As Israel Bombards Gaza, Stranded Palestinian Students Long For Home

As Israel continues to bombard Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip, many stranded Palestinians have been left in a state of distress.

Ali Abushbak, a Palestinian national residing in India, last visited him home in the northern part of the Gaza Strip in 2018. He moved to India to pursue his PhD at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi.

Every time he plans a trip home, he has to brace for a 28-hour risky journey from India to Egypt’s Sinai checkpoint. Palestinians are forced to travel through Egypt and Jordan ever since Israel destroyed their only airport in 2001 in the Gaza Strip during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israel.

“Sitting by the sea in Gaza, eating hummus and falafel with friends, listening to patriotic music and watching Al-Taghreba al-Falastenya (The Palestinian Alienation) are among my best memories of home,” says Abushbak, who says a lot has changed in Gaza since 2018.

Many of Abushbak’s friends were injured during the Great March of Return protest (2018-2019), which called for the Palestinian right of return and the ending of the Israeli blockade. One of his neighbour’s was killed by Israeli snipers, and his friend was severely wounded during the protest. As a UN report found, “214 Palestinians, including 46 children, were killed, and over 36,100, including nearly 8,800 children were injured” during the protests as a result of the response of Israeli forces.

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“I am stuck here in India, reminiscing about good old times with family. A sense of helplessness prevails every time I read the news; my family is under constant threat of Israeli airstrikes,” Abushbak says.

Over the past few weeks, nearly 450 buildings in densely populated Gaza have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary-care health centres, and more than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced.

Abushbak’s biggest regret at the moment is not being able to be with his family during these difficult times. While he was preparing for his MPhil work, his mother had to unexpectedly undergo surgery.

As he scrolls through family pictures, a sense of emotional longing can be felt as he speaks of his mother and family and how they are doing in the face of Israeli airstrikes and vaccine apartheid. Like countless other Palestinian children, Abushbak was barely a year old when his father was killed in 1993 by Israeli forces.

Wadia Al Shawa, another research scholar from Gaza who is currently pursuing a doctorate in Economics at a university in Turkey, says, “I feel miserable about the situation at home. Today, a pregnant woman was killed. Yesterday, nine school children were killed. There is no guarantee of life in Gaza. It feels as if we are a part of a dead conscience society.”

With regard to media bias when it comes to the language being used to describe the violence. Shawa says, “Powerful nations and self-proclaimed defenders of justice are keeping silent, and this enables Israel perpetrations of injustices and cruelties inflicted on Palestinians. Most media outlets are showcasing a biased narrative – they can never do justice to Palestine’’, he says.

Amidst the raging war, both Abushbak and Shawa have been praying for peace, stability and a better tomorrow for their homeland – to which they long to go back to once the pandemic is over.

Babrah Tabasum Naikoo is a freelance journalist based in Kashmir and a journalism post graduate from AJKMCRC (Mass Communication Research Center Jamia, New Delhi).

Featured image credit: Reuters