Update: A ceasefire was brokered later on Monday but people in Gaza continue to be terrified

For several hours, Israeli forces have been bombing Gaza. Sadly it is not unusual for airstrikes to target Gaza but these attacks are intense and an estimated 1000 Israeli soldiers were deployed to the edges of Gaza. We spoke to our staff and here is what they are seeing and feeling right now:

Dr. Mona with Samer in her apartment in Gaza City

From Dr. Mona El-Farra:
Here I am again, waiting for the worst to happen. Getting all my medical supplies ready, like in 2009, 2012 and 2014. I got a first aid kit from Al-Awda Hospital but it is not enough. All the hospitals in Gaza are short of medicine and I don’t know how they will be able to treat more injured people.

In my apartment, I listen for news on the radio while military ships are bombing Gaza and I hear helicopters and drones in the sky. I go from room to room trying to decide which place might be safer. Is it the bathroom? Is it the stairs?

I am with three other women from my apartment building. We support each other do our best to calm the children. Five-year-old Samer is with me. He is terrified but I try to comfort him.

From Ghada Mansi, Maia Project Coordinator:
I just got home after I received many calls from my family and friends asking me to come home. I didn’t want to go right away because my colleagues and I were just finishing the installation of Gaza Lights electricity systems for 790 families. Now, it seems the attack tonight could undo our accomplishment.

On my way home, I saw people running to the shops to get supplies. It’s very sad to see because I know most people don’t have money to buy anything.

Wafaa El-Derawi, Gaza Projects Assistant:
I got to my family’s pharmacy and it was filled with dozens of people coming to get their medicines in case they will not be able to get them during attacks. And the sad thing is most of these people don’t have money to pay. They hear the helicopters and they go in a big rush to get the medicine and leave. Everyone is hoping it will not be a big war like in 2014.

Amal finds a UN bus to follow on her drive home

Amal Abu Moailqe, former Maia Project Coordinator:
In the last few days there were a lot of warnings coming from the Israeli side. I didn’t believe these warnings were real. I tried to comfort my dad and tell him it was just threats and psychological torture. But today my heart was beating very hard. I am not expecting a war soon but my father is sure. He tells me, “Amal, the Israeli election is coming. That means there will be a war.”

I was working when my family called me to urgently come home. I went home, of course, but my home is not a safe place either. In Gaza there is no safe place but in the back of our minds, we think, “If death is coming, it’s better to be should be with your family.”

It is a very long drive to Nuseirat refugee camp where I live. I could see people running everywhere. They are scared, confused, and worried. There was a big rainstorm. The sound of the winds and the thunder were mixed together with the sound of the helicopters and drones. We don’t know which is which.

Most of the cars were driving so that fast that they were just a blur of colors. When I saw a UN bus in front of me I felt I should drive behind this bus because it might be safer. But I was asking myself “Will the UN signs protect me?” Of course, I know the answer from the last war when UN schools were bombed. My heart was pumping even more each time I passed a mosque or police checkpoint because we learned from last war in 2014 that these are targets.

I see another UN bus driving toward my camp. The bus stopped and let people out but I stayed with the bus. Finally, I was able to get home. I was so scared when I was by myself. But at home we have collective fear.

Later, I realized that I don’t have enough gas in my car. I couldn’t stop to get it because I was in such a hurry to get home. Now my car is just a piece of metal. I will not be able to take anyone to the hospital.