“Beyond What A Human Being Can Endure.” A Lawyer on Life in Gaza
By Fatma Ashour
Story Code : 1096679
This makes life almost tragic. You take a shower once every two weeks, if you are lucky.
We, women, had to cut our hair because there isn’t enough water. And there isn’t enough time. You have to have a quick shower because you are afraid of the bombardment, and because there is a queue, and you’re apprehensive that the water may be cut off.
We wash our clothes with our hands. And that is more than exhausting.
At the start of the war, the water wasn’t that cold. The laundry would dry fairly quickly. But now it’s different; It’s winter. The laundry takes a long time to dry. It hasn’t been properly squeezed because you do it with your hands. And the water is freezing cold. You can’t heat it up. That makes you and the children sick.
The house where I am staying, there is 28 people. Eight children, and 3 elderly people. Our priority is those 11 people. We give them breakfast. If there is not bread, they can have a biscuit or whatever can be found. If we find dates, they can have one each. If there’s neither, we use powder milk to make them tea. That’s how things stand. We, the grown-ups, we have to endure. We only eat lunch.
Lunch is mejaddarah [lentils] or pasta. These are the only options. In the best of times, we can find potato, and we cook it then with tomato sauce, with some rice. We are tired of this dry food. For a whole month now, I have not had milk or one egg. I haven’t eaten a single apple, no cheese; there’s nothing.
How do we pass the day? Horribly. With very, very little. Beyond what a human being can endure. The buzz of the surveillance drone in the background is non-stop. It’s never switched off. It’s always in the sky. It is the background of our lives.
All my friends and family, their homes have either completely come down or have been damaged to such an extent that they can no longer live in them. We are all squeezed in the south of the Gaza Strip, which is made up of Central Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah. That is less than half of the total area of the strip, whose total area is 365 square kilometers [140 square miles].
We are talking of more than 1.5 million displaced people in an area not larger than 175 square kilometers [67 square miles].
So, we are a huge number of people with no resources at all. And that has sadly forced people to enter the stage of fighting over bread. They fight over bread. They fight over water. There’s nothing. So, we have started the phase of people hurting one another.
There are another five displaced families here. Some of them walked from north Gaza to the south. This is a very long distance.
The “Israelis” told us we were safe in the south. The south is not safe. The house next door, 20 to 30 meters away, was bombed.
There’s a war in the south over resources. There is no water, no fuel, no electricity, there’s no bread, no flour to bake. There is no food. Did you know that we now have a salt crisis? There is no salt now.
We can’t even think of what we will do after the war. If we are still alive, what are we going to do? Where are we going to live? What are they going to do to us? Are they going to allow us back to northern Gaza, or are they going to forcibly expel us? Or are they going to leave us where we are?
Even those questions about what will happen after the war are extremely exhausting. The detail of the war you are living through is very exhausting. The way you spend your day is very exhausting.
A few days ago, I went out to look for winter clothes. Of course, I didn’t find any. The clothes were very expensive anyway, or not available. It was so crowded and there were piles of rubbish. Because there is no fuel, car owners were fueling with cooking oil. This causes pollution and unbearable headaches. Everything around you is polluted.
We try to give solace to one another, we try to help each other, in very difficult circumstances. We try to stay healthy because there are no hospitals if we were to fall ill.
Some of the people with us have run out of money. We help them as much as we can. Every now and then someone bursts out crying – a member of his family has been killed, or his house destroyed. It’s an unbearable situation.
I don’t know how much longer we can endure this. I don’t know what will happen to us. I really want to sleep in a bed. I want to sleep in calm. I want to wake up to find something to eat. I want to have a proper bath, to wash my hair properly, to wash my clothes in a washing machine. Can you imagine – the simplest rights, to walk to the toilet as you wish and to find water there? That does not exist.
The situation is disastrous.
There is a deliberate attempt to starve us out. It’s an occupation that respects nothing. It considers itself above the law. And it punishes us collectively, approaching genocide.
When they starve people out, turn both water and power off, for more than one month and 10 days and prevent fuel from reaching us, that is collective punishment.
I will not change my views on the importance of the rule of law and accountability and equal rights to people even during war. That’s what I studied, and what I teach.
We will not give that up.
We will not accept that what happens is normal. We will not give up demanding our rights. We will take action in international courts of justice. We will pursue that by peaceful means, which we are entitled to under international law.
This is our right, to live in peace, to find drinking water, food and medicine. This is our right, and the right of every human being on the face of the Earth.