Testimony: Living under fire in Beit Lahiya: Sanaa Z’anin, mother of three

Sanaa Z’anin, mother of three

I live in the center of Beit Lahiya with my three children, a son who is 5 years old, a daughter, 6 years old, and a son who is 9 years old, and my husband Saber Z’anin. Like everyone in the Gaza Strip, we suffer the consequences of the Israeli attack that began three days ago. The attack took us by surprise because there was talk of a let-up.

My husband works as a government clerk, and the money is barely enough for our daily needs. This month, because his salary wasn’t paid on time, we could not buy the required supplies. We were not prepared for the attack and did not stock up, and we are missing a lot of basic necessities at home. Yesterday evening, when there was a lull, one of the small shops opened briefly, and I went out to buy a few things and now we have enough for a few days.

Right now we’ve been without electricity for three hours. I don’t know if that’s because of the bombing nearby or because of the rationing due to a fuel shortage. We’re using only a rechargeable light now and waiting for the electricity to come back on, if it does. My husband has not been at home since the start of the attacks; like a lot of other men, he is helping to rescue the injured.

The situation is terribly sad and frightening. The children are tense and afraid, especially my daughter Raghad, who is six. Every time there’s a bomb, she almost faints from fear, especially if it’s near the house. This has happened a few times already. The last time, they bombed our neighborhood from several directions and the noise was powerful. I am always trying to reassure the children, to make them think that the bombs are far away and that they don’t affect us. But inwardly, I am dying of fright, especially because my husband isn’t here with us. I’m very concerned for the children’s and my husband’s wellbeing. I am afraid that something bad will happen while we are not together.

I am trying to give the children whatever they ask for because I feel that I have a double responsibility because my husband isn’t here. I don’t go anywhere without taking the children along, although it’s dangerous and something could happen to us all. That’s preferable to leaving them alone when they’re so terrified. If something were to happen while I wasn’t with them, I’d never forgive myself. 

The nights are long and terrible now. I stay awake all night. How could I sleep when my children are afraid? When I am hearing the bombing? All night I try to reassure the children and protect them.

People are cautious about gathering in groups, because they are afraid that Israel will attack any gathering, like in the last war. Everyone prefers to stay in their own home as much as possible. That’s why I almost don’t go to the neighbors’ houses. The streets are nearly empty, like under curfew. Every time there’s another bombing, people worry about their relatives and check that they’re okay.

I am hiding my fears because of the children, but during the long nights, my fear gets worse and I worry about the children and my husband and my parents.

Sanaa Z’anin, 28 years old, a married mother of three, resident of Beit Lahiya. Her testimony was taken by Atef Abu a-Rub on 16 November 2012 by telephone.

Concerning testimonies about the "Pillar of Defense" campaign:

With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors. Given the urgency of informing the public about events in Gaza, B’Tselem has decided to publish the information now available. When the military campaign ends, B’Tselem will supplement these reports as needed.