Rafah Diary

In the midst of “Operation Iron Sword”


People watch as others search for victims amid the rubble of a smoldering building, following an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 6, 2023. (Photo by Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

Here are diary entries of a friend in Rafah, Gaza. Her name is Hudia. I receive them whenever there is an internet connection. They speak louder than all the articles I’ve sent put together…
— Jennifer Loewenstein

DECEMBER 5, 2023

I don’t know if my message will reach you today. They cut off communications and Internet from Gaza. The situation here is now even more terrifying since they started operations in the south.

The bombing doesn’t stop for a second. The firing of missiles & rockets happens around the clock. The artillery shelling is endless, too. Its sound is horrific. Where we are in Rafah is close to the eastern border of Gaza. We do not sleep because of the intensity of the bombing. The bombing of homes over the heads of those who live in them has become Israel’s preferred method of killing. Fear for the lives of everyone has crept into me. It haunts all my waking moments.

They ask people to leave so they die on the way to displacement, and if they manage to arrive, they die in the areas they reach. Rafah has now become overwhelmed with displaced people from Khan Yunis as well as the north. There is no place for them in shelter centers. People sleep in the streets. Literally, there is nothing here except the pervasive smell of death. I do not know how we will end up.

No. I know.

We can’t find anything anymore. There is nothing left in the markets. I can no longer find my blood pressure medication in pharmacies. In fact, there is nothing in pharmacies, markets, or supermarkets. Life has become difficult beyond description. Here, my brother Hisham was able, after a great effort, to find a medication similar to what I take which, I hope, is better than nothing at all.

Honestly, though, cutting off communications and the Internet hurts me more than the war itself. I cannot check on my family or friends. I remain tense every time I hear the sound of bombing. I do not know if they are alive or dead. I feel like I will lose my balance and collapse at any moment. The situation is unbelievable.

No one would believe we are supposed to be living here. It is a slaughter house; a last stop on the train taking us to our deaths. Let them kill us all at once! This would be merciful now.

We are tired. We are tired of losing more and more people every day, hour, and minute. Walk around Rafah and you see huge bomb craters filled with human debris. Is this really my home? Endless destruction and seeing children in pieces. It is unspeakable.

There is nothing left in north Gaza: homes, people, or life.

Diseases have begun to spread among children, including gastroenteritis owing to air pollution, undrinkable water, and a collapsed sewage system because there is no fuel. You don’t want to imagine what this means in real terms here, and for two million people. The lines, the filth, the sadness, and yes – the smell.

The children have yellow faces – full of sickness and fear. They cry into their mothers’ laps during the bombings. They look thin and sickly from terror and trauma. By destroying the healthcare system Israel has destroyed any return to a semblance of real life.

A sad joke is going around. After the occupation’s aggression against Gaza, when a violent earthquake strikes a place, reporters will say: “It is as if an Israeli bombing struck the place.”

Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza:

Even in Rafah, where people are forced to flee, the sounds of air strikes punctuate the day.People are crying for help to get a safe place. We have nothing to say to them.

DECEMBER 6, 2023

Gaza City and northern Gaza are completely annihilated, with only rare media coverage. The central part of the Gaza Strip is now annihilated by hunger, & high prices; its supplies of vegetables and goods were cut off after the south was separated from the central governorate.

In addition, it is being bombarded relentlessly day and night. Khan Yunis – the southern section of Gaza – is also being destroyed by displacement and continuous bombing. Rafah is bombed around the clock (I’m counting 8-12 seconds between bombs) and has received newly displaced people from Khan Yunis, but where are they supposed to go?

People sleep in tents and in the streets or in the shadows of shuttered businesses. The sounds of artillery, air and sea bombardment, and tank shells echo across the Gaza Strip from Rafah to Beit Hanoun. It’s a constant rush in your ears. There is no escape.

This situation requires no political, military, or strategic analysts. No sermon about steadfastness from leaders and media are going to help us right now. Gaza is absolutely no longer fit for life and it makes sense because I don’t think we are are alive. We are ghosts and we should go and haunt the world revealing what has happened to us.

Whole families have been tossed grieving along the streets. Shelter centers and schools are overflowing with broken, displaced people. Most stores have shut their doors because they’re empty of any supplies. What remains is small and non-essential. Prices are astronomical and crazy.

Lines from wherever there are any goods at all – long, long lines where you are stuck waiting for half the day.

Exhausted refugees are wearing filthy clothing (where can we wash dirty laundry?) Most of the women are in their prayer dresses. Wood burning stoves fill the main streets. Everything is cooked on wood fires now and they fill the air with smoke. The ground around them is blackened and peoples faces are blackened. This is a preview of the apocalypse: yes, right here in Gaza you can witness what the end of the world will look like.

As you walk, you pass faces of those who used to be proud and generous but are now humiliated and betrayed. They half-whisper, brokenly, in your ear: “I swear, I am not a beggar. But I was displaced from my home here and here. My family and children have nothing to eat. If you give me five shekels…”

This is only part of the picture, which is getting darker, more unbearable, and more painful every day with the siege and death. I do not know if death is worse than what people are experiencing now. What new, unthinkable circumstance will be thrown our way tomorrow? It’s too horrible to contemplate. I want to run away…