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Women's Empowerment

After the Bombings: Olfat’s story of of survival from the Gaza Strip

Olfat al-Kurd, a mother of four from Gaza, has lived through four wars and now devotes her time to helping other survivors of war.

Olfat al-Kurd, mother of four from the Gaza strip and B'Tselem Field Researcher Photo Credit: B'Tselem Olfat al-Kurd, mother of four from the Gaza strip and B'Tselem Field Researcher Photo Credit: B'Tselem

Myself and my family live in the a-Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood of Gaza City.

I started working as a field researcher with B’Tselem four year ago. B’Tselem is an Israeli Information Center for Human Rights that strives to end Israel’s occupation. We publish testimonies and eyewitness accounts to publicize human rights violations with a view to helping minimize such violations.

After the last war, I started traveling around the Gaza Strip, documenting stories from victims and their families.

A woman weeping over her husband, a family miraculously saved, a mother crying in pain for her little girl, grandparents who keep looking at the door expecting their loved ones to walk in. One woman told me she’d watched her home crumble to nothing; another moved to live by the cemetery so she can visit her son’s grave first thing in the morning and before she goes to bed at night.

I laid my pen and pad down and cried with the families. I cried with the young guy who told me how he’d lost his leg while trying –and failing –to save a wounded person. I cried with another who described helplessly watching his parents die, slowly, until they drew their final breaths. With the mother whose son had burned to death before her very eyes.

I walked the ruined streets, with mourners’ tents in every house and square. Demolished roads, collapsed infrastructure, towers, and buildings wiped off the face of the earth, bits of furniture and clothes scattered everywhere.

All that’s left is the sadness and depression enveloping everyone and countless broken dreams.

I’ll never forget that evening when the bombings started. I was standing in the kitchen when I heard a series of deafening blasts. I told myself not to worry because it was probably more sonic booms created by Israeli airplanes.

I quickly realized they were bombing Gaza.

The airstrikes continued, non-stop, throughout the night. Houses were shelled, people were killed, and others fled their homes.

In the morning, I packed my bags. My children were scared, especially my daughter Zeinah, who’s only 14. She didn’t leave my side for a moment. Two days later we moved to my sister’s.

The bombings grew heavier every day. I was shattered. I couldn’t eat or sleep and didn’t have a moment’s peace. I was horrified by the death all around us. My son Yusef, 12, started running a fever with every airstrike. To shut out the noise, he would go to sleep with his hands over his ears.

Zeinah was paralyzed with fear. Haya, 17, barely ate and kept repeating, “We’re going to die.”

Every night, Yusef said, “Mom, don’t go far. Stay close to my brothers and me. We have to either die together or live together.”

Then, they announced the war was over. I hugged my children and husband, overjoyed we’d made it in one piece. We went back home. When I saw the extent of the damage, I collapsed. The walls were cracked, there were no windows or doors, and everything was destroyed and covered in debris, dust and shattered glass.

Through each war I had to leave my house with my family. Every time, we start over from scratch. Every time, the Israeli military comes back and destroy my home.

It’s never been easy. There’s always something going on in the Gaza Strip. I remember going to the border during the March of Return protests in 2018 and standing not far from the protesters as the snipers fired at them.

It was dangerous and terrifying.

But nothing can compare to the horrific scenes I’ve witnessed since the last war.

In May 2021, 256 Palestinians, including 66 children and 40 women, were killed following 11 days of intense violence.

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