‘My Daughters Are Frightened’: A Journalist’s Account Of War’s Toll On Her Children

Nour Harazeen, a journalist, left Gaza along with her family a few weeks ago. Her five-year-old twin daughters are bewildered by the devastation they see all around

Artwork titled ‘One Body’ by Omani artist Amjad Al-Siyabi. The artwork shows symbols of different colours of keffiyeh and islamic inscriptions. Artwork statement: The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever—Prophet Muhammed

Nour Harazeen, a journalist from Gaza City, who has been constantly on the move from one place to another to escape the Israeli bombings, lost her friend recently. 

“She sustained a head injury, but the hospital, despite all the efforts of the doctors, could not save her. There was nothing for them to work with — no oxygen, no medicines, not even syringes to give her an injection to relieve her pain. She died in great pain,” says Harazeen. 

This is not just the fate of her friend but thousands of others having the misfortune of living in the world’s largest open-air prison. No one can erase the picture of a Palestinian doctor being consoled by his colleagues after he was forced to amputate the legs of his young son without anaesthesia.

Since Israel decided to invade Gaza and inflict collective punishment on the hapless civilians for the October 7 attack by Hamas, life has never been the same for Harazeen, and many others. The stench of death hangs heavy over the land, and cries of anguish fill the air from time to time. It is a black hole from which there is no escape. 

“I, along with my family, left Gaza weeks ago. We are now in central Gaza, in a city called Dar Al. The situation is dire. Every building in each neighbourhood has been bombed out by the Israelis. People have lost young children, wives, sisters, and aged parents,” says the 33-year-old journalist. Many doctors and nurses, and over 90 journalists have lost their lives as well. 

“This is a catastrophe brought on us and we have to face it. To add to the constant bombing by Israeli jets is a massive humanitarian crisis, triggered by the Israeli government’s decision not to allow any supplies into the Gaza Strip. It is a starvation war,” she adds. It is a calm acceptance of the situation. No complaints, no accusations, just matter-of-fact. Her spirit cannot be broken by bombings or starvation or lack of basic amenities. This is what Israel is up against — an indomitable spirit willing to face whatever is in store for her, without yielding.

Harazeen, a mother of twins, fled her home with her husband and parents and headed south after the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) asked people to leave the city. On the way, they had to stop many times and hide from bombing. “No place is safe in Gaza. Not even hospitals, schools, and mosques,” she says. Her five-year-old twins, Sarah and Bassam, are frightened and don’t understand why they need to be on the move constantly. They are clinging desperately to their mother, bewildered by the devastation they see all around. “My happy twins now burst into tears frequently. The situation is getting to them,” she says.

She never imagined things would come to this when she decided to move to Gaza —home to her parents— in 2004. She had been living in the UAE and was born in Egypt where her father was working at that time. When her parents decided to move back to Gaza City, she decided to return to her homeland.

“In Dar Al, too, things are very bad. Apart from the constant Israeli bombings, there is the humanitarian catastrophe. There is no running water, no electricity. For women, it is even worse. No sanitary napkins are available. There are no diapers for children,” she says. Many women are taking pills to delay their periods. The markets are empty. “If you are lucky, you can occasionally get vegetables. On rare occasions, we get a bit of cheese or a few candies for the kids, all at prices ten times more than normal,” she adds. 

(This appeared in print as ‘My Daughters are Frightened’)