Gaza: “I only hope that the truce will hold”

Dr Abu Abed is a Palestinian from Gaza who has worked for MSF for the past ten years. Since Israel launched its offensive in early July, he has been coordinating MSF’s medical activities in Gaza. In the two days since the ceasefire came into force on Tuesday, he and his family have been making the most of the return to calm, and are hoping that the truce will last.

"Finally I can sleep in my bed again. My five-year-old daughter is happy that she can drink her milk before bed and get a good night’s sleep. I'm lucky in that my house hasn’t suffered too much. But there’s no electricity and no running water. I have a small generator that gives us electricity for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. And we can draw water from the well. I only hope that the truce will hold.

My daughter is still scared; she doesn’t understand why everything has been destroyed. Yesterday she said to us, ‘Don’t go out, they may break the truce.’ My sons, aged 11 and 12, have lost their childhood. One can only hope that their teenage years won’t be lost too.

We’ve lived through terrible times. One day – I don’t remember the date, but I know it was the twenty-first day of the war – the bombing started at 11 pm and didn’t stop until 5.30 the next morning. Nobody slept that night. My daughter was in a state of panic – we couldn’t calm her down. My house is in a neighbourhood of Gaza City near the beach, but also near a police training camp. Every five minutes, bombs rained down on all sides. I ran from one window to the next to try and get an idea of what was going on. But it was impossible to follow what was happening, or to get any information on local radio.

Later that morning, Nicolas, MSF’s project coordinator in Gaza, phoned me. He suggested I bring my family to stay in the MSF office. I accepted immediately. Other MSF staff were already taking refuge there – a surgeon, some of the guards – and we could sleep there too. It was such a relief. At last my children would be able to see other people and to play outside, because they’ve spent the past 20 days shut up in one room. My wife was the only one to venture out to the kitchen to get what they needed. Meanwhile I went to work: an MSF car picked me up each morning and brought me back in the evening. And while I was away I worried about them.

The MSF office is a five-minute walk from Al Shifa hospital, the main hospital for the whole of the Gaza Strip. MSF has sent a surgical team to support the local hospital staff, who are completely exhausted. In Gaza, MSF also runs a clinic providing post-operative care. Since the war began, about a dozen patients have come to the clinic each day to have their dressings changed. We have provided dressing kits to all the patients for whom it has been too dangerous to move. Since yesterday, with the ceasefire, patients have been flocking in. We had 45 patients come in during the course of the day for dressings or physiotherapy. If the truce continues, their number will only increase with all the wounded who have been operated on and now need post-operative care.”