I Live in Gaza. Israel’s Horrific Bombing Campaign Is Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen Before.

In a harrowing dispatch from Gaza, Palestinian human rights activist and Gaza City resident Raji Sourani gives an account of daily life amid Israeli air strikes that are killing entire families. Despite it all, Palestinians in Gaza are clinging to hope.

Aftermath of an attack on a building in Khan Yunis, Gaza, November 6, 2023. (Belal Khaled / Anadolu via Getty Images)

Once again, I found myself being rescued from a destroyed house. The first time this happened was when a bomb struck my family home in Tel al Hawa, a middle-class neighborhood in Gaza City. I was with my wife Amal and my adult son. In response to the nearby bombings that were violently shaking our house, Basal asked us to stay hidden in a corridor, ensuring that we would remain together in the event of a direct hit. A bomb struck nearby, destroying much of my family home and the small but beautiful garden I cherished outside. After that, we moved to another home, closer to the heart of Gaza City, only for it to succumb to the relentless bombing as well.

I have never experienced anything like this bombing. They are using airstrikes from F-16s, gunboats, Apache helicopters, and F-35s to instill terror in the minds and hearts of the people, leaving us with the sense that our only remaining option is to lose our lives and the lives of our dear ones. I am especially concerned for my family because I fear that human rights defenders will be a target just as journalists have been a target.

For the past three hours, the house has been shaking incessantly, and I can’t help but imagine the next bomb hitting this house. We have not slept for five days because of the bombing. During the day I try to walk around the city. The destruction is incredible. I cannot believe my eyes: entire families dead, shelters reduced to rubble, once towering residential buildings erased from existence, and the destruction of mosques churches, ambulances, journalists, bakeries, marketplaces, and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools.

We have tried to move south to the so-called safety zone. In a convoy, we drove along the coastal road, waving white flags. The road was lined with many dead bodies and burned-out vehicles. After just five minutes on the road, we came under fire.

Israel’s bombings are targeting bakeries, which are the main source of food for people here. Many of the supermarkets, restaurants, and bakeries rely on solar panels, which are also being targeted and destroyed. As a result, restaurants that prepare premade meals have no electricity, ensuring that they will not be able to prepare or sell food. Our limited food supplies, such as canned tuna, will soon be gone.

In the hospital and throughout the area, many people are experiencing heart attacks, and kidney patients are unable to access dialysis so they are dying at home. The Turkish Cancer Hospital (the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital) was targeted and bombed.

The bombs are striking locations that are heavily populated by civilians. We know that 70 percent of the dead are women and children. Neighborhoods and camps such as Jabaliya, Shujaiya, Nuseirat, and Bureij are all civilian areas.

It is incredible that the mightiest power in the Middle East, armed with the most high-tech weapons, is deliberately targeting civilians, and yet no one is speaking up. The world is tolerating a state of lawlessness when what we truly desire is the rule of law.

As Palestinian civilians, we rely on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to protect us. Palestinian civil society has dedicated many years advocating for the court to take action against Israel. Despite enduring the longest occupation in recorded history, justice at the court has remained elusive. Even after more than years ten years of petitions to the court, it was not until 2021 that the ICC prosecutor decided to investigate war crimes committed by Israel post-2014. Prior to October of this year, not one indictment has been issued nor one individual faced trial despite the loss of thousands of lives and destruction of civilian properties.

Today, more than ever we are relying on the court to ensure that Israel;s war crimes against Palestinian civilians do not go unpunished. At a speech in Cairo last week the ICC prosecutor promised that the children of Gaza would not be forgotten. We civilians urgently need him to fulfill this promise.

We also are relying on Western countries to support the norms that they established after World War II to protect civilians. Their complicity in creating a culture of impunity for Israel is shameful. The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany are setting aside the rules of international humanitarian law. After thirty years of the Oslo Accords, there is virtually no talk of peace, a two-state solution, or an end to the occupation and blockade. Instead, the international narrative appears to condone all of Israel’s actions involving apartheid, siege, and war crimes.

It feels like the Israeli strategy is to push 2.4 million of us out of Gaza and into Sinai. If that happens, then the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem may be next, and the Zionist project will be complete.

But we are human beings — we are the people of Palestine. We deserve dignity. We deserve justice and we deserve freedom. We believe we are on the right side of history and that we are the stones of the valley. Despite the immensity of the challenges we face, people here do not give up.

As hopeful revolutionaries, we are committed to preserving our strategic optimism. The support of millions who uphold the values of the rule of law and the dignity of all people strengthens us. I ask all of you to keep on working to break the conspiracy of silence. We shall overcome.