live in a shelter having lost loved ones. I tried to find my own treatment in the treatment of the displaced. When you share the suffering, it becomes less. And I always told myself: what does not kill you makes you stronger. What I did in the Collective Centre was just the beginning of something bigger – I will always struggle and fight for life.
Dr. Fidaa al-Nadi, July 2015

Day 38
#GazaOneYearLater: Iman Juma'a Abu Oun, April 2015
Life became so difficult; I was hoping to find employment to support myself and not be a burden for my family. I really wouldn't mind working in any job, anything that helps me to survive. Life in Gaza is really tough. I gained a Job Creation Programme (JCP) opportunity with UNRWA and this is the first time that I actually found work, although I have tried so many times before. The high number of graduates and the tough economic situation in Gaza made this like an impossible dream to come true.
Iman Juma'a Abu Oun, April 2015

Day 37
#GazaOneYearLater: Mujahed Mahmoud Al Sosi, June 2015
Nine years of blockade made it extremely difficult for companies and businessmen in Gaza to survive; labourers' futures, their dreams and families are in a precarious situation; their dignity is suffering.
Mujahed Mahmoud Al Sosi, June 2015

Day 36
#GazaOneYearLater: Mohammed Saeed Aaraisha, UNRWA sanitation worker, August 2014
I leave my family every day to go to work despite the situation. I remind myself that my people need me too. I can't leave them in such a time of crisis.
Mohammed Saeed Aaraisha, UNRWA sanitation worker, August 2014

Day 35
#GazaOneYearLater: Hekmat Al Faiomi, Women Committee Zaitoun Collective Centre, July 2015
Our house was totally destroyed during the conflict and me and my family we moved to an UNRWA Collective Centre where we lived until they all closed in June 2015. In the Collective Centre I started working in various different positions, as a handicraft teacher or as cleaner for example. I was trying to give the displaced support and advice. Living in the shelter was especially hard for women; they felt bored, anxious and it was difficult for them to find privacy and a place to rest and be calm. I started to offer handicraft courses to give them a purpose and occupation to pass the time. When families started to move out of the Collective Centre, I always felt sad and happy at the same time; happy because they would be able to gain their privacy back, but sad because over time, and in these difficult circumstances, we all became very close friends.
Hekmat Al Faiomi, Women Committee Zaitoun Collective Centre, July 2015

Day 34
#GazaOneYearLater, Yousef Mansour, April 2015
I was playing with my friends when I suddenly felt blood running down on me. The next thing I knew is that I woke up in a hospital with great pain in my leg. I was sad seeing my friends going to school, my brothers playing outside in the street and I myself was only watching them, unable to run or play football like all the others. After the UNRWA teacher started with his home visits, I was willing to learn again. In the future, I want to become a dentist; but my biggest dream is to walk to school again.
Yousef Mansour, April 2015

Day 33
#GazaOneYearLater, Felestin Al Zaanin, July 2014
After learning that UNRWA had opened its schools to accommodate those who fled their home due to the ongoing conflict, my family and I left and sought refuge. By opening its schools to us and providing us with basic services, UNRWA gave us some sense of security, and for this we are eternally grateful.
Felestin Al Zaanin, July 2014

Day 32
#GazaOneYearLater, Majdi Salamah Sleisel, April 2015
We fled as many others to an UNRWA school inside the camp, and we stayed the whole period of the war in the school. Recalling these memories makes me shake again. It was horrible trying to save my family, and running this long road, with my son in a wheel chair, and the other one sick; it was a long journey, we thought it will never end. When we returned to our neighbourhood the streets were bulldozed, the houses around us destroyed and the windows and doors of our house completely demolished; the boys' room on the roof was damaged. Stones, broken glass, and sand covered everything in the house.
Majdi Salamah Sleisel, April 2015

Day 31
#GazaOneYearLater: Sara, September 2014
I love being at school and to be out of the sadness at home, which reminds me of the loss of my 11-year-old brother Asad. During the war, we evacuated our home and moved in with relatives. He took his doves with him and when he climbed to the roof to water them, he was killed by shrapnel due to shelling of a neighbouring house.
Sara, September 2014

Day 30
#GazaOneYearLater: Dr. Kefah El Najjar, August 2014
When I left my house, I prayed to God that I can reach the Health Centre safely. While at work, I prayed to God to save my family at home. My kids tried to stop me from coming to work every day. Still many patients came to my Health Centre, so of course I continued coming to work.
Dr. Kefah El Najjar, August 2014

Day 29
#GazaOneYearLater: Mirvat, February 2015
The night she died the storm was strong. We were all soaking wet, but some of us managed to sleep. The rain came in and drenched Salma's blankets. I found her shaking. Her tiny body was frozen…. We took her to hospital, but later the doctor called. Salma was dead. My beautiful girl weighed 3.1kg at birth. She was healthy and would be alive today if we had not been bombed out of our home in the war and reduced to living like this.
Mirvat, February 2015 (lost her baby in the cold Gaza winter)

Day 28
#GazaOneYearLater, Ala' Abu Said, September 2014
I wish I could be like other children of the world who don't know war.
Ala' Abu Said, September 2014

Day 27
#GazaOneYearLater, Hamza al-Masri, March 2015
It's really good that we could buy the building materials; it helped us to repair the house where we can gather as one family again. Receiving the building materials has also allowed me to hire labourers and provide them with an opportunity to work and earn money. This is very important considering the dire economic situation Gaza is facing.
Hamza al-Masri, March 2015
Day 26
Gaza One Year Later: Fares Sani, June 2015
If the situation were different – if we did not have this blockade – I would try to open my own workshop or I would move to another country where I can apply all my skills and build up a business and a life.‬
Fares Sani, June 2015

Day 25
Gaza One Year Later: Ruba al-Ghouty, April 2015
We are peace lovers. All we want is to have a peaceful homeland. We have had enough wars and destruction.
Ruba al-Ghouty, April 2015

Day 24
Gaza One Year Later: Nihad Fathi, November 2014
I hope our home will be rebuilt soon. I also want an end to the blockade so that I can get a job. I want to earn my living so that I will not need assistance any more.
Nihad Fathi, November 2014

Day 23
#GazaOneYearLater, Sameh al-Sa Kia, February 2015
I used to work as a waiter in the big hotels, but now there are too many people trying to work there. If I could find a job, I would move my family out of [the collective centre].
Sameh al-Sa Kia, February 2015

Day 22
Gaza One Year Later: Sam Mahmoud Sa'ad, 37, April 2014
This summer is not like the summers before the conflict. A lot of my friends will have to help repairing the houses of their families. Many still suffer from their war memories and require psychosocial support.
Sami Mahmoud Sa'ad, 37, April 2014

Day 21
Gaza One Year Later: Hani Uliwa, January 2015
I am unable to warm my children in this urgent and hard winter. My children need electricity to study, and the living conditions are difficult without electricity.
Hani Uliwa, January 2015

Day 20
Gaza One Year Later: Somaya al-Hajj, June 2015
One week after the ceasefire, emergency shelters transformed into schools and we started to teach. We had to build up a routine for the children, prepare them for a different life – the real life, I would say. In Gaza, we are used to this. We always keep going; life goes on.
Somaya al-Hajj, June 2015

Day 19
Gaza One Year Later: Basen, August 2014
We will smile despite the destruction, displacement and homelessness we are passing through. The world's students are now preparing their school bags following a happy summer vacation, celebrating the new school year and meeting their friends, but we Gaza children are not. I hope that we can lead a normal life similar to other children in the world and go to our schools in safety and security. We did not do anything wrong, and on this day we should have been sitting at school desks.
Basen, August 2014

Day 18
Gaza One Year Later: Atef Shallah, July 2014
We carried a white flag through El-Mansoura Street to ensure that the Israeli army saw we were unarmed civilians; we took nothing with us, no clothes, no medication and no food. There simply wasn't enough time… We walked for a very long time; we were exhausted, and our children terrified.
Miraculously, somehow, we survived, and we thank UNRWA for accommodating us. However, the conditions here are unbearable, not enough food or water and certainly not enough mattresses to sleep on. People are stumbling over each other, with some classrooms currently hosting over 90 people. We call upon donor countries and the international community to urgently come to our aid and save our children from this torment.
Atef Shallah, July 2014

Day 17

Gaza One Year Later: Abdel Hakim Awad, May 2015
This summer is not like the summers before the conflict. A lot of my friends will have to help repairing the houses of their families. Many still suffer from their war memories and require psychosocial support.
Abdel Hakim Awad, May 2015

Day 16
Gaza One Year Later: Fayez Mattar, July 2014
Last night, the house next door was bombed. My children were paralysed with fear, especially with shrapnel raining on our home. We waited for sunrise and then moved to an UNRWA school, which accommodated us in these terrible times.
Fayez Mattar, July 2014

Day 15
Gaza One Year Later: Salma, October 2014
Many of my belongings were lost or destroyed, including my kindergarten certificate and toys, which I asked my brother to move from the roof to a safer place in my bedroom.
Salma, October 2014

Day 14
Gaza One Year Later: Hussam Salem al-Najjar, August 2015
For hours, the bombing would not cease. My family and I gathered with 120 other members of our clan in the house next to us. We were terrified. The children were crying and trembling in fear. None of us believed we would survive.
Hussam Salem al-Najjar, August 2015

Day 13
Gaza One Year Later: Malak Musleh, 9, May 2015
I was so scared during and after the conflict. The sound of the bombing was always in my mind. The sound hurts a lot. Attending arts classes helped me to concentrate and feel peaceful. I like to draw happy faces and beautiful houses.
Malak Musleh, 9, May 2015

Day 12
Gaza One Year Later: Dr. Hend Harb, UNRWA Senior Medical Officer, November 2014
I was determined to serve my people, and nothing would deter me from my goal. It was very hard to leave my children during such terrible times, but it was my duty and responsibility and I would never shy from fulfilling it.
Dr. Hend Harb, UNRWA Senior Medical Officer, November 2014

Day 11
Gaza One Year Later: Raed Abd al-Karim Issa, July 2014
I saw my life, my memories and my history being destroyed before my very eyes. I haven't slept all night trying to search for some of my paintings, a vestige of what used to be, now under the rubble and wreckage. I searched and searched for my kid's toys. I tried in vain to collect the shreds of my life. All is ruined, and for what? What crime did I commit to deserve such a cruel punishment?
Raed Abd al-Karim Issa, July 2014

Day Ten
Gaza One Year Later: Wafa Nassman, UNRWA logistics assistant, September 2014
I was affected exactly like all Palestinians in Gaza. My family and I faced the same fear and the same suffering. We all know that whenever a person feels unsafe, she or he runs to their home as we believe it should be the safest place, but for me and everyone else in Gaza, there was no safe place.
Wafa Nassman, UNRWA logistics assistant, September 2014

Day Nine
Gaza one year later: Mohammed al-Aydi, UNRWA Chief of Area (Khan Younis), June 2015
Remembering the July-August 2014 hostilities one year later brings back the hard days and nights and the nightmares, losses, and sorrow that everyone in Gaza had to go through. In nights full of horror, fear, destruction, and death, the people of Gaza had to leave their belongings, houses, animals, gardens, businesses, stories and memories behind to flee to emergency shelters. No one was safe, secure or protected in Gaza. The UNRWA team suffered a lot from the pressure and unexpected magnitude of the destruction and violence. The team members did everything they could to support those in need, saving lives while at the same time being victims of the conflict themselves. After the ceasefire, I have asked myself many questions, and many of them remain unanswered: Why is this happening to us? When will the international community show the will to find a just and fair solution for us? When will our houses be repaired or rebuilt, our streets maintained? When are our lives going to be restored? Why were we left alone? Does anyone in the world listen or care?
Mohammed al-Aydi, UNRWA Chief of Area (Khan Younis), June 2015

Day Eight
Gaza One Year Later: Felesteen Isdudi, and her baby, Suzanne, February 2015
I am everything for these children. My husband could not handle the feeling of helplessness and left me alone with my children. Sometimes, I do not wish to see another sun rise.
Felesteen Isdudi, and her baby, Suzanne, February 2015

Day Seven

Gaza one year later: Hiba Abu Sirya, May 2015

Our house was destroyed during the last conflict and we lost everything. My mother was crying all the time. I felt very sad.
Hiba Abu Sirya, May 2015


Day Six
Gaza one year later: Hazar Abu Jazar, April 2015

The night we fled from our house, the sky was full of red lights from the extensive shelling. My children were so terrified; we heard the sound of the explosions around us and the voices of people in the streets and in destroyed houses asking for help, but we could not do anything. Outside, people were running from all directions – it felt like an exodus. Women were barefooted and some were uncovered; children were crying and dead bodies were lying in the streets.
It is hard to accept that your whole life and hard work has disappeared in one moment and a classroom will be the place where you and your family are expected to sit, eat, play and sleep for an unknown period of time. I am tired of living in a classroom. I want my life back. The war ruined my life and stole my peace, my dignity, and my stability.
Hazar Abu Jazar, April 2015


Day Five
Susan al-Dabba, UNRWA Collective Centre Manager, March 2015
I am like any other displaced person. My house was damaged by shelling. When I was running, I could only think of one thing: that I had to go to the collective centre because I had to help the people who were running with me.
Susan al-Dabba, UNRWA Collective Centre Manager, March 2015

Day Four
Gaza one year later: Rua' Kdeih, August 2014
Do not panic from facing hard times
It strengthens your heart, gives you the taste of healthiness,
Supports and empowers you, enhances your vision,
And shows your patience.
Hope is a wonderful friend that might disappear
But it will never betray.
Happiness is inside your home
Do not search for it in the gardens of strangers.
Rua' Kdeih, August 2014

Day Three
Gaza one year later: Mohia al-Goula, January 2015
I have seen too much war and suffering in my life. The last conflict was the worst of them all. I hope that one day, I will have a home again.
Mohia al-Goula, January 2015

Day Two
Gaza one year later: Izziddin Hamada, August 2014
I want a lasting ceasefire so that I can return to school. I want the blockade to end so that I can travel abroad. I want to study medicine in the future so that I can treat my sick mother.
Izziddin Hamada, August 2014

Day One
Gaza one year later: Amjad Oweida, UNRWA staff, August 2015
I did not know what was happening. I heard the explosion, but thought a neighbour's home was hit. People were screaming. We ran out of the house. Then, I looked around and saw that two of my five children were missing. I ran back when I saw my brother holding my son Mohammed in his arms. He was barely breathing. At that moment my mind froze; I couldn't understand what I saw. I felt completely paralyzed. My children were only trying to feed their doves. That's all. I could not believe that all that was left of my beautiful daughter was something black. I picked up her body and we ran to the hospital. My son died as soon as we arrived.
Amjad Oweida, UNRWA staff, August 2014