‘Will we cover the news, or become it?’ Gazan journalist on motherhood at a time of war

When are we going home? Where is Dad? My son's questions have become increasingly difficult to answer

Palestinians gather at the site on an Israeli air strike in the north of the Gaza Strip. Reuters
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As my family and I huddled together, our mattresses side by side, as we have done every night since we moved to my brother’s house in western Gaza, there was an explosion.

The flash made everything extremely bright, before it became pitch black again.

There was dust everywhere and the acrid smell of chemicals sent us all coughing and gasping for breath. A few seconds later, there was another blast.

I threw myself over my two kids as they slept soundly, as if to shield them with my body, as if that would have helped at all.

This was what I’ve been trying to prepare myself for – either living together, or dying together.

We thought we would be safe in this neighbourhood, with schools, the Swedish clinic and a hospital near by. We trained ourselves to stay clear of the windows, but my brother was not so lucky. He could not move quickly enough to avoid the glass that shattered around him during the explosion.

Somehow, my three-year-old son Qais and his younger brother Omar slept through the commotion. I was relieved, because I have been unable to answer some of Qais’s questions about what is going on and was in no shape to explain what had just happened.

He has been afraid of going anywhere by himself. He always needs his mother by his side. And he keeps asking me what the loud noises are, where they are coming from, when we are going back home and where his dad has been.

Gaza's civil defence creaking under the pressure

Gaza's civil defence creaking under the pressure

My husband, who is also a journalist, has been in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, covering the war.

Every day, I question my decision to remain where I am, instead of joining him in the south, where Israel told us to go. I feel responsible for the consequences. But it did not feel any safer there.

It was hours before we found out exactly where the explosions were. Thankfully, it was only an empty building – but still, at least 40 people got injured.

I got nervous. Will we be next?

We have heard about strikes being carried out on residential buildings without warnings, or calls to those inside to evacuate.

I kept replaying the moment in my head. Did I do the right thing? Will I have time, next time, to carry my kids to safety? What if there is an explosion while I’m away covering a story?

Every time I leave the house on assignment, I am conflicted.

I go out to face a reality I refuse to believe. I see bodies being brought in by the lorry-load. My beautiful Gaza, reduced to rubble.

Women and the elderly queue for hours to receive a few pieces of bread, and fathers search for their children by hand under massive stones.

We know many people who have been killed. We have heard about their deaths, and some day someone might hear about ours.

Is it only a matter of time?

Will I continue to cover the news, or will I become it?

Updated: October 28, 2023, 6:23 AM