Image of a map, showing the location of Gaza City

A Message from Gaza

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By Leyan AlMaqousi

Just Access

Gaza is not merely a label on a map; it’s an integral part of Palestine, the capital of which is Jerusalem.  It’s also my homeland, the very essence of my beginnings. Despite enduring blockades and wars, it remains our beacon of hope.  Its beauty is unparalleled, its sea distinctive, its air unique.  The women and children of Gaza stand tall, side by side with its men.  Living in Gaza instills a sense of pride and resilience that is incomparable.  We mature early, often robbed of our childhood, but our determination to protect our land only strengthens.  From within this blockade, we shape our own freedom.  And our indomitable spirit enables us to rebuild and sacrifice for our dreams.

Our great poet, Mahmoud Darwish, described that the elders of Gaza are without old age, the women of Gaza are without desires, and the children of Gaza are without a childhood.

What we see today in Gaza is a war unlike any before.  There are massacres and war crimes being committed every second by the occupation against civilians in Gaza.  No child, woman, or elder has been spared in this war.  They destroyed homes and schools and obliterated the features of my country.  Today, only memories of those details remain, engraved deep within my soul.

I always thought that I hated Gaza.  But I realised that it is not Gaza that I hate.  It is the war.

Now, what was once my home and my city stands unrecognisable.  My house has been reduced to rubble; my childhood bedroom, once the haven of my fondest memories, now lies in ashes.  Left homeless by the bombs, my family has been forced to seek shelter at a local hospital – a scant protection for them, and many thousands of other Gazan families bearing the onslaught of this war.

I yearn to return to Gaza, to rest in my bedroom and roam the streets of my city.  But when I do return, it will be with a renewed purpose:  to rebuild my city, our homes, and our schools, fuelled by the undying spirit of a people unbowed.

Having been born in Gaza and lived there with my family, I have witnessed the wars and the horrific atrocities the Israeli army has committed against the Palestinians.  I lived through the wars of 2008, 2012, and 2014.  I have seen children and women die, families torn apart, and white phosphorus unleashed upon us in the dead of night, leaving us to suffocate.  No words can truly describe what has been thrown at us.

I always thought that I hated Gaza.  But when I had to leave, in search of the better future my parents wanted for me, I realised that it is not Gaza that I hate.  It is the war.

As a child, I was always scared of the bombs.  But I thought I had developed a superpower that would make the sound of the loud explosion bearable:  I convinced myself that I could hear the missile falling from the sky seconds before the explosion, allowing me to prepare myself for what would be coming next.  This has helped me at some points, but it was not only the explosion itself that was unbearable.  It was also the sound of the children crying, men and women screaming, glass shattering, falling on the floor, and houses turning into rubble minutes after the bomb.

However, even growing up through these experiences in Gaza, the bombs and the screams and the broken streets, could not prepare me for what is happening now.

Smoke billows around a tower in Gaza City following a detention
Damage in Gaza City in October, 2023. Image credit: WAFA/Ali Hamad/apaimages, CC BY-SA 3.0

Israel is committing a new wave of atrocities against Gazans and forcing 1.1 million Gazans to evacuate their homes.  Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said that the situation in Gaza ‘could be investigated by the’ Court, both as ‘a crime against humanity and a genocide’.

Gazans have been taken hostage by Israel for the past 16 years as they cannot leave this open-air prison.  Anyone holding a Gaza ID is restricted from accessing the West Bank, including Jerusalem — the recognised capital of the State of Palestine.  It is this very heartland that we’ve consistently safeguarded against encroachments, resisting the harsh onslaughts on our women, children, and the elderly.  Gaza’s battle transcends mere conflict; it stands as a resounding affirmation of our existence and our inalienable rights.

The Gaza Strip, a 365 km² area in Palestine, has endured much in recent years.  From electricity shortages and constant bombings to a lack of medical resources, the people of Gaza have suffered immensely.

The recent escalation of events in Gaza has exposed the hypocrisy of the West and their double standards.  When the war in Ukraine began, numerous human rights activists, politicians, and world leaders spoke out against Russia, condemning Putin for Russia’s targeted attacks on civilian infrastructure and said that these attacks are acts of pure terror that have a clear aim of cutting of men, women, children of water, electricity and heating.  Yet, there is a deafening silence now when Israel is doing the same thing and worse to the Palestinians, especially those residing in the Gaza Strip.

The atrocities that Israel is committing as I am writing this reveals how the world, especially the west, has seemingly dehumanised us Palestinians.  The global community remains silent and has not spoken out against atrocities Israel is perpetrating, many of which likely amount to war crimes and other crimes under international law.  I haven’t seen any human rights organisations or world leaders discuss the illegality of using white phosphorus in one of the world’s most densely populated areas, condemn Israel for the killing of civilians (many of whom are children), or address the bombing of hospitals and the shortage of electricity, water, and food.

Palestinians right now are in the midst of two wars:  one against Israel, and one against the West and the perception sculpted by them.  The West has started their war against us by manipulating the truth.  For many Western media outlets, the moment when the Palestinian resistance defends itself against the atrocities committed by Israel is when the clock starts, so to speak – or, as the presenter put it when I turned on the news in response to what I was hearing coming out of Gaza, it was simply an “unprovoked attack” by a radical anti-Israel faction that emerged from nowhere.  This has become the sole focus of the media’s attention, framing Palestinians in simple terms as the sole antagonist, with all wider and immediate political context removed.

It’s clear:  this is not merely a conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.  This is a confrontation where the world, influenced by a biased narrative, stands against the Palestinians.  What we witness is not a battle between equals, and it never will be.  The weight of the world may be against us, but the truth, undistorted and clear, remains our most potent ally.

Leyan AlMaqousi is a Palestinian human rights defender and a Just Access member.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, and may or may not represent the views of Just Access e.V.


  1. Karim Abboushi

    It is very inspiring to see you put your vulnerability out there for the sake of the Palestinian cause, the article is very personal and informative at the same time. Lawyers like you will be what brings justice to this cruel world.

  2. Anass El Mekkoussi

    Your way of narrating should be taught. Having lawyers like you who evaluate this complex situation thoroughly gives us hope as Palestinians that justice still exists in this world.

  3. Hala Al Masri

    Extremely well written and motivating. It is pieces like this that raise consciousness as there are several injustices in the world, none of which are as publicly misrepresented as the suffering of the Palestinian people.

  4. Philip Michael Carr-Harris

    Inshallah, the narrative is becoming more balanced and truthful. It may be the sole silver lining to the magnitude of the oppressors’s blatant inhumanity.

  5. Omar A.

    Can’t imagine the pain you must be enduring. Keep writing and thank you for being a voice to so many of the voiceless.

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A Message from Gaza