Gaza City, Palestine Territories: As Israeli jets pound Gaza with deadly night-time airstrikes, residents of the besieged strip say the planes are also waging a war on sleep.
“For ten days I haven’t managed to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time,” said Nevine Ahmad, 36, a mother of six who lives in the west of Gaza City.
“The missiles won’t stop. The jets zip overhead and the children scream.”
Relentless Israeli bombardment has killed 232 people and 65 children since May 10, the territory’s health ministry says. Israel says it has killed a number of militants.
Gaza is run by the Islamist movement Hamas, which along with other groups has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing 12 people including two children and a soldier.
The Israeli bombing has blasted craters in the roads and ravaged power and water infrastructure in the coastal strip, as well as forcing 75,000 people to flee their homes, according to the UN.
Ahmad said she now hosts 12 relatives who were forced to flee their home in the east of the city, and her four-bedroom flat is overflowing with people.
“Everyone is wracked with worry and glued to the news,” she said.
“There are more than ten children in the house and none of them can sleep.”
Her nine-year-old son Ahmad said he was desperately trying to stay awake — for fear he might not see his family again.
“I’m exhausted, but I’m scared that I’ll fall asleep and they’ll bomb us and then I’ll wake up alone,” he said.
‘Fear kills sleep’
Ahmad’s mother said her family and their guests all huddled in two rooms at night, on the side of the building furthest away from nearby security force offices.
On the side of the flat closest to it, the windows had been blasted off, and tiny pieces of glass spewed across the room after they were hit.
“Last night I stayed up until 2 am making pastries with the kids just to distract them from the sound of the bombing and warplanes,” Navine said.
“They all fell asleep at around 5 am and then most woke up again less than two hours later to the sound of the airstrikes.”
It’s not easy fighting a terrorist organization that embeds its military infrastructure in civilian areas.
We use the latest military technology to precisely strike Hamas targets, while minimizing damage to the surrounding areas.
Take a look: pic.twitter.com/oSXDZTVZlW
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 20, 2021
For more than ten days, the incessant drone of Israeli surveillance planes has also reverberated across the overcrowded coastal strip of some two million inhabitants.
On the other side of the border, air raid sirens warning of projectiles fired from Gaza at cities have driven millions of Israelis to take cover in bomb shelters, sometimes for entire nights.
In the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, Ala Lubbad, 37, said he usually spent the night in the narrow street between the buildings of the cramped camp with neighbours following the news until dawn.
“We are living through a war. Fear kills sleep,” he told AFP.
“How are we supposed to sleep when we see our children are scared and we can’t even reassure or protect them?”
His wife, Umm Mohammed said their four-year-old daughter had started wetting the bed.
“She wakes up and screams all night long. I don’t know how to calm her down when I’m also petrified,” she said.
“We try to distract the kids with TV, but the electricity only comes on for a few hours.”
Gaza has long faced power cuts that can last up to 12 hours a day. Hamas said Thursday that Israeli strikes had taken offline 31 electrical substations, 79 kilometres of cables and nine main lines.
Rana al-Hindi, 26, said the war had forced her to meet her new neighbours after she moved to a new flat in Gaza City two months ago.
“When the bombing gets too intense we all rush out to the stairwell,” she said.
“I knew no one in the building but now, with the conflict, I’ve met everyone.”