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After a week of unrelenting Israeli bombardment and with a ground offensive looming, Alaa was forced to leave her home in northern Gaza and head south with her two-year old twins Kinan and Kinda and her three-month-old son Yaman.
“It is a new Nakba for all of us,” Alaa, an English language teacher who did not want to reveal her surname, told The National of the heart-wrenching journey she made on Saturday.
“All my family left their homes including all possessions, and memories. I left my wedding photos that I had wanted one day to share with my daughter. I left the earrings my mother had given her. We left our souls back there.”
The house where she grew up and her own apartment where she “put all her life savings” from working as a teacher for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, was badly damaged in bombings.
Hundreds and thousands of Gaza residents have been forced to move south after Israel gave "evacuation orders" to 1.1 million civilians, which is reminiscent of what Palestinians call Nakba - the Arabic word for catastrophe - to describe their mass exodus in 1948 after Israel was formed.
Alaa says she has moved to a building in Deir Al Balah where her in-laws stay.
"We are here together with my neighbour's family consisting ten people. Also my parents, my five month pregnant sister and her family too. We are all 21 people using a very old, small bathroom and a very small kitchen with minimal supplies.”
“This is not the first time we have been subjected to Israeli bombs. Nor the second, third or fourth. I have grown up accustomed to Israeli air strikes and killings. But this is the worst I have experienced.”
Alaa said it pained her to see that her children lose their little joys. “My kids love to watch their favourite cartoon ‘Masha and the Bear’ on YouTube on our smart TV. They are suddenly deprived of all the things they love. We have been robbed of our boring but normal routine.”
She said it was her birthday on Saturday and instead of celebrating with a cake and gifts, she along with thousands had to flee for safety. "My husband told me he was going to surprise me with a new smartphone on my birthday,” she said.
She cannot but “wonder every day and every minute” why people in the world do not sympathise with Palestinians like they have with the Ukrainians, who have suffered from Russian aggression.
“We have been fighting this cruel occupation which tried to steal our land for over 75 years.”
She says her story of personal loss and shattered dreams echoed that of thousands of Gazans who had lost everything in the Israeli attacks, but they were not mere statistics.
"I hate that people see us as numbers," she says. "More than 2,000 people killed in Gaza. We are humans. We have lives like you. We love. We hate. We are educated and smart."