“This Time is Different”: Interview with a Palestinian Under Siege in Gaza

On Sunday morning, Left voice spoke with Nour, a young medical student from Gaza, about the most recent war on Gaza, and what life is like for Palestinians living under Israeli bombardment.
  • Left Voice | 
  • May 19, 2021
(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Can you tell us about yourself? Where in Gaza do you live, and what do you do? What has life been like since the missile strikes started?

Basically what’s been happening is not a new story. We’ve been living it since 1948. And then specifically in the Gaza strip, we’ve been living under an occupation since 1967. There are F-16 roaming around, like they might strike at any second, but anyways, um, so yeah, I think a lot of people are missing what’s happening here and they really do not know a lot about the Gaza strip…It’s like literally not more than 365 square kilometers with more than 2 million people residing in it. It is one of the most highly populated areas in the world. We do not have an army. A lot of people do not understand that. We want people to understand this. This is an unarmed population, unarmed people versus a state that has one of the greatest militaries in the world. And we need people to understand that they just need to stop thinking of the Gaza strip versus Israel as two equal sides or about what’s happening here as some sort of  war or conflict between both equal sides…. 

Since Tuesday, Israel has been attacking Gaza non stop, like drones are all around the skies. Massacres have been happening all around, one of which happened in my own neighborhood on the first day of Eid, for which I lost a pregnant cousin with her child and another cousin who is still in critical condition. And we don’t know if she is going to make it, but she’s still alive…Like literally every single night, you know, the bombings do not stop day and night, but the nighttime is specifically more scary. Like during the nighttime, literally every single person in the Gaza strip, like everyone keeps posting their last prayers and asking everyone for forgiveness. 

We feel less than safe. During the night time, we’re all ready to die. Like all of us. And we keep hearing bombings all over, everywhere across the Gaza strip. And we don’t know where they hit. Like, we know it’s not us because we’re still alive at that point. But we don’t know if it might’ve just killed a loved one. And last night they did a whole massacre in the Gaza strip. They bombed five houses, no warning whatsoever to the people inside them. So far, they have found bodies of 33 people. And we still do not know how many more have we lost because they’re still looking for more under the rubble and we’re not equipped enough to pick up people from under the rubble. They’re literally just using their own hands.

You know, all the neighbors, like as soon as the bombing happens, all the neighbors just leave their houses, obviously risking their own lives and the paramedics and all of them use their own hands rock by rock, like literally to pick up people from the rubble. And actually the Egyptian government tried to get a ceasefire for a few hours just so that we can pick up people from the rubble, from that massacre because it was terrible. And they refused that obviously. So they’re still picking up people from the rubble, risking their own lives and they’re not safe. I have lived through three Wars. 2008, 2012, 2014. But this one is the scariest of them all; they only get worse. 

Currently they are bombing downtown….you know, like in Gaza city, they literally destroyed downtown Gaza. Like literally the most important streets, the most important economical places, you know, like factories or like media offices and residential towers…And then at the same time, they are trying to make life only worse for survivors when this is over, if at all.

Can you tell us about the airstrikes today and what’s happening in the streets, and how people in your neighborhood are responding?

Yeah, we’re just, we’re just trapped in our houses. We can’t leave our houses. And that doesn’t mean that we’re safe in our houses. Obviously we don’t have any shelters to go to seek safety. So we’re just staying in our houses, believing that’s the safest place we can stay. It’s a ghost town. And also nobody is leaving the house. The drones are being really loud. So we know they’re about to bomb somewhere close. So they’re being really loud right now, which means that they might bomb somewhere close, which could be my house actually at any second.

Like I’m checking the news on my phone every single second looking for how many people,  we’re looking for names of the people who lost their lives in Gaza city. And they’re still looking for more. So we’re still praying for our loved ones, because there are some people who are lost. Like we don’t know what happened to them. And obviously there are a lot of injured. [They] are losing their life because Israel won’t allow a ceasefire so that we actually can all go help pick up these people and hopefully save them. They’re not doing that.

So, there are a lot of people losing their lives. So we’re just waiting for more names. We’re scared. My cousin was also at risk, but he made it —-they’re injured, but they’re there– my direct cousin, first cousin with his family. The whole circle around his home [has been bombed]. Chiffon hospital, literally the biggest hospital in the Gaza strip is now blocked so that ambulances can’t go there. It literally shows so much, this is genocide.I don’t know what else to call it, honestly. And then the same thing for the Indonesian hospital [in Northern Gaza]. 

So in most of my city, we don’t even have a hospital, like a real hospital. We have something that’s kind of called the hospital and they were bombing also round it from the Eastern side, so that ambulances can’t even go from the hospital.  I don’t know what word to explain that—like deliberately wanting to kill people and not giving them a chance to be saved, not to mention that we don’t even have that much equipment, that many good doctors and that many resources in our hospitals anyway. I can hear ambulances actually, so there might be probably injuries or dead people [in the city center], and we don’t know, obviously, like we don’t know who it was, who was killed. 

That was the same thing about my cousin. I didn’t know, until 20 minutes later because we were waiting for the news to tell us. We didn’t have the privilege to give him the funeral they deserved because we couldn’t leave our houses. You can see them. Obviously we wouldn’t be able to say goodbye because they were brought in pieces.

[Loud text message Alert] 

Sorry. They’re, they are about to bomb, like at a place close, so close. I’m sorry. Yeah. I can hear ambulances. Okay. They’re about to bomb. Like we just built a mall in the city, it’s the only mall that we have for food. And they’re about to bomb it. Like they warned it with a drone. Sometimes that’s what they do. But sometimes they don’t bother doing that. And obviously they’re always claiming the warning of that drone rocket that they use sometimes. But that’s not the case every time, Most of the time they actually do not do that. 

Yeah. So they are about to bomb that mall. It’s really close to my house. So we might all hear it. That’s like a five minute walk from my house. 

From your perspective, politically, why do you think that Israel is doing this at this particular moment?  What did they have to gain from it?

So yeah, I know why this is happening politically. We all believe that. And we think it’s very clear that it’s happening because Netanyahu has lost four elections over the past two years. So he knows that he’s in a place where Israelis are about to kick him out of his position. So he wanted to win over more settlers. And that’s why he started the whole thing.  Just give them more houses so that they’re happy with him. And like, not worrying about all the families that are going to be displaced or what is going to happen to them. Like, not caring about that– just wanting to win over some votes. 

What has been the response to everything that’s going on in your community and the rest of the occupied territories? Are there people taking the streets, protesting, organizing themselves in Gaza? 

Oh, no. We absolutely cannot leave our house to protest. We have to just stay in our houses and yet we’re not safe, so no, we cannot protest against them. And that’s what Palestinians in Jerusalem tried to do and they were brutalized by police, but we don’t even have that option to fight against police brutality and all that because there are airstrikes and ground forces on the streets and stuff like that. No, no, no, no, no camp protests or anything like that, the most we can do is fight through social media. And that’s actually, I’m really proud that for the first time we’re actually able to post about what’s happening so that people from the West can see what’s happening.

And this is the first time this happened. In the last wars, this never happened. We were literally just killed in silence…but this time is different. We know it is different. It’s still not enough obviously, but it is different. So yeah, the most we can do is just protest from social media and just show the real crime and use a hashtag Gaza under attack, which actually was deleted by Facebook deliberately, and we started it again. They keep hiding our stories that talk about the Israeli occupation and their crimes. And there’s a lot of censorship.

So I use videos and record myself so that people in the US you know, whoever’s following me from my college in the US or everywhere else can actually see what’s happening. Same thing with Facebook….I know that there are some people with good intentions, but a lot of people are choosing to believe whatever they want to believe. And they’re choosing to turn a blind eye to what’s happening. So I was trying to post something that’s eye-opening to them and post the message so that they can’t ignore it. And they can actually do their own research. Like I’m not asking them to believe me with no evidence. Actually, you just do your own research and you understand what’s really happening.

It’s clear that the message has gotten out to the rest of the world. I imagine you saw yesterday that there were enormous protests on the day of the Nakba around the world. And not only Palestinians of course, but people from all countries and ethnicities around the world coming out in support of Palestine. Can you tell us what you think about that international support and how people are responding to it in Gaza?

 Before I start commenting, I just want to tell you that maybe with the bombing, I might lose wifi connection. It might happen because it happened before. 

So yeah, it makes us feel in support for the first time, as I said, this time it feels really different. Like even our spirits are higher than other times.  In the past three wars, we always just felt like the victims, but at the same time, we also knew that everybody was thinking of us– what they say about us—like the whole world. So that also, that has always felt really rough on us and only made things worse for us. But at this time we actually do feel that support.

And I can see all my friends and the people I’m following. Like everyone is reposting those protests and writing the name of the country or the name of the state under each protest. And I’ve been telling people that I’m making interviews with journalists and they’re really proud. And they’re really happy because  this has definitely given us a great feeling of support. 

I think a big part of this story, that’s also not being reported is the role of US interference in the region more generally, and the history of US imperialism and its relationship to the establishment of the Zionist apartheid state, and also the escalation and violence. Even under the Biden administration, which you called out specifically. So what do you think about all of that? And what’s your message to all the people in the US and other imperialist countries that are taking to the streets right now and are denouncing the economic and military aid to Israel? 

So we do condemn what the US government has been doing in support of one side only. And that’s what hurts the most, [is that Israel] is using the money of our friends and the American citizens. So we thank all the people who took the streets and are protesting in solidarity with the Palestinians, but we need them to actually do more. It can’t just stop like that. All people from all other imperialist countries, they need to be pushing on their governments and stop their complicity to what is happening, because this is human lives we’re talking about. And this is the right of people who have been occupied for 73 years now, and they should stand with us. So yes, we do appreciate them sending us solidarity, but we really believe that they need to do more. And it cannot stop at this because it is symbolic at the end of the day, it’s not going to change something. It’s not going to change what the governments are doing until they actually take some serious action.

Based on your own analysis of the situation and your own experience, where do you think this is going? What do you think is going to happen in the next week or so in terms of the people living in Gaza and the conflict more broadly?

We don’t know. We really have no idea. They have been spreading a lot of rumors about what was going to happen. Like a lot of rumors. And obviously Israel is choosing not to stop, because Egypt and Qatar and the U S have been trying to have some sort of ceasefire, and Israel has been saying no. So we watch our own news, and they’re talking about having some cabinet meeting today, and it might either escalate to a ground invasion, and even take it to a higher level, or a ceasefire, which doesn’t seem likely. We really do not know. But it obviously depends on Israel…

But what Hamas has been asking for is literally, since the start with the whole attacks, is just to leave the people of East Jerusalem [alone]. And this is actually the legal rights of the Palestinians, and the United Nations and the US should agree on that, and just leave them alone. So that’s what they’re asking. They’re literally just asking them to leave the people alone, and yet they’re still saying no to that.

So we’re not clear on when this is going to stop at all. And we are not clear about what protests are happening in the West Bank also…For the first time since the last intifada, we’re all, the whole people are actually protesting together, but they’re also shooting and killing us. There are 20 people in the West bank that have been killed. But what’s happening currently is still different from every other time.

And we know that finally Israel is also scared for their own media because finally they understand that their crimes are being exposed. Celebrities are sharing what’s happening and all of that. So they’re scared for the first time. So we know it is different, but where this is actually gonna eventually take us really depends on…[whether] people abroad and in the imperialist countries keep imposing pressure on their governments, even when it’s over.  Then and only then is this going to make a change. Otherwise, if it only depends on the people in Palestine trying to feed themselves, I don’t think that [will] really take us anywhere different. It’s just going to make life miserable for all the people who actually survive after this war, because they’ve literally, they’ve bombed every place that’s good for the economy in Gaza.

They just want to keep us dependent on Israel. Because obviously we use Israeli products in the strip because we have to, because it’s blockaded, and every time we build factories to have any products of our own, they bomb these factories. They bombed our airports so many times, there’s just not giving us a chance to, to have our own economy. They want us to keep depending on and submitting to them. And also like at the political level, the last war that we had was in 2014. So Israel is also like what the most that they can give. Like,you know, we haven’t seen what these people have been doing for the last seven years. So let’s see what they got; it’s all a political game. And at the same time their people have bomb shelters. We do not, and they’re using new weapons and, and they’re using new air forces. It’s all a dirty political game by Israel. 

What does freedom mean to you? And in the midst of answering that question, is there anything else that you want to add that we didn’t cover? 

So freedom basically is us being treated as human beings with dignity, having human rights that everybody in the world deserves no matter their government, being treated equal, living safe in our country, not being blockaded, obviously that’s not freedom. Like, you know, being able to go to Jerusalem, being able to see people in the West Bank, the complete removal of blockades and the complete removal of apartheid and literally just having our identity protected. So literally just being safe in the country, Palestine, no matter what, under what government, but knowing that we’re able to enter and leave our country whenever we’re able to go, being able to at least have our independent economy and just, I don’t know, just live with dignity. Just that. So it’s like, we’re not asking for too much.

As I said before, it’s really just a message for the people to please keep doing more, this can’t stop at protest. They’re appreciated, but we need more to change the reality that we’re living in. 

And then for the people who keep being complicit about what’s happening, saying that they should be praying for both sides and all of that. I just urge them to do more research and think more. Because what they’re saying is just incredible and unbelievable and just doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if they’re aware of it or not, but calling for stopping the conflict between both sides only supports the “self-defense: excuse of Israel and only enables the killing of more people. So I just urge them to do better for themselves and do better for humanity. 

You know? And I just ask the simple question: Have they ever seen a Palestinian army uniform or helicopter or F-16, or a tank? We don’t have any of that. This is literally a situation where you have one of the greatest militaries in the world against an unarmed population. 

Thank you Nour. I think that’s a great message to end on. And we agree with you. The rest of the world definitely has to do a lot better when it comes to Palestine.

Thank you so much for your time. And this has been super encouraging, and I’m really sorry I have to keep interrupting and checking those [text messages]. But I’m glad at the end of the day, I’m thankful that they actually didn’t bomb this place because if they did, a lot of people would have lost their lives and that’s my neighborhood. That’s my street.

So you think they’re definitely going to hit that, that site nearby you? Is that right? 

Yes. We’re actually lucky this time that they told us, so we know it’s about to be bombed. We can’t do anything. We can’t go anywhere. So the best we can do is just be away from the windows, you know, and the doors just be in the middle of the room. That’s all we can do. So that’s, that’s not, that’s not equal sides. That’s not two sides being the same, you know, not at all. 

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