14 Days in the Besieged Al-Shifa
April 23 2024
blog Series: 

We suffered through harsh and challenging days when the Al-Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza City came under siege. As my family and I reside in Al-Shifa’s vicinity, we, too, were besieged for 14 days without access to any necessities or means of survival. As usual, the Occupation Forces were keen on harming and abusing us. Besides their humiliation of grown men and degradation of women and elderly folk, the soldiers also took pleasure in tormenting us — their tanks and military vehicles opened fire at homes, including ours, in a mad and hysterical manner. We lived through petrifying, heart-stopping moments with our children shuddering in fear around us as the shells and shrapnel brought down entire residential buildings! In these moments, I was almost certain that any breath could be our last, especially considering how the soldiers met our cries and requests to leave Al-Shifa’s vicinity with intentional violence, executing anyone who dared exit their home. And that is despite the army’s claim that there were safe passages to lead us outside of the area.

The soldiers also blasted announcements through loudspeakers: “You shall die of thirst and starvation since your government has brought you here.” They wanted to get us and depress our morale, and they did not stop there but also went on to say: “If you want to get any food, you must collaborate with us, and we will give you whatever you want. Leave your homes now and collect your food from the front of the tank.” These moments were utterly difficult. The tanks nonetheless proceeded to kill anyone who dared move a limb.

This was not the first time my family and I were surrounded by tanks and soldiers, we had lived through three ground invasions. The first was when Occupation Forces first entered the Gaza Strip during this genocide and stormed the Al-Shifa Medical Complex. The second was when they entered Tal Al-Hawa, Al-Rimal, and the neighborhoods surrounding Al-Shifa. The third time was when they invaded the Al-Shifa Medical Complex and burned it down entirely.

Journalists, in particular, were targeted and publicly executed by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Many were martyred inside the hospital and on the surrounding roads. These executions mirrored the aggression practiced against tens of men and elders who were mercilessly killed in front of their women and children.

As journalists, we lived through very difficult days. We had no food to give our children, so our suffering was multiplied. Amid these feelings of oppression and pain, our ability to offer adequate media coverage was greatly impacted. I lost touch t with my colleagues for many days. Despite being a journalist entrusted with relaying the news to the people, I found myself unable to decipher the events and developments unfolding around me due to the electricity and telecommunications outages and the horror of the crimes committed against us.

For years, I worked as a news presenter, covering events and breaking news throughout Gaza City. But, the Israeli war machine targeted the organization that I worked for at the very onset of the ongoing war. Their treacherous missiles had, therefore, disrupted our work in a move that advanced the Occupation’s deliberate obstruction of our journalistic mission. They left no place suitable for us to carry out our work after destroying our equipment, broadcasting vehicles, and radio transmission stations. The situation was made worse by the dispersion of the media teams, some of which were displaced throughout the Gaza Strip, while others were martyred, detained, or wounded and bedridden.

The Israeli Occupation deliberately made our news inaccessible to the people by repeatedly cutting off telecommunications and internet services in Gaza City, preventing our voices from reaching the world. This is a hideous policy that the Israeli Occupation continuously uses to demoralize us and our people, but it has failed.

This war is unlike any that we have experienced. The main difference is the Occupation’s intention to carry out genocide this time around, entirely disregarding any recognized rules and conventions of war in pursuit of its goal to kill and erase every Palestinian from existence. Also in pursuit of this goal, the Israeli Occupation has practiced all means of terrorism against journalists in Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023, and until the present moment. It has attempted to obscure its true intentions and the ensuing images of death and destruction all over Gaza’s streets from the world. Nevertheless, it has not succeeded in silencing all journalists, and journalistic work has endured despite the limited resources. To the best of our ability, my colleagues and I tried to broadcast the realities on the ground, especially in areas that were besieged and thus isolated.

The apparent targeting of media crews and the destruction of media institutions demand a serious stance from everyone who claims to believe in and value the rights of journalists and human rights in general. What has befallen me as a Palestinian journalist is simply unimaginable. Ironically, as the world was celebrating International Women’s Day, female journalists in Gaza were experiencing the siege imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces who did not respect any rights and instead oppressed and endangered us. So here I am writing this testimony, dreaming of finally emerging from this nightmare.

About The Author: 

Doaa Afana is a Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip.

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