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'If we can hear the bombs, we are alive': MEMO in Conversation with Eman Basher

Two weeks into Israel's relentless campaign of bombing the Gaza Strip have left Eman Basher no longer able to convince her son that the lights and sounds in the sky are just fireworks and there is no reason for him to be scared.

October 20, 2023 at 4:00 pm



“Day 11: an idea kept coming & going. What if I killed my kids and saved them from going through this horror? From running for their lives in the middle of the night. From being homeless. From losing a brother. Or a mother. I have to save them somehow. I am their mother, after all.”

This tweet was shared by Eman Basher, a mother residing in the Gaza Strip.

Over the past two weeks, Gaza has endured relentless Israeli aerial assaults, with the Israeli army proudly announcing the dropping of 6,000 bombs, totalling 4,000 tonnes, on this densely populated 365 square kilometre area where 2.2 million Palestinians reside.

The casualties from Israel’s aggression on Gaza now stand at 4,137, including 1,524 children and 1,000 women. Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble and ashes.

Eman, a teacher from Beit Hanoun, recounts: “One million people have lost their homes and are seeking shelter at schools right now, but they’re not even guaranteed that it is safe. No place is safe, and I literally don’t know any person right now in Gaza who hasn’t lost members or even their entire families.”

“I myself have lost two teachers from my school, and I still don’t know the fate of my students. I teach ninth graders; I don’t know if they are alive. I don’t know where they’ve evacuated. I teach in Beit Hanoun, which was the first city to evacuate. And after the evacuation, the Israeli aggression became even harder and more violent.”

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, due to the ongoing attacks, there has been a reported fatality every five minutes in Gaza. Moreover, the ministry noted that at least 45 families spanning three generations have been killed, effectively erasing their names from the civil registry.

The atmosphere engulfing Gaza, Eman describes, is heavy with the smoke of discharged munitions and the odour of decaying bodies buried beneath the debris of destroyed residences.

The smoke and sulphur in the air are exacerbating her son’s asthma, which she can’t treat efficiently due to the closure or destruction of pharmacies and the limited medical supplies allocated to emergency cases at hospitals.

“My son suffers from an allergy. He had an asthma attack in the middle of the night because the air right now is full of ashes and sulphur, which he finds difficult to breathe around. The bombs are being dropped in huge amounts this time, and they’re also firing white phosphorus, which is prohibited because they contain life-threatening damage.”

“But there are no pharmacies open because of limited medicines, and hospitals are filled with top-priority and emergency patients who are severely injured with broken arms and feet. So this puts all the more pressure on me to keep my children safe and healthy.”

WATCH: Gaza: Genocide in the Making

Just this week, a tragic explosion occurred at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, resulting in the immediate loss of over 500 Palestinian patients and medical professionals. In the days leading up to this devastating attack, Israel issued evacuation orders to 1.1 million Palestinians residing in the northern part of Gaza ahead of an impending ground offensive. Notably, the Israeli military specifically provided evacuation advisories for Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, as confirmed by the Anglican Church that runs the healthcare institution.

Eman, in an attempt to distract her children’s attention from the relentless sounds of bombs exploding around them, downloads cartoons for them to watch, a tactic she’d used during previous major Israeli attacks against Gaza. However, her eldest son, Faisal, has since learnt the explosions were not the sounds of celebratory fireworks as his mother would say.

“Faisal has grown up, and he doesn’t believe the lie I have been telling him that these are fireworks. So, I’m telling him the truth now about what is happening. I’m letting him understand the facts and that we are in danger right now, and he needs to be a fighter. This is an abnormal situation for a child, but he’s doing good so far, somehow.”

“This will be a trauma for them for the rest of their lives, but I can’t care about trauma right now. Right now, it’s about surviving and being thankful that my children are alive so far. I keep seeing videos and images of mothers who have lost their children and siblings, those who have not survived. It’s so frightening. If I only had one last wish to ask for anything, I really would want nothing but my kids to survive,” expresses Eman.

The mother of four documents her thoughts at the beginning and end of each day during the conflict on social media as a form of resistance against the spread of Israeli propaganda and misinformation.

“We Palestinians in Gaza are fighters, and this is my way of resisting. Using social media to share my thoughts and memories during our days in this war is my way of fighting somehow and telling my truth. It’s my fight against injustice. I’m doing all that I can to live and do my best for the people here.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials do not deny striking residential buildings, mosques and cafes, nor killing and injuring innocent civilians, but instead claim to be targeting Hamas’s officials, weapons caches, tunnels and safe houses, all deeply intertwined with civilian infrastructure in Gaza. As a result of these attacks on residential areas, hospitals are overwhelmed with injured Palestinians, with some patients having to lie on the floor due to the lack of available beds, surgical rooms and intensive care units.

The conflict in Gaza, under Israeli bombardment and blockade since 7 October, began when Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea and air. It said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers.

The Israeli military then launched Operation Swords of Iron against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

“Before 7 October,” explains Eman, “there were constant videos of Israeli soldiers hitting Palestinian worshippers violently while they were praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque for no reason. The suffering of all the Palestinians was going to definitely lead to something. When you’re bullying people daily, constantly hitting them and cutting off their supplies, people will rise and fight back. This is what we’re doing here. It was only a reaction of the people who wanted peace, and I knew there were going to be consequences. But at least we did something to the bully. We made it clear that they’re being bullies.”

She adds: “For a moment, I kept thinking that maybe the Palestinians were doomed to misery. But I’m telling you right now that all that the Palestinians want is to live in peace and to have a life of dignity. That is all.”

Saving Gaza’s Life: MEMO in Conversation with Dr Mads Gilbert