As Israel continues to bomb civilians in the Gaza Strip, a relatively unacknowledged workforce keeps its collective head down in the struggle to maintain social services for vulnerable Palestinians. The staff of numerous NGOs in Gaza are in many ways the community's unsung heroes.
Saif, for example, is one of the drivers for the Outreach Bus Programme operated by Britain's iF Charity. Throughout the pandemic, the programme has been used to help take children who need kidney dialysis to the hospital for treatment and back home again in safety. He was looking forward to his Eid holiday when the Israeli bombardment started in Gaza on 10 May.
"I was happy to get a break, because it isn't easy to see so many children suffering from ill health," he explained. "However, they are dealing with a lot of pain, and they are still strong, so that is inspirational."
The bombing started on the day that Saif finished work. He was married recently and he and his wife live with his extended family, in which there are seven children already. "The thought of losing them to Israel's bombs is sometimes too much for me," he said. "It has even made me think whether we should have our own children in Gaza and make them face all of this."
On the first night of the Israeli offensive, the whole family stayed together on the ground floor. "The doors were shaking, and we tried to calm the children by saying it was only fireworks. Every night since then we have been wondering if this will be 'the' night. If it will be our last."
Saif returned to work to help children get to hospital for their treatment. With Covid-19 still raging in Gaza, the children need safe transport and their treatment is vital. The roads are badly damaged and filled with rubble from the buildings which have been destroyed by Israeli bombs and missiles. A journey that usually takes ten minutes can now take him up to an hour.
"After leaving the patients at Al-Shifa Hospital, I drove around the area to see what it was like. So many collapsed buildings, so much rubble. I got to Al Wehda Street and rescuers were still searching for people in the rubble. I was approached by the rescue team who asked if they could use our minibus to take an injured man to the hospital as the ambulances were all full. He was alive; I couldn't believe it. All he was saying was 'Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord'."
Said pointed out that he is still shocked by the thought that people may still be under the rubble. "Nevertheless, I am glad I was there and I was able to help."
NGOs such as iF Charity are working round the clock on the ground in the Gaza Strip. Their staff brave the dangers of the Israeli offensive to carry out their much-needed work across the besieged territory. They are indeed the unsung heroes of Palestinian society, and front line eyewitnesses to Israel's brutal bombing of the civilian population.