First Person: ‘Severe shock’ as Gaza neighbourhoods are erased

Missile strikes have caused widespread destruction in Gaza.
Missile strikes have caused widespread destruction in Gaza.
  • UN News

Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) was speaking as Israeli forces continue to attack Gaza, whilst preventing most Palestinians from leaving.

“I witnessed many wars before in Gaza, but I did not see the magnitude of this tragedy before. It is a new Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians. I did not expect or imagine seeing hundreds of thousands of people displaced to the south; they have left everything behind.

I have never seen, in my life, entire neighborhoods wiped off from existence in Gaza City. I saw people, the original residents of Gaza City, who had not left Gaza for thousands of years but today they have become refugees and displaced to a new location.

Everyone is in severe shock. You feel like it's a nightmare. Some people don't believe what actually happened. Today I met a person who came to our headquarters to ask to be registered at a shelter center in an UNRWA school.

He started talking and saying that he lost five of his children, his wife and his sister. He was speaking in a normal way, he was still unaware of the magnitude of the loss, he was still in a state of shock. He said he wanted to look for a place to stay because he had no money or anything. He told me he only came with his clothes on.

Palestinians continue to flee from the most dangerous parts of the Gaza Strip.
© UNRWA/Ashraf Amra
Palestinians continue to flee from the most dangerous parts of the Gaza Strip.

When he introduced himself, I knew that he was from one of the well-off families in Gaza that owned businesses, and now he suddenly had nothing.

He has lost his family, lost his job, lost everything, and now he is looking for a place to go where he feels safe, so we can provide him with some water and food that he can’t get himself.

This is the major dilemma that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are experiencing, in addition to the lack of feeling of security. If you are in UNRWA schools, and you are raising the blue flag, you do not feel safe, in the street you do not feel safe, in cars you do not feel safe. There is no safe place and there is little food and water.

I’m seeing hundreds of kids asking for water or food; people are hungry and thirsty. I’ve never witnessed this situation in Gaza. It is so crowded, people are quarreling, shouting, screaming.

In front of desalination plants, the ones that are still functioning, you can see thousands of people waiting for drinkable water. Actually, people lost everything they don’t have cash, they just came with their clothes. They don’t have anything. They even didn’t prepare themselves for winter. It’s a big dilemma.

It is the same situation if you are a member of the public or if you work for UNRWA. We are displaced and living in shelters. This is a feeling I and other colleagues have never felt before in Gaza.

Sometimes I stop and think, what am I talking about? Am I talking about collective suffering? Or the suffering of individuals? Every human being has a story, the story of losing family, money, property, land, and everything.

Once again, the Palestinians are back to zero. The central question they always ask is: How do you see things, what could happen? No one can answer honestly.”

© UN News (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News