During the first week of the war in Gaza, 32-year-old teacher Amal Yaghi was rushing to flee heavy Israeli bombardment in the enclave’s centre to Khan Younis in the south.
With very limited access to internet, Yaghi, a schoolteacher, opened her Instagram account to know that her young student, Raghad, was killed in an Israeli airstrike.
“It’s an indescribable feeling. I experienced sorrow before, but there is a level of sorrow I never knew it existed. I figured it out now, raw sorrow and fear,” Yaghi said in a voice note sent over WhatsApp, in an interview that lasted nearly two weeks as Israel cut communication, electricity, fuel, water and food aid in Gaza.
Israeli retaliation comes after the Palestinian Hamas militant group launched an unprecedented and surprise attack against Israel in October 7. The Israeli government said nearly 200 people have been taken as hostages and 1,400 have been killed.
Relentless bombardment against the besieged Palestinian territory has left more than 2 million civilians reeling in Gaza. The Israeli government has ordered the immediate evacuation of civilians from the enclave’s north, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into displacement to the south.
Among those was the family of Yaghi. A mother of a 12-year-old, she also cares for her old stepmother and five siblings including a brother with disability.
Braving a perilous journey from the enclave’s centre to the south in Khan Younis, Yaghi says she still lives in fear. Israeli airstrikes have also hit the south, including Khan Younis, where Yaghi lives with her family at a friend’s house.
The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza published a 200-page report including names and ID numbers of 7,028 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes, including 2,913 children.
Last week, Yaghi knew that the home she left behind was brought to rubble due to an Israeli airstrike. “I left my heart there," she said.
She now struggles to find food to feed her family. “Last night we tried to look for noodles, but there is nothing,” she explained.
The escalating situation has particularly impacted the enclave’s vulnerable population of women and children. Residents say many resorted to take birth control pills to stop their periods, with lack of sanitary pads and much-needed water for showering.
“Chances of women finding a safe place with water to shower are almost non-existent,” Gaza-based Sara Ashour tweeted.
Nearly 572,000 women and girls in Gaza are in dire need of reproductive health services, the UNFPA said in a report released this week. Among those are an estimated 50,000 pregnant women, including 5,500 due to deliver in the next 30 days.
Every time people go to a pharmacy to look for sanitary pads or baby diapers, they find none, Yaghi explains.
“Our house is gone, our memories, our beloved ones, all gone.”