Whose Turn to Die: Gaza One Year after the War (Photo Essay)

The abandoned residential building adjacent to the non-existing Hanadi tower is seen through a window of a trailer used to guard the premises. (Photo: Mahmoud Nasser, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Mahmoud Nasser

Anniversaries are not necessarily always associated with fear. But in the case of Palestine, this is different as some of these anniversaries are associated with war. 

Over the past 14 years, Israel has launched four large-scale military offensives targeting the besieged Gaza Strip. Each war was equally horrific, equally destructive. 

May 10 marks the first anniversary of the latest Israeli war on Gaza, dubbed by Israel as Guardian of the Walls and by Palestinians as The Sword of Jerusalem. 

Data provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs convey at least part of the 11-days war’s gruesome outcome: 

  • 253 Palestinians lost their lives, including 23 little girls, 43 boys and 38 women.
  • 14 families lost three or more family members. 
  • 1,948 Palestinians were injured, including 610 children and 398 women.
  • 1,042 private homes and commercial buildings were totally destroyed, while 769 private homes and commercial buildings sustained serious damage.
  • 6 hospitals and 11 clinics were also damaged.

One would be mistaken to make the assumption that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are used to this tragic reality. Indeed, despite destructive Israeli wars and the ongoing siege, ordinary Palestinians always find a way to carry on with their lives.

Whose Turn to Die 

When asked about the Israeli bombardment, a resident in Beit Hanoun described the war in these words:

“There were terror, fear, worry, constant bombardments (coming) from everywhere. You do not know from where the danger will come next or if it is your turn to die. Kids cried, women screamed. Our neighbors came running to us for safety, but the truth is, there was no place that was safe.” 

Israeli airstrikes usually occur during the night, that’s when people feel more vulnerable. 

During the war, for the over two million residents in the Gaza Strip, nights turned into a never-ending nightmare: they felt trapped in their houses as they counted down the seconds until the sun would rise, only to feel some relief. 

One of the residents in the Ansar area in western Gaza City recounts his experience during one of the nightly Israeli airstrikes: 

“It was after midnight, on May 11, 2021. I was trying to sleep despite the sound of bombardments in Gaza City. All of a sudden, I found myself standing beside my bed after hearing a loud explosion. I was lucky the airstrike did not hit my house, but an office located only 15 meters from the building where I live.”

“I turned the lights on,” the man continues, “but I couldn’t see anything. I started to check my body to see if I was injured. Dust and pebbles were all over the house. I heard the voices of my son and his wife, with their seven-month-old son, but I could not see them as it was totally dark due to the dust.

“It was a terrifying moment, and we could not believe that we were all alive and uninjured. Following that night, the area was subject to heavy bombardment. It was impossible to sleep or live a normal life, without hearing the sounds of shelling and explosions. We pray to God that this will never happen again“.

A residential building is left abandoned beyond repair after it suffered heavy damage during the bombing of the Hanadi tower in the latest Israeli war on Gaza in May 2021.
The abandoned residential building adjacent to the non-existing Hanadi tower is seen through a window of a trailer used to guard the premises.
Another angle of the abandoned residential tower.
A heavily damaged residential tower reflects through a shard of glass in Gaza City.
A worker uses a sledgehammer to separate steel from concrete from the rubble of the Al-Shorouq tower in Al-Rimal, Gaza.
Workers remove the rubble of the Al-Shorouq tower in Al-Rimal which was destroyed during the latest Israeli war on Gaza in May 2021.
One of the destroyed houses in Al-Wihda Street where entire families lost their lives during the latest Israeli war on Gaza in May 2021.
Prior to the war, a Palestinian home was based in this empty spot in Al-Wihda street. It was completely destroyed in the war.
View from a destroyed house in an empty plot where once stood another Palestinian home in Al-Wihda Street.

(All Photos: Mahmoud Nasser, The Palestine Chronicle)

- Mahmoud Nasser is a Gaza-based photographer. After spending 13 years outside his country, he decided to come back to photograph Gaza's loss of life, suffering, and the consequences of war, but also the human stories and the love for life. He can be contacted at mahmoud-bn@hotmail.com.
(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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