Chronicling a crisis: Follow an aid worker’s powerful accounts from inside Gaza

After an unprecedented escalation began in early October, an Islamic Relief aid worker* in Gaza began writing about his experiences under siege.

We’ve shared his accounts of struggling to find food and water, the intense planning required for even basic tasks like taking a shower, and the feelings of fear and hopelessness that his now displaced family grapples with every day.

His blogs, which we’ve published over the last months, paint an undeniably grim picture of the dire situation the people of Gaza are facing, but also reveal a tremendous resilience and small moments of joy amid utter chaos. For us, the arrival of each new blog is a relief – a sign our colleague is still alive.

Here, we share extracts from his blogs. We’ll continue to update this article as we receive more:

Monday 9 October 2023, This time, I feel we might not survive…
The situation is extremely terrifying. As I write these words, my house is shaking back and forth due to the intense bombing. My kids started crying and screaming in fear of the bombs. Even as an adult who has lived through tens of escalations, I feel terrified. I feel this time we might not be able to survive. I can’t imagine the destruction we will see if we survive.

For humanitarian workers like us, the main challenge is keeping safe when there is no safe place. Moving from place to place is very dangerous. I am sometimes afraid to even look outside. Humanitarian workers trying to travel to other parts of Gaza to help those in need know it could be a one-way trip.

I am thinking of leaving my house to go to my parents, even though I am convinced that no place is safe. I just want to see my mother and be with her.

Wednesday 11 October 2023, Poisonous water and patchy internet…
At home, my family and I can’t find drinking water. I’m telling my kids over and over to be careful using what water we still have. We used to have a home filtration unit, but it’s blocked with salt and other minerals. We’ve gone back to using it even though we know the water is dangerous. What choice do we have?

We barely have internet in my house either. I use brief moments of connection to try and piece together what is happening elsewhere in Gaza. Once, when we managed to get online, we saw shocking images from Al Remal, downtown Gaza’s commercial district. The streets were upside down. Buildings reduced to rubble and ash, trees ripped from their roots and even pets lying dead in the streets. I can’t understand what I’m seeing.

The bombardment and destruction we’re experiencing means a huge humanitarian crisis is sure to be on the horizon.

Friday 13 October 2023, Fleeing home…
At midnight one night, my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognise, and when I answered, a recorded message ordered all residents of Gaza City and northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern half of the strip. That is about a million Palestinians, forced to flee their homes.

I prepared quickly in the morning and started moving south. There were hundreds of people walking and carrying their belongings. No one knew where to go or what to do, never mind what the hours ahead might bring. Dozens of cars moved like a caravan, all crowded with passengers and their belongings.

As I drove, I saw damaged and demolished buildings, rubble all over the roads, and huge craters about 4 metres deep from the bombs. I was terrified more would fall while I was driving. The scenes from the road were like a horror film or a landscape from a dystopian novel where the world had ended and only destruction remained.

I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel right now, in fact, it’s looking very dark… I am not sure this is the end of our journey. I am afraid we are going to be displaced again.

Families leave for southern Gaza following an Israeli evacuation order

Tuesday 17 October 2023, My mother’s ingenuity…
I’m writing this on the second day after evacuating our home. The situation here is no different, bombing is still going on all the time and those of us who’ve evacuated are still not safe.

My mum is taking extra measures with food and water. I’m sorry to tell you that we are flushing the toilet only 2 times a day, in the morning and at night, and we’re eating less food to avoid going to the toilet as regularly. We wash for prayers only once or twice and mum has decided that only the adults can use water for this, she tells the kids: “Allah will accept your prayers, my beloved children, because you are innocent and pure.”

My mother has a pack of plastic bowls to serve meals in to avoid using more water for dishwashing. She is always thinking of meals that would use less water and fewer dishes. Without electricity, things in the deep freezer have started to melt.

The ability to switch the lights on is a luxury in Gaza now. Being able to go to the toilet and properly wash yourself is a privilege. Even the idea of showering has started to seem fanciful, let alone being able to have a roof over one’s head and get a good night’s sleep, without bombing.

This can’t continue anymore, my dear readers. I had been thinking that us humanitarian workers will have a huge amount of work to do and people to support when this escalation is over, but now, I think we might not have the chance. We might not live to do so.

Friday 20 October 2023, Every night, I dream our house will be next in the firing line…
I am afraid. My days are filled with a relentless stream of news telling me civilians houses have been hit and dozens have died. At night, I wake up, my heart pounding, afraid that the next airstrike will hit us. I have started telling myself not to worry. Death does not hurt. I will just be asleep. Yet still, every night, I dream our house will be next in the firing line. I am afraid to be trapped under the rubble. I am afraid if I die, they won’t recognise me, but I am wearing my wedding ring, which is engraved with my name and my wife’s name, so at least they can guess who I am.

It is shocking to me that today, in the 21st century, the people of Gaza are living – not living, just trying to survive, really – like this. People are being killed for just being here, trapped, with no way to escape, no way to get our children to safety. Families are torn apart.

Every free person in the world would refuse to live like this. It grieves my heart that the international community appears so indifferent to our suffering, that the world is accepting the indescribable horror faced by Palestinians in Gaza.

Monday 23 October 2023, My neighbours are dead…
After midnight, a huge blast shook the flat where we’re staying, sending pictures flying off the walls. I went outside to find that our neighbours’ house had been hit by an airstrike. There was a crater about 6 meters deep. Dozens of people had been in that house, including women and children.

Ambulances and firefighters rushed to our street. The neighbours kept telling them that there were people under the rubble, but the firefighters struggled as the house is in a narrow alley that cars can’t fit through. The medics managed to rescue some injured people. But in Gaza today, medics have to make agonising choices about who to treat – it is just not possible to help everyone who needs it.

I used to hear sounds of children playing at the neighbours’ house. There were lots of them there. Now, it will be silent. All night long, I kept hearing people trying to pull bodies from the rubble. Only this morning, a woman’s body was recovered. This family’s story was cut short last night. Its members were added to the rising death toll. More sorrow and more pain, more bloodshed. And this will not be the end of it.

Wednesday 25 October 2023, Death is closing in on families in Gaza…
We are exhausted as the weight of each day grows still heavier on our shoulders. Life is becoming unbearable. The pain and suffering are increasing by the moment and our people are desperate. I too am desperate, and starting to lose hope that there will be an end to this violence. Everyone in Gaza is just awaiting death.

We have done nothing to deserve such brutality. We are just civilians – ordinary families – who want to live in peace. We do not care about politics, nor are we part of it. I know my people have lived under occupation for years and that they deserve to live freely, but right now everyone just wants this violence to stop.

I know I need to be stronger and more resilient, but we are all tired here. We are all praying that the killing will stop. There must be brave people somewhere who are willing to talk and reach an agreement, but it feels like there is no one in the world who cares about civilian lives.

I am consistent in sending you these words because I think I need to leave a story behind. Palestinians are not just numbers in a death toll. Each one has their own feelings, their own favourite dish, their own football team they like, their own hobbies and their own memories. I have mine too.

I want to be remembered. I want to attend a Manchester United game, despite their poor performance on the football pitch. I want to go to my office. I want to see my children grow. I want to drink clean water and charge my phone. I want to live a simple, stupid life. Give me a chance to live it. Who is giving these chances and who is taking them away? I actually do not know…

People walk among the rubble from destroyed buildings in Gaza

Monday 30 October 2023, Death is now the norm in Gaza…
On Friday 27 October, my phone connection was suspended all of a sudden. At first, we thought there was a problem with the internet. We restarted the router many times, but when I saw that we couldn’t make calls either, I realised something was wrong. I thought a bomb must be heading for our area. My legs froze and my heart sank to my knees.

My brother said he’d heard there was a land invasion taking place. Remembering an old radio my father used to have, we rushed to get it and eventually found a channel confirming that the invasion had officially started.

I could hear plane after plane roaring across the sky, passing over our heads and bombing Gaza. I could hear the sounds of far-off explosions and what sounded like hundreds of drones buzzing all around.
That night, every kind of thought imaginable entered my head. I thought we might start being bombed randomly; I thought our end had come. I was thinking that we would not be able to call an ambulance because our phones weren’t working. I thought we might die, and no one would even know. I was thinking of my friends abroad, my sisters, and my friends at Islamic Relief who are checking on us all the time. This is the end, I thought.

Wednesday 1 November, The world is watching us Palestinians die…
I am more frustrated than ever. In Gaza we have been living in hell for 24 days, but still there has been no significant action from the international community to stop this massacre of Palestinian families.

Has the world forgotten that the people of Gaza are human beings like any other? It seems no one cares if we live or die. My readers, I am sorry for my anger, but I cannot see an end to this cycle of violence, and I know no one in Gaza with the power to stop this madness.

How many more massacres are required before the world will say that is enough and stop this violence? I think the world is getting used to seeing us being killed live on TV.

Thursday 2 November 2023, Adapting our diet…
My family’s diet has changed since we came to stay with my mum, who has proven herself brilliant at preparing meals with very little. The kids’ favourite breakfast is now tea and biscuits, which are crumbly and baked in the oven. They are the perfect shape to dip into hot tea, and the sugary treat provides a welcome energy boost for the long, gruelling day ahead.

Figuring out lunch is another challenge. First, we need the resources available. Then we need to consider meals which use as little water as possible, since water is now increasingly hard to find. For the same reason, we minimise the number of dishes that need to be washed. And, with many bakeries closed, we try to make meals without bread. In these difficult times, it is hard to find protein so most of our cooking is without meat.

We don’t make an evening meal anymore, making do with just 2 meals a day. The kids will sometimes have snacks such as cucumber and tomatoes with cheese. Limited as our diet is, my family is lucky to have this food.

Monday 6 November 2023, Will my son get to celebrate his birthday..?
Like most children, my 6-year-old son has been eagerly awaiting his birthday, which is next week. When the crisis began 1 month ago, and his school closed, his first question was, “Will we still celebrate my birthday?” I told him, “Of course we will. This will end soon, dear.” Back then, I never expected we would be forced to flee our home and would be struggling to get food, water, and electricity. I keep praying that this nightmare will end before his birthday.

Islamic Relief provides water to support Gaza’s communities during the escalation

If it ends, we might be able to return home – he’s been missing his bedroom, particularly – but even still, his birthday won’t be the same as before. We always took him to his favourite restaurant. It served kebabs and grilled meat, an unusual favourite for a child, but he loved the place all the same. His pizza and pasta-loving sister complained that he always chooses the same place. My son was very upset to learn the restaurant was damaged in an attack, so there’ll be no more special times there

Thursday 11 November 2023, Life has become unliveable…
It is day 33 or 34 of this crisis, I don’t know… I’ve lost count.

There is no sign of hope that we will see an end to this unjust and brutal killing. Our situation gets worse and worse as the clock ticks by. Markets are running out of every product; food is scarce, water is rare. You’re lucky if you can find any electricity. Nothing is easy.

Life has become unliveable in our small enclave. I have 3 sisters, 2 of whom are staying in the same house as me right now. Yesterday, I went out to see my other sister, who is living elsewhere in the city. I went to see her just in case we would not have the chance to meet again. People in Gaza have started taking risks like this. It’s dangerous to venture outside, but it might be our last opportunity to see our loved ones.

Our lives could be cut short at any moment. So many of us are being killed. My story could end, but you can carry it on. You can keep speaking about us Palestinians, about our hopes, our aspirations, our land, our food, our sea, our resilience. I pray that I will write to you to tell you that I have lived and have returned to my home. I pray that I can meet you in Gaza, introduce you to our people and that you can see the miracles they’ve achieved, you can try our food and you can see how we’ve survived.

Monday 13 November 2023, I feel I’m failing as a father…
There are so many things I can’t do for my family now. I feel I’m failing as a father because I can’t protect them.

I have always provided good standard of living for my family. I have always tried my best to attend my son’s school events and the ceremonies they used to do in the kindergarten years. I wish I could protect him from this.

Now, I can’t provide my kids with the food they are used to. It is getting cold, but they only have summer clothes because when we fled our home, we couldn’t take everything we owned. In the area where we are staying now, there are no new clothes: there’s nothing left in the shops, and people are struggling for anything they can find.

Sunday 19 November 2023, My son turns 6 in a Gaza under siege…

Today is my son’s birthday. He has just completed 6 years of life. I went to get some toys and gifts for him and the other kids in the house, heading to an ATM as all the shops here have stopped accepting electronic payments. But Gaza is under a total blackout right now, so ATMs are not working. I tried to find a gift shop, but everything was closed… it is going to be hard to celebrate this birthday in our complicated situation, I thought.

My wife managed to get some ingredients to bake a cake, ensuring there’ll be something of a celebration no matter what. She and my sister were busy preparing the cake when my daughter decided that it should be a surprise. She made everyone in the house agree to keep the cake a secret from my son until the preparations were ready, so, when he asked us, we all pretended we would not be able to celebrate his birthday this year.

I can confirm that at least 1 of the kids leaked some information to my son but, as he is an innocent child, he believed what his father was telling him and felt sad that he was missing out on his birthday this year.

Later, the other kids invited my son into a room and started singing Happy Birthday. He was so surprised and his smile was huge. I felt that this must be one of his happiest moments in a long time. The children laughed and sang and made a huge racket in the house. They took photos with the other kids and our cat, who is now part of all our special moments.

Unfortunately, I could not find any candles to put on the cake, so we asked my son just to make a wish as he cut it. I asked him what his wish was. “To stop the war,” he answered matter-of-factly.

Sunday 19 November 2023, Reuniting with my old neighbour reminded me how much I miss my old life…

I received a call from Ahmed*, the building attendant at our home in Gaza City. I’d lost contact with him after the first few weeks of this escalation. On the phone, he told me he’s now in the same city as I am, so I gave him directions to come and see me.

Days later, I overheard someone out in the street asking passersby about me. When I went outside, I met Ahmed with tears in my eyes. Seeing him reminded me that I still have a house, a job, friends, neighbours, and a whole life in Gaza City, which I may never make it back to.

It reminded me of our life before we had to leave our houses. I miss that life. Just the normal, stupid, simple life we used to live. I’d give everything I have to go back to that time.

We loved our streets, the trees that dropped leaves on my car, our trips to the sea with the kids, my wife getting angry because their clothes were full of sand afterwards, heated debates over what pizza we are going to have for dinner, our repeated requests for the kids to clear their plates, having to wake up early for work, field visits and paperwork at the office, parents meetings at the kids’ school, enjoying 8 hours’ worth of electricity, the humid weather all year long, weekend nights with the guys, Fridays lunches. I miss all of it.

Thursday 23 November 2023, In Gaza we pray for a permanent ceasefire, right now…

We are now in the 48th day of the Israeli war on Gaza, and the situation is getting worse every day. We are all so exhausted it defies description. Everyone has tasted loss.

In the last couple of days, news of a ceasefire has become more frequent. Our hopes for an end to this nightmare are now sky-high but at the moment it is only a temporary humanitarian pause. This is not the end of this war.

Tonight alone, there have been about 10 airstrikes in the area where my family and I are staying. There is still artillery shelling from land and sea. I cannot go home, I’ve no way to know if my house has been destroyed.

We pray this pause will be extended, and will lead to a lasting ceasefire. We pray to return to our homes, and to rebuild our shattered lives. I ask you to pray for us, and to join us in calling for a ceasefire now.

Wednesday 29 October 2023, Overwhelming reunions during humanitarian pause…

This period without airstrikes and bombing has given everyone in Gaza a chance to breathe. But the relief is short lived and when we’ll next have the chance to rest, only God knows. A humanitarian pause for a few days is meaningless compared to the dire situation facing displaced people and the huge destruction to infrastructure and services in Gaza that this crisis has caused.

On the second day of the pause, my wife wanted to see her parents who are staying with a relative in Rafah, about 30km away. I checked my car and found that I had enough fuel left, so I reckoned we had to make the trip. My wife missed her family a great deal.  

We arrived at my wife parents’ place. As I climbed the stairs behind her and our kids, I could hear loud crying from upstairs. Everyone was overwhelmed by emotion over this reunion. It has been a long time since we last met. They told us stories full of terror about their not-so-safe passage south. We spent Saturday telling each other how we’ve passed our days, how we’re managing to refill water, comparing the prices of food. We tell our stories and listen to theirs. It was overwhelming seeing them again.

Friday 1 December 2023, My home has been destroyed, but we will rebuild Gaza…

Yesterday was the final day of the humanitarian pause. It was also the day I learned that my own home has been damaged.

I can’t confirm what the flat is like inside yet, but I can tell from pictures of the outside of the building that it was hit by a shell. There is definitely damage to the children’s room and the bathroom, as well as part of the storage room. I can’t travel north to check the building or see if our belongings are okay. It is too dangerous now and we do not have enough fuel for the journey.

I do not know how I’ll begin to fix everything. I have started planning, but there are so many obstacles in my way. I do not know if Israel will allow construction material into Gaza again. I do not know if I will be able to find aluminium windows at the market. Maybe I’ll be able to find the material, but the cost will be so high that I can’t afford it. Maybe all the construction workers will be busy repairing other places. The whole city is destroyed…

Monday 4 December 2023, Since the truce ended, I fear the grave is the only safe place in Gaza…

Just 10 minutes after the humanitarian pause ended, the heavy airstrikes and bombing started again, the terrifying sounds dragging me and my family from sleep.

I knew the tanks would be heading our way. Everyone in the house was frightened. My brother gathered the kids and said, “The situation is very dangerous now. I want you all to gather all your courage and stay calm. Please listen to the instructions the adults give you.”

We lived a hell of a night. The sounds of bombing and shelling never stopped. I could also hear heavy gunfire, maybe from a tank or helicopter. But we survived, Alhamdulillah.

We have rearranged our emergency bag because we might have to flee again, on foot this time. We might have to stay in tents. We might lose everything. We might be dead…

Wednesday 6 December 2023, My family has nowehere else to flee – should we stay and face Israel’s tanks?

Since I last wrote to you, my family and I have spent a terrifying couple of nights. We could hear gunshots and airstrikes all around. I told you about a friend who was staying with her family in an area near us. She had to evacuate as tanks arrived just behind their home. I also saw other people from that area walking with their belongings towards the middle of the city.

I was very worried about our safety, as my family lives on the edge of the city too. My nerves couldn’t stand the stress. I just lay down in silence. I couldn’t think what would be the best thing to do. Should we leave, or stay? Each option seemed just as challenging as the other.

At my parents’ home, we’ve managed to get solar panels to generate electricity. We can watch the news and connect to the internet when it’s available. We’ve managed to find a system for refilling our water tanks once or twice a week, though it’s costly and not very good. Things are – at the most basic level – working for us. We are among the lucky ones who have been able to adapt – most people don’t even have this. Leaving means taking a step into the unknown. On the other hand, staying would mean putting my family in danger from shelling.

Sunday 10 December 2023, As terrified children fled the warplane, my desperate cat outran them all…

Nobody in the world cares about Palestinian children, my children, being deprived food and water, being deprived of play. Yes, hard as it might be to imagine, my dear readers, our children cannot play. Even before this latest nightmare, Gaza had little to offer children in terms of playgrounds – but the kids played happily in the streets. Now, they’ve lost even this, as I saw with my own eyes yesterday when my kids and the neighbours’ kids – about 30 or 40 children – gathered in our street.

The girls draw a hopscotch game and the boys brought an old football. The street sprang to life with the wonderful hubbub of children at play. Suddenly, an airplane screamed in the sky. Every child ran for their life, scrambling to get indoors. As I made sure everyone got inside, I noticed our cat running the fastest, and jumping up and across the children’s shoulders to save his life.

Monday 18 December 2023, December in Gaza used to be filled with celebration, this year, there is only fear and sadness…

The situation here is getting worse every moment. Winter, like in Game of Thrones, has already come. Last week we had heavy rainfall. Rain used to be a pleasant sight for the Palestinians and we enjoyed it, but people are now living in plastic tents in the streets, without any source of heating. People fled their homes at the beginning of October, when it was still relatively hot. They wore light summer clothes and most didn’t pack for winter. It is now very cold and no one has suitable clothes.

Heavily damaged buildings in Gaza on November 30

My children are feeling the cold. My daughter is always saying that she has a stomachache. I tell her she will be okay, but she is drinking unclean water; she is eating poor, mostly canned, food; she is wearing only a few layers of clothing. It’s certain that she’ll get sick. In fact, if any person gets sick in the house, everyone will become ill.

Friday 22 December 2023, Our loved ones, our culture, our homes and our safety – losses seared onto Palestinian hearts…

No-one I know has escaped loss. My wife lost her cousin, and my in-laws lost part of their house. My sister lost all the windows in her home, while my brother lost the whole building. My friend Rami lost his brother, and my colleague lost many members of his family. I lost my family home.  

Counting our losses extends beyond a simple statement. I read Shahada every night before I go to sleep and totally accept the fact that I might not wake up the next morning. I accept the fact that I might be buried under rubble.

Palestinians love to live, to laugh, to be happy, to celebrate. We hold huge weddings, where all the family gather. Women sing and dance and men perform dabke, a joyful dance. We make spicy foods – our shawarma and falafel are incomparable. We are are resilient, but we can suffer, like any human being. We are the ones that stand alone.

We want our lives, just like the rest of the world. We do not care about politics and the fighting parties. We want a ceasefire, now.

Saturday 23 December 2023, My family is in danger but there is nowhere left to flee in Gaza…

Yesterday, we woke to new orders for people to evacuate neighbourhoods in Gaza’s middle area. This means the danger is coming closer to us, and it is terrifying. 

We have nowhere else to go. I will not take my family to live on the street and sleep on the sidewalk.  

I do not know how long the world will keep watching this catastrophe unfold. The world is turning a blind eye to our suffering and the dire humanitarian situation which we Palestinians are facing.  

This is not life. It is just death, but with the ability to speak and breathe. Even the simplest things are now beyond our reach: food, water, charging our phones, even getting toilet paper. 

Sunday 31 December 2023, A new year begins, but in Gaza, the horror does not end…

It is the last day of 2023 – a year that had been among the best of my life, until October. In the last 3 months I have grown older, I have sunk into depression, I have lived in fear, I have witnessed horrors. In the last 3 months, I have lost people I loved, I have lost my home, I lost my beloved city, the place of many fond memories. In the last 3 months, our future has looked darker than ever. In the last 3 months, I have lost hope in the international community, in human rights, and in justice in the world.

Tomorrow we will miss our annual ritual of New Year’s breakfast at the beach: the tanks have erased the beach. It will be my wedding anniversary too, but this year I won’t be able to buy my beloved wife a gift, nor celebrate the occasion, as we usually do, laughing and making memories with our families.

In the first couple of months since the escalation began, people would say they were okay – but not anymore. In Gaza today, “We are tired, exhausted,” is the trending phrase. We have all had enough. We just want an end to this. Just stop the killing, and we can find our way out of this nightmare.

Wednesday 3 January 2024, Struggling on as one of Gaza’s walking dead is destroying my soul…

Every day, when I wake up, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Is it over?” and the answer is always, “No, it is not”. I try to force myself to sleep again, I don’t want to be awake to face this reality. It is killing me and destroying my soul. It is a lifeless life. We are like the walking dead. Already dead, but not yet at rest. We hear the sounds of bombs, we run after food and water and we keep on walking towards death.

I am sure, dear readers, that you haven’t forgotten our cause. But please forgive my despair. I feel so alone. All Palestinians feel left alone. We are trying to survive against everything and everyone. All the world is complicit. And we are just here, wishing for a ceasefire.

Thursday 25 January 2024, A ‘Judgement Day’ market and danger at the seaside in Gaza

It has been around 8 days without any means of communication in Gaza. Not only has the whole world ignored our small enclave, but everyone has also been cut off inside Gaza. We have no way to communicate with essential services such as medical services and ambulances, banks, and food assistance systems – and we receive no news.

I went to the market, hoping to find someone with news of my loved ones. It was a sea of people, all trying to find some food. A passer-by described the scene as, “like Judgment Day”.

At the seaside, joining hundreds of others desperate for an internet connection, I managed to get coverage. Receiving tons of messages, it made me very happy knowing people are thinking about us and making effort to stop this war.

Monday 29 January 2024, Palestinians are brave and resilient, but we’re also deeply hurt

We used to live in dignity in our homes. We used to enjoy life and going to the sea with our friends and family. Our small city used to be vibrant. We miss that. We miss our normal daily routines. When I speak to my friends they always mention that we were crazy to complain before about how boring our lives were. Now, we have learned to thank Allah for his smallest blessings. Now, we are deprived of the most basic things and pray we can have them back. It is a lesson in patience and contentment for us, and for the whole world it shows that we Palestinians are solid and unbreakable.

My people are solid, but we can’t accept being represented only as fearless, brave, resilient, stoic creatures. We do like being described this way, but we do not like how these words fail to recognise our humanity, fragility and vulnerability. We are normal people. We are hurt… deeply hurt. We are extremely tired and exhausted. 

Please, my dear readers, keep us in your prayers and support us. Please keep asking for a ceasefire.

Thursday 1 February 2024, How many more Palestinians must die before this brutal war stops?

When I wrote this account, we Palestinians were marking 100 days since Israel’s bombardment of Gaza began. Repeated shutdowns of telecommunications left me unable to share these words with you any sooner.

At the point of writing, around 23,000 people have been killed in Gaza so far. It has been reported that 70% of homes here have been damaged or destroyed. People all over Gaza report that they do not have enough food or clean drinking water. My daughter’s greatest wish is just to return to our home, but I can’t make that happen for her. I am worried for the children of Gaza – how will they grow up believing in a fair and just world?

We have been dead for 100 days, though we are somehow still walking. We are not heroes. We are vulnerable human beings. We have paid huge price, with our own flesh. We all have one wish, just one wish: an end to this. An immediate, lasting ceasefire now.

Tuesday 6 February 2024, Survival and solidarity, faith and hope: reactions to the dire situation in Gaza

Palestinians are known to be resilient, but this war has taught me the opposite. I have noticed how simple and vulnerable we are. We aspire only to simple things like a day of peace, a good meal, a cup of coffee, or just the ability to call a friend. Our simple hopes include reaching a ceasefire. All Palestinians are looking for signs of this and will read any small piece of news about the topic.

Just the other night there was a snippet of news that both parties had accepted a framework for a ceasefire, and I heard fireworks and celebrations in the streets. Similar celebrations took place when we first regained municipal water supplies after almost 80 days of having to buy water elsewhere. The same happiness when we found chicken, after they were unavailable for almost 2 months.

All our hopes are simple, and all our aspirations are just to live normal lives, but it looks as if this is too big a dream for Palestinians.

Friday 9 February 2024, Bullets or starvation: Families struggle to survive in Gaza under siege

Four months have passed since the start of this conflict, and now we are entering the fifth. The killing and destruction have never stopped. We have been living through perhaps the hardest conditions seen anywhere in the world at this time; without food, water, shelter or clothes. On top of the rarity of these basic things, people also can’t access healthcare, education, or basic services. We can’t move freely. We can’t hope for a better future.

We mostly depend on canned food and limited vegetables. My children have not had any fruit since the conflict began, not even a single grape.

This land was very fruitful, and everything was grown domestically, but now Israeli tanks sit on all the agricultural land in the Gaza Strip. Most of it has been bulldozed. They are literally starving Palestinians, starving us to death. We either get killed by bullets or by starvation – these 2 bitter choices are our only options.

Friday 16 February 2024, I can’t help terrified Palestinian families in Rafah with nowhere left to flee Israel’s assault

There is news that a land operation will start in Rafah. There are more than 1 million people in Rafah, who were told to go there because it would be safe in the south. Now, they are being told to evacuate. Where can they go? People are not allowed to return to their homes in the north and not able to stay in Rafah either. Should they just disappear into thin air? Should they go live in the sea or head to Mars? 

I spoke on the phone with Amir*, who is in Rafah with his family. They have already been displaced twice, and are now preparing to flee again. The family are heading to Gaza’s middle area. I asked if he has a place to stay. “No,” he replied. “I will look for somewhere when we arrive. Maybe we can find a tent, or maybe sleep in the street. I do not know.” 

Dozens of friends and relatives have called me, hoping for help finding somewhere to stay when they flee. I’ve been searching for shelter for them, making hundreds of phone calls and placing advertisements on the Internet for a flat, or even a storage space, anything. I have not found anything.

Friday 23 February 2024, Sky-high food prices throughout Gaza as families look ahead to Ramadan…

My mother reminded me that usually at this time we would be preparing for the holy month of Ramadan, including decorating, lighting lamps, and getting Ramadan food items. This year, my mum is concerned about getting our gas cylinders filled. She told me that we need to get a load of wood as backup if our gas runs out.

Yesterday, she told me she got a jar of oatmeal for the soups she will prepare during Ramadan. Yes, it cost her a lot of money, but she is trying to keep her tradition of preparing good meals in Ramadan alive. Despite her dedication, I don’t think there will be many good meals. Not now that our diet is mostly based on canned food. So, in Palestine, it feels like we will either get killed by the airstrikes, starvation, or food poisoning and other food and waterborne diseases.

So, I’ve told my family to lower their expectations for Ramadan this year. In fact, I think it’s better if they don’t have any expectations at all. We used to have family gatherings with great meals, sweets, qatayef (folded pancakes) and samosas. This year, we will have none of these things.

This year, what I will miss the most are the iftars Islamic Relief hosts for our sponsored orphans and their families. I will miss the night prayers and gathering in the mosques. Most of the mosques, if not all of them, have been destroyed. This year, we approach Ramadan with one hope: that a ceasefire will happen, that we can live peaceful days, that we can go to our homes, that we are still alive.

Tuesday 27 February 2024, Palestinian women endure caesarean sections without aftercare and use rags in place of sanitary products…

Fatima,* who works with women and girls living in displacement sites in Gaza, told me how they are suffering.

“Frankly, pregnancy now is like it was 100 years ago, without medical care and checkups,” she said. “Many women I know have miscarriages and problems due to the lack of medical care. Most pediatricians are also displaced, or no longer able to work. 

“I know a woman who gave birth via caesarean section, while staying in a tent. Usually, recovery from such an operation takes some time, but this woman received no care at all. She then got an infection and had to go to the hospital. The hospitals can barely provide medical care to people wounded in strikes, so she was only given painkillers and sent away.  

“Women on their period can’t find sanitary pads: even if they are available in the market, they cost much more than most women can afford. There are girls and women now using rags instead.

“Palestinian women are strong and resilient, but they have suffered the most. They just hope for a ceasefire as soon as possible, so they can take a breath of rest and comfort after all the loss they endured.”   

I see my wife, my sisters, and my mother enduring these hard conditions and think of all they have suffered. They, like every other Palestinian, are praying for an end to this brutal war. They ask for your support.

Saturday 9 March 2024, As Gaza prepares for a painful Ramadan, Palestinian children hunger for peace as well as food

I managed to help the kids buy some coloured paper and stationery to make some DIY Ramadan decorations. But the atmosphere is so sad: this Ramadan will be remembered as a painful one. My daughter often has stomach-ache and pain due to poor food, while my son only has one meal a day so he is hungry most of the time. We are being starved.

I met with my Islamic Relief colleagues, and we reminisced about the families we work with – especially the orphan families that we used to bring together every Ramadan in wonderful iftar meals across the Gaza Strip. My colleague told me Islamic Relief is working to provide food during the holy month, but we can’t work like we did in previous years, when we were able to help thousands of families in Gaza.

We are approaching the holy month with tremendous pain and suffering, with huge loss and starvation, in a humanitarian crisis without precedent. We have strong faith that this war will end sooner or later but we are now living the hardest times of our lives.

Wednesday 20 March 2024, A Ramadan in mourning in Gaza

It has been 160 days since this brutal war on Gaza began. This is the fourth day of the holy month of Ramadan. We hoped there would be a ceasefire before the start of Ramadan, but none materialised so we are still living through the hardest times of our lives. It may even be the cruellest time humanity has witnessed in the modern day. 

This year, we are living Ramadan in mourning, in loss, in fear and frustration. The happiest time of the year is now so sad. We are not able to attend the mosques. We are not able to do charity and help each other. We are not even able to be in our own homes or walk our streets. We do not have Ramadan crescents nor lanterns. It is dark.

Now, we only hope that we will have a ceasefire before the month ends. At least then we could enjoy Eid in some respite. Please my readers, keep pushing for a ceasefire and an end to this madness.

Wednesday 27 March 2024, I can’t endure more suffering and I can’t leave Gaza either. Maybe comfort lies in death

It is around 170 days since the war began and I cannot see an end to it. My endurance is running out, I can’t continue living this hard life. Nothing comes easily – even breathing is hard… going to the bathroom is hard, finding a meal is hard.

I can’t stand anymore.

I wish we could go back in time to before October 7. I really wish that we could wake up from this nightmare. I wish I could return to my neighbourhood, drive my kids to school, get up early to go to work, see my friends, or just drive aimlessly through the streets of my beloved city. I really miss the city. I did not imagine I would have these feelings for that place. It is like the city has become a part of my heart. My dear, beloved Gaza is now totally destroyed.

Thursday 4 April 2024, Palestinians have suffered 6 months of hell and despair, but still we hope for peace

It has been almost 6 whole months of this war and there is no end to it. I look back on these past months and see how our lives have been taken away.

It is a plain truth that the systematic targeting of all civilian buildings, hospitals, schools, mosques and homes is a way to take life away from Gaza. It is an attempt to annihilate the core existence of the Palestinian people. Now, the number of Palestinians killed stands at over 33,000.

As the litany of horror and sorrow lengthened, I thought, surely the world will stop this. But no, it would not stop. We look forward to a tomorrow without war. We hope no more wars take place anywhere in the world, let’s all live in peace and create a better world for everyone.  

Tuesday 30 April 2024, People in Gaza are in need of everything, but they need one thing above all else – an end to this war

It has been over 200 days since this war began, though I lost exact count a while ago. The situation feels like the worst day of our lives, but never ending. Every day and every night is the same; terrifying, full of death, full of fear, and full of suffering.

People are exhausted beyond description. The uncertainty of what might happen even in the next 5 minutes has made living a gamble, and we’re mostly losing. As I continue to write about my family’s struggle to survive in this situation, colleagues have asked me many things and offered suggestions for what readers outside of Gaza might like to know about the life we’re living.

Tuesday 7 May 2024, As I mark my 40th birthday in bombarded Gaza, I have only one wish: for peace

Yesterday was my birthday. My life is nothing like I imagined it would be when I turned 40. I am displaced, have lost my home; I can’t visit my friends and wider family; and I am living in imminent danger of bombs and airstrikes.

I kept checking if the municipality water is connected – this only happens once or twice a week When there was water, everyone in the house gathered to fill pots, buckets, and bottles. We refilled the water tanks on top of the building, using a solar-powered water pump. This process took 4 hours of my day but afterwards I could take my weekly shower. I can’t help but remember how I used to turn on the shower, never doubting that water would come, and then go about my day without worry. Nothing is easy now.

My kids were sad they could not get me a birthday present. I don’t want a present, but we have been raising our children to appreciate special days. I do not know if we will be able to celebrate any more birthdays, but I try to keep hope alive. If I had a birthday cake, I’d blow out the candles and make a wish with you: for this war to end.

Tuesday 14 May 2024, Our soaring hopes for a ceasefire in Gaza were crushed by Israeli tanks at Rafah

Anticipating a ceasefire, people in our neighborhood were screaming and shouting in joy. My daughter asked me if we will go home. Maybe, I said. She was so excited, saying, “I will get my toys. My cousins will return from Egypt. Will that happen tomorrow?” I said not tomorrow, but hopefully soon.

The next day, we woke to find Israel had issued new evacuation orders for people in Rafah. We thought this might be just to put pressure on the ceasefire negotiations going on in Cairo. But, the day that followed, I saw footage of Israeli tanks occupying the Rafah Crossing and destroying signs that said “I ❤️Gaza”. Me and my children had taken a selfie next to one of those signs – yet more memories are being destroyed, just when I started dreaming that we would be able to travel again. This Israeli army is used to destroying everything we care about and everything we love.

They will block the only remaining passage for the people of Gaza.  

My friends in Rafah are preparing for a new journey, yet another displacement. One friend struggled to hold back tears as he described the scenes around him: people running everywhere; families walking with as many of their belongings as they can carry – some of them take their tents, mattresses, water buckets, others just clutch a bag of clothes. But these families have nowhere else to go. 

We are going into a new period of unprecedented hardship and blockade. Food, water, and electricity are all running perilously short. We are all depending on humanitarian assistance from organisations such as Islamic Relief and clinging to the increasingly fragile hope for an end to our suffering. 

Thursday 27 June 2024, This is not a life in Gaza, this is death 

It has been a long time since my last blog. I’d fallen into a depression, and I really couldn’t write. I’d started believing that we’re destined to endure this suffering for what remains of our lives. 

Eventually, I decided that we had to go on. I can’t just fall into the darkness and surrender to depression and despair – I needed to be stronger for my kids. My kids… my heart aches when I think of what they’re living through. Children all over the world have just completed another year at school and are enjoying their summer vacation. But Palestinian kids are being killed. 

More than 15,000 children have passed away and those that are still here are struggling to find water, food or proper clothes. They are growing up in an inhospitable environment and catching all kinds of diseases.  They can’t go to the toilet because it’s dark and scary without electricity. They don’t have stories or books to distract them. All the books have been burned making fires to try and feed ourselves. 

Friday 5 July 2024, My old school is now a scorching shelter for suffering families in Gaza 

We are nearing the 270th day of this inhumane, brutal war. Living conditions have deteriorated and the temperatures are rising a lot. It’s hard for us to stay in the house in this scorching heat – for people living in tents, it must be unbearable. Last night, my son was sleeping in a pool of sweat. He’s started to get rashes, which are even more difficult to look after when we don’t have enough water to bathe. 

As the situation worsens for everyone, Islamic Relief are doing all we can to help. A couple of days ago, I went with my colleagues to see some of the makeshift shelters where we are supporting displaced people. 

We visited a school that is now a shelter. Coincidentally, it was my own secondary school, but it’s now completely different. The beautiful places where I used to live had turned into a dystopian setting with darkness and rubble everywhere. The streets are filled with trash. There were also ponds of sewage and grey water near the camps. 

We are no less human than anyone else. We are Palestinians and we deserve to live with dignity. But because the world is indifferent to our suffering, we are living a nightmare. 

Islamic Relief is on the ground in Gaza, serving as a lifeline to families suffering in this crisis. Please help us to continue this vital work: Give generously to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*These extracts are anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague and others mentioned.

Editor’s note: These extracts have been edited for clarity and length


new director

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Nadeem Azhar

General Counsel

Nadeem joined Islamic Relief Worldwide in September 2022. He has worked in the charitable sector for over a decade.

He studied Modern History and Politics at Manchester University, and at the University of Law in London before qualifying as a solicitor in 2011.

Nadeem is an experienced corporate, commercial and governance lawyer, having worked with various faith-based and grant making charities as well those in health and education settings. He was a partner at a law firm in London before moving in-house where he focused on setting up and restructuring charities and social enterprises.

Most recently, Nadeem was Lead Counsel at Mind, a leading mental health charity, where he co-authored a new federation agreement, revamped legal processes, and played a major role in developing its strategic and fundraising partnerships.

Nadeem has been a charity trustee for the Seafarers Charity, as well as many grant-making bodies and theatre companies.

Adnan Hafiz

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Board of Directors
Javed Akhtar

Director of Finance

Javed Akhtar has more than a decade of experience at Islamic Relief, having worked in a similar role between 2003-2014. In that role he strove to implement wide-ranging financial and accounting processes which aided in the transparent nature in which Islamic Relief now operates.

Javed also has diverse experience across the private sector, having worked at American chemicals and pharmaceutical giant DuPont, shipping firm FedEX and technology consultancy company Accenture. In all his roles, he prioritises using the latest technologies to improve monitoring and reporting at every level. Javed’s commitment to embracing digital end-to-end technology, enhancing accountability to our stakeholders and promoting financial transparency is ensuring that we remain at the forefront of financial developments in the sector.

By training, Javed is a chartered accountant with a Master’s degree in NGO Management with Charity Accounting and Financial Management from Cass Business School.
Board of Directors
Affan Cheema  

Director of International Programmes

Affan Cheema is an experienced leader who has spent 25 years working in the international aid sector on poverty eradication in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has worked in fast onset emergencies, protracted crisis and development environments whilst working for Islamic Relief Worldwide and Care International. He is also a trustee of South West International Development Network (SWIDN).

Through his career Affan has held numerous roles including institutional fundraising, programme and grant management, and programme quality assurance.  Affan’s leadership has helped Islamic Relief Worldwide secure the highly coveted Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), seen as the sector’s premier benchmark for operational excellence.

Affan completed his BA in Economics and Geography from University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) and his MSc in Development Administration and Planning from the University of Bristol. He is PRINCE2 qualified, is a keen sportsman and recently co-edited a book entitled -Islam and International Development: Insights for working with Muslim Communities-.
Board of Directors
Dr Hossam Said

Managing Director, Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD)

For nearly three decades Dr Hossam has provided the strategic vision to manage, lead and develop a range of international humanitarian interventions around the world.

At the start of his career, Dr Hossam served on the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, before moving to Islamic Relief Worldwide to manage the core global business activities as International Programmes Director.

During this time the organisation increased its global reach, gaining both domestic and international repute and credibility. Dr Hossam has also served on the Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Management and Executive Committee for the past 15 years; sharing responsibility for strategic organisational development and the change management process, whilst forging strong relationships with many other charities.

Dr Hossam gained an MBA from Aston Business School in 2004 and graduated as a Medical Doctor from Cairo University in 1981.
Board of Directors
Martin Cottingham  

Director of External Relations and Advocacy

Martin Cottingham joined Islamic Relief in 2012 as IRUK Media Relations Manager, and was appointed Head of Communications in 2015 before taking up his current position as Director of External Relations and Advocacy for Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Martin has helped Islamic Relief to increase its mainstream media profile and expand its campaigning work, producing hard-hitting advocacy reports on floods in Pakistan (2011) famine in Somalia (2012) disaster risk reduction (2013) and aid to Afghanistan (2014). He has over 20 years’ experience working in media, communications and marketing roles for international development and environmental charities.

Martin graduated from the University of London with a degree in English and Drama (1982-85) then trained as a journalist with a postgraduate diploma at City University (1986-87). He has previously worked for Christian Aid as Editor of Christian Aid News and Media Relations Manager (1988-97) for Oxfam as Regional Campaigns Manager (1997-2000) and at the Soil Association as Marketing Director (2001-2006), as well as working for a wide range of organisations as a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant.

Tufail Hussain

Director of Islamic Relief UK

Tufail Hussain has 17 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development sector, leading on marketing and fundraising campaigns for several organisations before joining Islamic Relief UK in 2016 as Deputy Director. Tufail was appointed Director of Islamic Relief UK in 2019 and in 2021 provided valuable leadership as interim CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Tufail is driven by a passion for empowering disadvantaged youth and mentors a number of young people. He also works to strengthen engagement between British Muslims and wider society. Under his leadership, Islamic Relief UK has significantly increased its income and developed successful partnerships with communities across the country. He has travelled around the world to raise awareness of major emergencies such as the Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan crises and the floods in Pakistan and Sudan.

A father to 5 daughters and a son, Tufail is also a sports enthusiast and passionate Liverpool FC supporter. Tufail has run the London Marathon twice, raising over £35,000 for humanitarian causes.

Before joining Islamic Relief he was CEO of Orphans in Need, where he oversaw a new strategy that increased income from £2 million to £9 million in 3 years and opened up new UK and international offices. Tufail is also a trustee of the Muslim Charities Forum and a Director of TIC International (Islamic Relief Worldwide’s clothes recycling and trading arm).
Waseem Ahmad

Chief Executive Officer

Waseem Ahmad joined the Islamic Relief family over 24 years ago, serving as Programme Officer in the Balochistan province of south-western Pakistan before becoming Head of Programmes in Pakistan. Waseem then moved to Oxfam and Tearfund before returning to Islamic Relief to establish our mission in Malawi. Later serving as Head of Programme Funding and Partnerships, Waseem led the response to major crises across the globe, including the East Africa drought, Pakistan earthquake and the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Waseem then served for nearly 6 years as our Director of International Programmes, during which time the charity secured and retained the coveted Core Humanitarian Standard certification in recognition of the quality of our programming. He was appointed CEO of Islamic Relief in May 2021.

With a special interest in community mobilisation and infrastructure, Waseem received an MSc in Project Planning and Management from the University of Bradford, as well as an MSc in Economics from Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Waseem has also worked for Lepra Health in Action and is a member of the International Civil Society Centre’s Board of Trustees. The father-of-3 enjoys walking and playing football, and is a keen birdwatcher.