Voices from Gaza (1)

04 February 2009

"I cannot forget them, they are in my head all the time"

Ahmed, 10

Interviews with families who sought refuge in El Fakhoura school.

Yusra Ragheb Al Talah, 43 years old, is a mother of eight children. The eldest is 16 years old, and the youngest is 15 months. Her husband is in the West eBank. Throughout the interview she could barely speak and she seemed very sick and tired.

The funeral of those who died in the incident near El Fakhoura school on 6 January

"My house is at Ala’tatra area in Beit Lahiya. The shooting started at 18:00 hours, there was shooting from the tanks, the airplanes, it was very extensive. At the time I was home with my children, we were all terrified.

We kept moving from one room to another seeking safety, finally we stayed in the toilet a tiny 1.5sqm room. We were there until morning, at which point the house next to us was hit by an F16 missile, our house collapsed, the roof totally collapsed on our heads, we all started to scream, we thought that we would die. We could not leave until the neighbours came to help us and took my children to another house. There we stayed for three days, there was no food, we only able to give the children some bread. We made desperate calls to the Red Crescent to come to evacuate us, but they could not, they said the Israelis would not allow it. All they could do was tell us to walk out by ourselves holding white banners.

We all held white banners even my 15 months daughter who was screaming and yelling all the way out. I held her as we walked but as we came closer to the tanks I tripped and fell and dropped my little child. I could not pick her up, the road was totally destroyed and I could not walk, I felt very sick and almost fainted, my neighbours helped me to stand and they took my child.

As we walked we were very scared, the tanks never stopped shooting at us, until we reached the western junction, and came to Al Fakhora school."

However, at the school more misery awaited:

"I was making some sandwiches for my children when we heard the missiles that landed on the perimeter of the school. The children were very terrified, I kept them next to me, I held them and felt that the shelling started again. I looked out of the windows, and saw the bodies of the killed on the streets.

When the ceasefire was announced I went to check on my house, I was shocked it was totally burned, nothing remains, I was shocked, they did not keep me anything, and since I saw the house I can barely talk.

My children do not feel very well, they jolt at any small sound. They miss their father, their house, their rooms, their books; they miss their previous life. They are only children, they don’t deserve to live this way, and they feel now like they are so old.

My children went to see our house. We did not expect the extent of the damage, we all were shocked, they were hoping to bring some of their books, cloths, but they have nothing left, everything is burned.  They have said very little since.

How do you expect a child, a seven, or five years old to feel when they saw their house burned?"

Abdallah El Najar, 8 years old, playing barefooted, I met him in the corridor.

He looked confused. He told me:

"Our house was completely destroyed. At the time my mother was preparing lunch for us. We ran for our lives, barefooted, we were screaming.

I will never forget this experience, I went back to see my house, but it was not there. I felt very sad. I wished to bring back my cloth, my bed, my blankets, my bag, my books, my shoes everything. But everything was gone"

Yasser Mohammed El Najar, 37 years old, is a father of 11 and a recipient of UNRWA assistant (SHC)

"It was the second day of the Israeli operation in Gaza when our house was completely destroyed by an F16 missile. We ran for our lives, with my kids, we lost everything.

I came to the school where they allocated us with other families to the classrooms. The men used to stay over night outside the room to leave space for others. We were 115 people in one room.

We though that we would be safe there, but it seems that there is no place to hide. When three missiles fell around perimeter of the school, my children were playing in the playground. I can not remember anything, it is very hard to recall this experience, even for us men, to see people killed in front of your eyes, it is very difficult. I am talking to you now, and I can not believe that I am still alive. When the missiles hit I went down to look for my children, I was looking through the bodies, I was looking through the limbs and other body pieces,  burned bodies to identify any one of my children."

Ahmed Yasser El Najar, 10 years old, the third grade.

"I was injured when missiles landed next to the school. Shrapnel hit my foot, I saw the dead bodies, I was so scared, and was crying. I can not forget them, and they are in my head all the time."

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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