Voices from the Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

by Caroline Leal | October 13, 2023
Background media: Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City after it was hit by Israeli aircraft.
Caroline Leal

Voices from the Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

Hear from Oxfam staff currently sheltering from ongoing airstrikes in the Gaza strip.

by Caroline Leal | October 13, 2023

Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City after it was hit by Israeli aistrikes. Photo: Yousef Hammash / NRC

For Khloud, there was no other choice. As the ongoing Israeli airstrikes destroyed her home in Gaza, she grabbed her 2 year-old son and headed for the streets. "All I can do is try and keep my son calm and try to convince him there is nothing risky around us," says Khloud. 

These are the stories from our humanitarian colleagues flooding our inboxes since the escalation of the crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza following the Israeli response to the appalling attacks by Hamas. Oxfam has been forced to halt all of its humanitarian and development work in Gaza as violence continues to rage across Gaza and Israel. 

Hearing from our colleagues and imagining what their families are going through is overwhelming. Oxfam staff are sending us terrifying messages; they are sheltering in their homes or displaced with their extended families, some trying to find safety in schools or hospitals that have already been damaged by airstrikes. They are in darkness, pleading to know what is happening.  One last message received told us ‘Please pray for us and forgive us if we don't end up making it through this tough time.

Here are some of their stories.

Khloud, Economic Justice Program Officer

Two weeks ago, Khloud was posting feminist memes and re-sharing studies on women's economic justice on her social media feeds. Today, it is her heartfelt recount of the moment she left her home with her toddler son making the rounds of social networks.

"The only thing I really remember is the moment we left the house, running in the streets, knowing nothing, having nothing with us. The only thing I managed to take with me - my son."

Khloud, alongside her other Oxfam colleagues who are preparing to respond to this humanitarian emergency, have been in this situation many times in the past. Oxfam has repeatedly helped people recover from needless trauma and get back on their feet, only to start the process all over again. We have seen some gains, and time and again, how quickly those gains are lost.

"What I really wish? For this to come to its end. It's too much to handle for our children and our families," adds Khloud.


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An ambulance in Gaza moving wounded Gazans to AL Shefa' Hospital in Gaza. Photo: Marwan Sawwaf/Alef MultiMedia/Oxfam

Wassim, Saving Lives Project Manager

Wassim, working on a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project. Photo: Oxfam in Jerusalem Facebook

Wassim is a manager for the Saving Lives project in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He's been working for Oxfam for 11 years, dedicating himself to humanitarian work in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"What once was Gaza is no more," he says in his latest voice note. His message came in on the wake of Israel's order for Northern Gaza to evacuate, an order condemned by Oxfam and other humanitarian organizations.

"Now, I'm talking and I'm still alive - but I don't know what will happen to us next."

Hassam explains that if it was up to him, he'd never leave and would rather die in Gaza. But he explains he must do what is right for his children and his parents. "We are going to leave our home within the next two hours. We are afraid and I must protect them. Pray for us."

Listen to Wassim's voice note below.

Najla, Country Relations Manager

Najla is currently living with her family and 12 other friends, sheltering without proper access to electricity, food, water and fuel. "Everyone I know is displaced," she explains.

The ongoing violence has been a reality for many years in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The current siege by Israel adds on to the ongoing blockade of Gaza, which has endured for 16 years. Before this unprecedented escalation, the UN and humanitarian partners estimate that 2.1 million Palestinians across the Occupied Palestinian Territory - including 80% of the population in Gaza - depended on humanitarian assistance.

As Najla tucks in her children to sleep, the fear of ongoing bombings remains. "At 4:30AM, there was a massive airstrike that shook our house. We couldn't go back to sleep," she adds. The threat of airstrikes continues around the clock.

Watch as a loud bomb interrupts Najla during a live TV interview with CNN :

If you listen closely to Najla's voice note below, there is yet again a dull, pounding sound. "Oh, it's likely shelling coming in from the sea."

As another day wraps up, all of us wonder if our colleagues in Gaza will make it through the next day. In the meantime, we are doing all we can to mount a humanitarian response as soon as conditions allow.

Oxfam is assessing how it can restart its humanitarian work in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel currently on hold due to the conflict.

Oxfam and partners are ready to respond to support the 2.2 million people trapped within and outside Gaza but can only do so when the air strikes and violence stops. Please give today. 

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