“There is no Gaza anymore, I don’t have a country” North East Palestinians affected by Israel-Gaza war
Written by Elif Gulmen on 8th November 2023
Since October 7, the Gaza Strip has been under constant airstrikes by the Israeli Defence Forces in response to an attack made by Hamas, an armed Palestinian group.
The most recent figures show a death toll of 10,569 Palestinians, including 4,237 children with 1,405 deaths on the Israeli side since October 7.
Many Palestinians in the North East have been impacted by the ongoing upheaval in Gaza. Spark Sunderland spoke to a number of people who have been affected by the conflict.
Hala Hanina, 30 from Gaza, is studying at Newcastle University as a PhD student. Her family, husband and friends are in Gaza, under the daily Israeli bombardments.
Hanina said: “The people who are dead are not just numbers but are humans who have stories. In Gaza right now, the people are divided into two groups, those who choose to live in two different houses, so if one house is bombed by Israel, the family in the other house will be alive.
“And the other group are families who will stick together, and die together. They will all sleep in the same room, this is what my family is doing, staying and sticking together.
“Because I’m in the UK right now, I don’t have the privilege to die with them. Or hug my parents, or play with the children in my family to help them cope through these difficult times.”
She said: “This is something not new for the Palestinians, but this one is too much and must stop. Since 75 years, Palestine has been colonised by Israel, we shouldn’t just look at what has happened to Palestinians since October 7.
“The Israelis started to dismantle the illegal settlements inside Gaza and they put moving restrictions around Gaza and closed the borders, so we have not had the freedom to leave Gaza since 17 years ago.”
Gaza, with its blockages and sieges, restricts Palestinians from usual necessities. And now with the ongoing current events, the 365 square kilometres Gaza Strip have been shut off from all sorts of humanitarian aid.
Ali Sadik, studying at Northumbria University, is very ‘saddened’ by what is happening in his father’s homeland, Gaza. The half-German and half-Palestinian 19-year-old shaved his hair off to raise money for his family currently in Gaza City.
He said: “With all my friends we raised money and I shaved my hair. The money was given to my sister who will find methods to send it to our family in Gaza who are suffering.
“We are able to speak to our family on the phone, and we can hear the bombs at the back. I have a family member who has died. Just two days ago I saw one of my family members in a body bag, it touches your nerves.”
Ali, who has come from Hull to study in Newcastle, has been in touch with his parents every day. He said: “It’s been horrible, my dad has been sitting in front of the TV shaking, and always on the phone with his brother. There is that in the back of my mind.
“He says there is no Gaza anymore, I don’t have a country. I don’t have a home to go back to.”
The law student has been going to Palestinian demonstrations over the past two weeks. He said: “You can feel kind of helpless – all we can do is spread awareness.
“What we see in Gaza is a genocide, and we can’t really do anything about it if it carries on there will be no Gaza. Please, wake up, world.”
In the 1967 conflict known as the July War, Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza, and East Jerusalem was annexed.
Recent years have seen the residents of Gaza endure a stifling blockade, collective punishment, and recurrent military attacks.
Noor Awad, 34, originally from Palestine but born and raised in Jordan, expresses feelings of ‘hopelessness’ with what is happening in Gaza. She and her family moved to Newcastle in 2015 to give their children a better life.
The mother of two said: “There will be more horrors to come as most countries are supporting Israeli war crimes but Palestinians will not be broken. They will persevere and prevail, it will be hard and will take time, but they will rebuild.
“I believe that each person who’s in solidarity with Palestine has so much power and can make a difference through posts, protests and boycotting.”
During the Nakba in 1948, her family, originally from Basin City in Palestine, sought refuge in Jordan. The Nakba is the forced displacement and loss of homes, land, and livelihoods for Palestinian Arabs during and after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, leading to the establishment of Israel.
Awad said: “I hope that I can see my country is finally free and I have the right to return with all of the generations that have been refugees over the last 75 years.”
The 38 year old, Jason Hussein, from Gateshead, is an active member of Big Ride for Palestine. He has been cycling to raise money for Palestinian medical aid and refugee camps since 2016.
Over the past few weeks, Jason has been in constant communication with his Palestinian father who is currently located in Jordan.
He said: “My dad said that what is happening in Gaza can have such a negative psychological impact on you and your soul. You just feel hopeless as we are limited in what we can do. I’ve been so distracted, it’s hard to focus on normal life.”