‘Night again. Terror again’: Palestinian woman describes her life under siege

ABC News/Courtesy of Tala Imad Herzallah

(LONDON) — Tala Imad Herzallah remembers every bombardment she has witnessed in her 21-year-old life in Gaza.

At 1 p.m. last Saturday, she heard the pounding sound of a strong one, close to her house in Tel Elhawa.

“It was terrifying, I did not want those memories to come back,” she told ABC News.

The Israeli government has cut off water, food, medical aid and electricity to the Gaza Strip in response to a surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The Israel Air Force said it has dropped about 6,000 bombs throughout the region. At least 1,537 Palestinians have died since the assault.

Humanitarian conditions inside Gaza have been deteriorating by the hour for the past six days, with a collapsing health system and an increasing shortage of basic needs in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

“No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Katz said on Thursday.

Herzallah and her parents are surviving with the bread her father was able to get at the local bakery and two gallons of reserves of water they saved before Wednesday, when it stopped coming through the tap of their kitchen.

They are sleeping on mattresses in the corridor, “the most sheltered place in the house,” as Herzallah described it. “The three of us, we just sit and we keep staying there, covering our ears so that we wouldn’t hear the sound of bombing,” she said.

No one in her family has been able to sleep through the continuous bombardments, she added.

Electricity is only available for one hour a day, according to Herzallah, and her family is one of just a few that can still access the internet. And when it comes, it’s barely enough to charge phones to keep in touch with friends and family members.

After sunset, it is complete darkness in Tel Elhawa and in the rest of 140.9 square miles of the Gaza Strip. “Dark again. Night again. Terror again,” Herzallah said as she watched the sun set from her window.

“When the night comes, when we cannot see each other, that’s when we fear,” she said. “We just start praying that we will all see one another in the morning.”

Herzallah’s mother, a school teacher, instructed her daughter to prepare emergency bags at the beginning of the siege last weekend. They are lined directly next to the door.

“We have birth certificates and the very important documents, basic clothes and scarfs, our gold and money,” Herzallah explained.

She went on, “I took my university books too. My university has been bombed, but I don’t know, I took them anyway with my laptop.”

Before the siege, she was a senior student at the Islamic University of Gaza. The university was bombed during the second day of Israeli strikes and is now reduced to a pile of rubble.

Herzallah said her dreams were destroyed like her university, where she was studying English literature and translation. But she still has hopes for her education and work.

However, her mental health is deteriorating as quickly as the living conditions in Gaza, she said.

“There was a bomb, 160 yards from my house,” she said. “My neighbor was right there, getting food from the market. There were no warnings and he died on the spot.” The neighbor was 25 years old, she said.

A few hours later, Herzallah’s father went to the small funeral that he and other neighbors organized in the street in front of Herzallah’s family house.

“I couldn’t go, I was too scared. But my father went. He said he saw the father of the victim staring at the body and saying nothing. He was completely shocked,” she said.

At least 423,000 people are now displaced in the Gaza Strip alone, according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a situation already unmanageable for humanitarian agencies.

Herzallah said leaving Gaza is not an option for her family right now.

“Even if we had a chance with the corridor, we wouldn’t leave our land,” she said. “I haven’t even talked about it with my parents because it’s not up for discussion.”

On Friday morning, she woke up to thousands of leaflets raining down from the Israeli military urging residents in the north of Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours. “They are forcing us to leave our area and pushing us to go to Egypt step by step. History is repeating itself. It’s like 1948 again,” she wrote in a text message to ABC News.

“It’s not about Hamas and it’s not about these days but about decades of struggle,” she said of Gaza, where every second citizen lives below the poverty line, according to a World Bank report.

“For Palestine, I still dream of freedom, employment, travel, electricity, water, fuel and every necessity for a decent life. We don’t ask to solve all the problems, but to give us basic rights,” she said.

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