I Have Lost Nine Family Members in Gaza: Stop the Death March Now

October 18, 2023

Israeli warplanes targeted a residential building in Al-Nuseirat refugee camp where dozens of my family members live, killing nine of them.
Image depicts graphic content) Scores of injured people are being taken to Al-Shifa Hospital following Israeli airstrike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on October 17, 2023. Over 500 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told. Photo by Anadolu Images.


n Sunday, October 15, Israeli warplanes targeted a residential building in Al-Nuseirat refugee camp where dozens of my family members live, killing nine of them. Among the victims were my father’s cousin Azmi Aljamal, 63, a retired nurse, his wife Hanan, 60, and their children Mustafa, 33, Suad, 36, and Sondos, 28. Three of their grandchildren, Omar, Mustafa, and Jana, were also killed, along with their niece Ola, 33, who had sought refuge in her father’s house from where she lives in southern Gaza because of the intense Israeli bombardment.

When I was in Gaza, I remember visiting them during the holidays and seeing a picture of our great-grandfather, Ahmad Aljamal, on the wall. Our great-grandfather was killed in 1948, days before the Zionist militias depopulated my ancestral village and forced its inhabitants at gunpoint “further south” to Gaza, where we have lived for the past 75 years. Today, nothing has changed as Israel demands that Palestinians move from the north of Gaza and Gaza City “further south” in what looks like another horrific scene of the Nakba that continues since 1948.

Even as thousands of Palestinians followed the orders or threats of the Israeli army and moved south, their convoys were targeted by Israel, killing at least 70. It became clear to many Palestinians in Gaza that there is no safe place in Gaza, and that being in Rafah is as deadly as being in Jabaliya, as the Israeli massacres targeted everyone and planted death and fear once again in the hearts of Gazans.

As I turn on the news, I see a heartbroken Palestinian father telling an Aljazeera reporter: “The Israeli army asked us to move south, and we did. They targeted us in Rafah; I ran from death in Gaza City to find it in Rafah. I lost three of my children. I don’t know who to bury first.”

Doctors find their beloved among the dead

As dozens of bodies are brought to Gaza’s hospitals, many of which are on the verge of collapse, tragic stories are repeated. Medical teams sometimes find their own family members among the dead, and burst into tears, unable to treat them or others. As hospitals overflow with corpses, families are urged to take the bodies of their loved ones and bury them as soon as possible. A Palestinian from Gaza posted a video showing the body of his dead father in the back seat as he drove to bury him alone after losing the rest of his family the day before.

In Gaza, Palestinians feel that their deaths do not count. They feel that they are being treated as “human beasts,” as described by Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant who ordered the cutting off of water, internet, and electricity supplies to Gaza without worrying about any reaction from the so-called international community. Even those who keep animals as pets, provide them with food and water—something Israel refuses to do in Gaza. Israel’s ability to shut down life in Gaza is a reminder of its complete control over the coastal enclave and the fact that it is the occupying power there, as it always has been.

My aunt Somaiya appears in a video as I scroll through social media, asking my cousin Ayman to let her touch the body of my cousin Ola, lying on the ground and enclosed in a coffin for the last time. She has tasted death several times. “The dead have survived, the living have not,” comments another cousin, describing how people in Gaza comfort themselves in the face of death while the world watches in silence as Israel kills them. Death also haunts Palestinians in Chicago, thanks to fabricated news from Israel that led to the tragic death of a Palestinian boy named Wadee Alfayoumi, who was stabbed 26 times by a landlord who repeated Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian slogans.

Entire families removed from civic records

As I write, entire families are being killed by Israeli strikes in Rafah, Khan Younis, and Al-Burij. Dozens of Palestinian families have already been erased from the civil registry. Palestinians are still being asked by the mainstream media to condemn themselves. Palestinians are still expected to pay the price for European guilt, military and political interests, and shared values with Israel, which has been described by reputable human rights organizations as an apartheid state with different laws for different peoples.

Palestinians are even targeted in UNRWA schools, where at least 600,000 have sought refuge. Where can Palestinians go? Gaza looks like the last haven and Palestinians are not willing to become refugees for the second and third time in their lives. They would rather die than become refugees and be displaced again.

After all, in 1948, they were told that they would be allowed to return “within a few days” and 75 years later they are still waiting for their return. Will anyone intervene and stop this death march that the Palestinians have been forced to take because they don’t want to live another Nakba, this time with the world watching and TV stations broadcasting the imminent expulsion of the Palestinian people?

For many Palestinians, death in Gaza is preferable than becoming refugees in Sinai, as Israel wants. Israel has not shied away from targeting Palestinian civilians, killing a total of 3,300, including 1,000 children and 400 women, and injuring more than 12,000 others. Around 1,000 Palestinians are still trapped under the rubble. Will the world intervene and stop the ongoing death march of Palestinians in Gaza towards the south, which is a crime under international law?

Shortly after an Israeli air strike killed 500 Palestinians at the Arab Baptist Hospital in Gaza City on October 17, an Israeli air strike destroyed one of the two bakeries in my refugee camp. Palestinians are not safe in hospitals, nor do they have access to bread, even in the south, where Israel has asked them to evacuate.

It is important to remember that throughout history, Gaza has always risen from the ashes, and Israel’s military might will not bring it peace; treating Palestinians as equal human beings with full dignity will bring it peace. Palestinians in Gaza are being treated worse than animals; as victims of siege, military occupation, and a slow death, their treatment is as unacceptable as their imminent death.

Yousef M. Aljamal is a researcher in Middle Eastern Studies and the author and translator of a number of books. He is a co-author of A Shared Struggle: Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers published by An Fhuiseog (July 2021).