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Satellite view IDP in Deir al-Balah / Area A, 24 May 2024

In Gaza, “we did not have time to bury them”

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On the morning of 8 June, Israeli forces heavily bombed the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip, Palestine, including Al-Nuseirat refugee camp. These deadly Israeli attacks reportedly killed at least 270 Palestinians and left about 700 wounded, according to the local health authorities. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams, along with medical staff at Al-Aqsa and Nasser hospitals, treated hundreds of severely injured patients, many of whom were women and children.

Dr Hazem Maloh is a Palestinian medical doctor, working with MSF since 2013, who lives in Al-Nuseirat camp. He recalls that horrific and traumatising day when he lost many of his friends and neighbours.

“On the day of the attacks, I lived through three hours of real terror and fear. For one endless hour I did not know where my eldest son was. He went to the market, and in a few minutes, everything had turned upside down. Minutes felt like hours.

There were sounds of missiles and explosions everywhere. We didn’t know what was happening. Everyone was screaming and running away in every direction. We could hear the sirens from the ambulances. It felt as if it was the end of the world.

I stood up to see if my son had come back and I realised he had left his phone at home. I went to the street screaming, ‘Where is my son? Where is my son?’ My family tried to get me back into the house. I screamed so much that I lost my voice.

Dad, people have been blown into pieces! Children, women… why is it like this, Dad? Son of Dr Hazem Maloh who witnessed bombing in Al-Nuseirat refugee camp

One hour later, my son arrived home. The sight of fear and terror on his face… I have never seen this on a human being. He was barely able to speak. He said, ‘Dad, people have been blown into pieces! Children, women… why is it like this, Dad?’

I hugged him and cried and cried. For the first time, I felt weak.

After that, I went to Al-Awda clinic, in Deir Al-Balah, which is only a few metres away from my home. I saw dozens and dozens of people lying on the ground. Some of them were dead, others injured. One ambulance arrived carrying three people who had been killed and four others who were wounded. My eyes were full of tears.

One of my colleagues called me. His brother had been hit by shrapnel in the back. He told me he was throwing up blood. He kept asking what he should do. But what could I do? There was no ambulance available. I told him to tie a piece of cloth around the wound to pressure the injury, and to pray for him that he stays alive.

Smoke clouds from bombs rise above Al Nuseirat camp Gaza
An image of Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in the Middle Area of Gaza during Israel bombardments on Saturday 8 June 2024. The deadly Israeli attacks reportedly killed at least 270 Palestinians and left about 700 wounded according to the local health authorities. MSF teams, along with medical staff at Al-Aqsa and Nasser hospitals, treated hundreds of severely injured patients, many of whom were women and children. Gaza Strip, Palestine, 8 June 2024.

Dozens of people were killed. We did not have time to bury them.

Many were my neighbours, friends or relatives. Men, women, children. Raneem, who was the daughter of one of my close friends, and her father, were both killed. She was preparing herself to study medicine in Egypt. Last time I saw her, she smiled at me and asked, ‘Uncle, will MSF recruit me once I complete my studies?’
 
Mahmoud was a great young man, too. He used to help me a lot in the garden with the planting and farming. The day before he got killed, he picked up the wood in front of the house and set a fire to cook noodles for his children. He told me, ‘You know, now I make noodles better than Maqluba [a famous Palestinian dish].’ Mahmoud was also killed on Saturday.

Rami was a simple fisherman. The day before the attack he said to me, ‘Be ready, we will go back and swim in the sea again once the war is over.’ Rami was also killed.

The list is too long… and I will never see any of them again.”

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