Gaza civilians face airstrikes with ‘go-bags’ and comforting cats

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Daily life in the Gaza Strip, blockaded by Israel and Egypt, is never easy. But this month, for the second time in about a year, residents found themselves suddenly plunged into war, as Israeli jets fired missiles targeting the militant Islamic Jihad group and the militants retaliated with rockets.

Maryam El-Derawi, a mother of two, knew the drill. She shepherded her young daughters to a hallway in the center of her apartment, a room with no windows that could shatter and splinter, and tried to take their minds off the explosions by telling them stories of her childhood and fairy tales.

Why We Wrote This

With no bomb shelters and little in the way of civil defense, Gaza’s residents have to fend for themselves when Israeli missiles start falling. A go-bag is essential. A comforting cat can help.

It’s the best coping mechanism she has. There are no bomb shelters in Gaza, where residents have to fend for themselves, and everyone has prepared a “go-bag” of emergency supplies and essential family documents, ready for instant evacuation.

Teenager Arwa Salah has her own emergency protocol – find and grab her cat. Cuddling her pet amid the explosions of Israeli airstrikes recently, Arwa settled the cat’s nerves and, admittedly, her own.

With the prospect of sudden war never far away, Ms. El-Derawi’s priorities are clear. “I only care about my children’s safety and future,” she says. “But in Gaza this task is getting increasingly difficult.”

Gaza City, Gaza Strip; and Amman, Jordan

When Israeli warplanes roared over her home earlier this month, firing missiles, Gaza resident Maryam El-Derawi knew the drill.

Just as she had done a year ago during similar strikes, she shepherded her two young daughters, Joud and Noor, into a hallway in the center of their apartment in the Gaza Strip, the only room with no windows that could shatter and splinter.

To take her daughters’ minds off the missile explosions, she told them stories of her days as a schoolgirl and, as the hours stretched out, fairy tales. When she ran out of tales, she scrolled the internet on her smartphone to find more child-friendly fables to pass the time.

Why We Wrote This

With no bomb shelters and little in the way of civil defense, Gaza’s residents have to fend for themselves when Israeli missiles start falling. A go-bag is essential. A comforting cat can help.

“I spent my time thinking of how I can both save my children and provide them with comfort and support,” Ms. El-Derawi says.

“We have nowhere else other than this house. We have no shelters here in Gaza to save civilians from sudden Israeli strikes,” she explains. “This is all we have.”

With no safe houses or bomb shelters to flee to, Gazan families must make their own safety in a place where residential neighborhoods can become war zones at any moment and with little warning.

They are finding small comforts and redefining daily life to create a sense of security in lives full of uncertainty.



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