Thursday, January 15, 2009

Islamic Relief Aid worker's Diary in Gaza: Part 16

"When I meet people I find that they have almost become indifferent to
death, as we know death is not far away"

Hatem Shurrab,Islamic Relief staff in Gaza

Aid worker diary: Part 16

In the 16th instalment of his diary, 15 January, he tells how he and his family are trapped in their home as fighting rages around them.

GAZA: 15 January

I am stuck in my house. Things are very difficult today as tanks are in the area next to where I live and where my colleagues have family.

My colleague is writing my words down as I am unable to get to the office and use my computer.
Many people have left the area and are moving in with relatives deeper in Gaza City.

When I look out of the window I can see people leaving with small bags - many of those leaving are with their families. There are many women and children.

I hear a loud explosion a few metres away. The shelling is becoming more intense and rockets are also falling.

I can see smoke from a building that is behind my house.

The Unrwa (UN relief agency) building is close by and my colleague has told me that it has been hit.

Shelling is going on. Explosions are shaking the house. My family are gathered in one room and we make sure everyone is OK and the house is OK.

My mother shouts out to make sure we are all with her in the room.

My sisters-in-law are with us and the children, and we crouch down in case glass from the windows shatters and hits us. I can hear the neighbour's children crying and shouting.

My sister called earlier and said she will try to make it to our home. She has three young daughters and a son but we don't think she will make it as it is not safe to travel.

Some family friends are now on their way to a UN shelter. They wanted to stay with us but it was simply too dangerous for them to make their way here.

Thick black smoke is getting thicker and blocking the sun. The fighting is coming closer to our homes and the soldiers are now in urban areas. What scares me is that our homes could come under attack and there will be more death and destruction.

When I meet people I find that they have almost become indifferent to death, as we know death is not far away.

I was supposed to be out distributing aid to hospitals around Gaza with Islamic Relief's emergency relief team.

Yesterday we managed to deliver hospital trolleys, heart machines and first aid equipment including bandages, disposable gloves and syringes to five hospitals around Gaza.

We were supposed to deliver more aid today but our work has been suspended due to the intensity of the attacks in the centre of Gaza.

Aid is entering Gaza through Israel and Egypt but people can't collect the food and medicine as it is not safe for them to leave their homes.

A few days ago Islamic Relief was able to receive 20 ambulances through the Rafah border which will be donated to the main Shifa hospital and other smaller hospitals.

Hopes dashed

Today is the 20th day of the attack. Every day we hope that this will be the last day but the attacks go on and people feel depressed and scared.

Gazans feel that this won't end any time soon. When I meet people I find that they have almost become indifferent to death, as we know death is not far away.

In the past 20 days more than 1,000 people have been killed, many of them women and children. Death has come close to the average Gazan.

My colleague is asking me how I am coping with the situation and how I overcome my fear.
I take a deep breath and try to explain as best I can.

During the day when I am out working with the Islamic Relief team I stay strong and never show exhaustion or fear.

I am there to help people who in many cases have nothing.

When I get home I try to stay strong for my family especially my nieces and nephews who are very young and frightened.

At night when I read the evening prayer I can't control myself and I cry and cry all night.
In the morning I leap up and force myself to shake off the despair and hurt and get ready to go out and try to help the people of Gaza.

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