Doha News spoke to Gazans who live in Qatar, and what its like watching the war from miles away, not knowing if your loved ones are safe.. or even alive.
Millions have flocked to Qatar over the decades in search for a better life, leaving behind homes and families in various conditions. However, for Gazans living here, concerns about deadly Israeli warplanes bombarding your home city is an unwelcome reality.
On Wednesday, a young man became the latest victim of Israel’s most recent onslaught on the besieged strip, taking the total number of casualties to 47.
Among them were 16 children who died before knowing a life beyond the blockade.
Doha News spoke to Gazans living in Qatar that have been delicately balancing their daily routines over the past week with the very real thought of losing their family.
Since the start of the assault on Friday, Ahmad knew that a war on Gaza was coming. He tried in the first moments to reach his family but the calls and texts were not going through due to a lack of electricity. No one was picking up their phone.
Ahmad arrived to Qatar in 2018 to pursue a Master’s degree. Last month was the first time he was able to see his family in Gaza after a long four years of separation. Throughout the four years, Gaza was bombarded several times.
“Every time, I’d be haunted by fears over my family,” he said, noting he was following the events by the second.
“It felt like I was in a literal newsroom just trying to make sure they’re safe… or even alive.”
For the past few days, Ahmad was struggling to do basic tasks at work. He was only able to fall asleep for the first time once the ceasefire was announced.
“What was odd is that this aggression was much harder than the other wars, on the level of bombs and rockets. There was a fear instilled in my family that I’ve never witnessed before.”
During his trip home last month, Ahmad was shocked to see the state of the people, especially after the brutal Israeli offensive of May 2021.
“This time, in less than 72 hours of war, the level of destruction was harder and the fear in people too. That made me more worried. To the extent that emotionally, I feel like the place I’m in is about to blow up.”
Ahmad only left the strip in 2018, and has watched as destruction engulfed the place he calls home throughout previous wars. “I know Gaza. I have memories there, I lived a life there. It hurts. It hurts to see the streets I once knew gone, my neighbours killed. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”
Scenes of utter ruins constantly replay in front of Ahmed, because he lived through numerous wars. In the 2014 war on Gaza, Ahmad lost ten of his school friends, most of whom he was close to. For him, even an airplane in the sky is capable of triggering PTSD.
“I’d be at my home, in Doha, thinking that I will be bombed, I start hearing the same sounds from the wars I’ve lived through.”
Ahmad, like many who have lived through the wars in Gaza, was diagnosed with PTSD in 2018.
“Getting out of Gaza is like getting out to life again. Because Gaza is unliveable. My life became better. I got my Master’s degree, my career in journalism was finally moving forward.”
“I was finally able to take care of my mental health and personal life in general away from the violence, death, and constant bad news,” he said. “This might give some people who leave Gaza a sense of guilt, and rightfully so.”
However, his family made sure he did not experience that. “I don’t feel that often because my family were the ones that encouraged me to leave, they were the ones who supported me, they’re constantly in touch, and they are proud of me, so thankfully, I do not feel guilt thanks to my family.”
He believes that the ceasefire lasting is linked to two main factors, the first being Israel’s commitment to the truce, and the second is the state of the people.
“Gazans, emotionally, cant handle another war. Thats why I hope the ceasefire lasts so people’s lives can remotely improve. Until there are accomplishments in the lives of the people themselves, away from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad’s media narratives.”
“I’m with the resistance, and I’m also with criticising the resistance. It’s been 70 years of suffering for us. The war between us and them [Israel] is long, and the road to a free Palestine is not easy.”
Sarah, who moved to Doha from Gaza in 1999, was only six years old when the first intifada happened. She lived through the curfews, daily raids at night, and loss.
She calls her family every hour to check up on them during Israeli assaults, and the last one was no different.
“Words cannot describe the sense of relief I feel when I go on facebook and find a green circle next to a relative’s username.”
In 2014, Sarah’s brother-in-law was martyred. He had two daughters, the youngest was 5 months while the eldest was two years old. The 28-year-old was a taxi driver, and the rocket was aimed at his car.
Everyone in the car was killed.
Sarah said she was texting her aunt during the assault on every platform possible, though failed to get a response. Sarah’s anxiety was through the roof as her aunt lives close to the bombardment.
“If someone takes more than five minutes to respond to me, I get terrified. Sometimes they don’t contact me until they’re completely fine because they know I’ll be crying. They worry about how I feel when they’re the ones whose lives are in danger,” said Sarah.
As it turns out, her aunt’s family had to run out of their home barefoot to seek shelter because their house was next to be bombed.
“Sometimes you run out so fast that you have to make sure you did not forget your kid or a family member behind if you’re a big family. You only have seconds to run out,” she said, describing the moments in which a ‘warning’ message was sent.
In Gaza, lots of families stay together on nights of bombardment. This was the case for Sarah’s family, who would host both direct and extended members of her family at their home.
“If the house they’re taking shelter in is bombed, the whole family will be wiped out. None of them will exist. Life there is so hard. We no longer have the basic life needs that a city needs to survive. There are no jobs, and no hopes.”
“They target high buildings, because they collapse more. They usually target an individual in the building linked to Hamas or the resistance. All of my uncles’ homes were bombarded to the ground,” noting one of her cousins recently lost his entire leg after an assault.
Sarah doesn’t believe that Gazans need charity. “My uncle once told me that they dont need donations, they need the seige to be lifted and to work on their own. We cant wait until donations are sent, money runs out.”
“There’s a saying that goes, don’t give me fish, teach me how to fish.”
“We’re talking about F-19’s capable of shooting down entire neighbourhoods.”
“You’ll find someone crying in every house in Gaza. They’ve all lost something, whether a home or a martyr. It’s impossible to find a house in Gaza that did not suffer a loss.”
However, she does not think that a ceasefire is the answer. “Every year, there’s a ceasefire, and every year, there’s a war. People are killed, houses are levelled to the ground. For what? To what end?”
For Sarah, a ceasefire will not restore the rights of Gazans, rid them of the suffocating siege, nor bring back their lost ones.
Sarah’s mother passed away from breast cancer six months ago but she was unable to visit.
“I… didn’t expect her to die after treatment. How could I not see my mum before her death?”