It’s been six days since Dina Alalami heard from her family in Gaza City after receiving a text from a relative telling her they were alive.
The 33-year-old mother of two, who has been living in the Qatari capital Doha for five years, has no idea whether her sister, two brothers-in-law, two nephews and three other relatives are still alive or have already died. victim of the Israeli bombing that killed over 11,500 people in Gaza.
“On Friday [November 10]they decided to leave the house and go south because Israeli tanks had approached and surrounded the area,” Dina told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
“They made this decision because they figured if they stayed they wouldn’t survive the night. We called the Red Cross and asked for help to ensure safe passage for them.”
However, the Red Cross and Red Crescent said they were unable to help.
The family left their homes on November 10 during a four-hour break – a day after Israel announced a daily four-hour window allowing Palestinians to escape from the north to the south.
Around noon, the family left the house waving white flags. Dinah’s two sisters, who are married to two brothers, left their homes on the first day of the war and went to live in their in-laws’ villa, also in Gaza City.
Dina was on the phone with her youngest sister Rulla as the group cautiously moved forward when suddenly screams pierced the air. Their other sister, Lina, fell to the floor, blood soaking her shirt, after an Israeli tank fired upon them.
Rulla dragged Lina to the entrance of the Bakri building on Shuhada Street and tried to administer first aid. She saw a gunshot wound in her sister’s chest.
But as Israeli tank fire continued, Rulla had no choice but to leave her and run inside. Rulli’s husband, Bashar Khayal, was shot in the hand and his sister Dalia was also wounded.
Behind them, Bashar and Dalia’s grandmother, Feryal, lay motionless in the street, dead.
Rulla told Dina exactly where they were and begged her to contact the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to save them. Rulla said the building was located behind the al-Zaytoun pharmacy, at Abbas intersection.
Dina called the ICRC. They told her they couldn’t go to that area.
“The Worst Feeling in the World”
The next day, Saturday, Dina received the news she had been dreading. Lina died, her body was still at the entrance to the building.
Dalia also died from her wounds.
Lina’s two boys, four-year-old Mohammad and nine-month-old Majed, were among those trapped in the building along with their father Tareq Khayal, grandmother Dalia, aunt Suha, Rulla and Bashar. They had no food, water or electricity.
When their phone batteries died, Suha was able to send Dina one last message: “We’re alive.”
Dina flew to Cairo, Egypt, for the weekend, where her father lives alone, and was joined by his brother who lives in Dubai.
“Just the thought of these two young boys not having water to drink or food, the thought that they could die of dehydration or starvation…” her voice trails off, her breathing catching.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world, this helplessness,” she said. “My sister was murdered and her body is still lying in the street. There is no respect for the dead and that alone burns our hearts.”
Since October 7, Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed more than 11,300 Palestinians, most of them women and children. The healthcare system has collapsed under Israel’s total siege of the territory, and on Wednesday Israeli forces raided the belt’s largest hospital, al-Shifa, following through on their earlier threats even as patients and thousands of displaced people had taken refuge there.
Dina last visited Gaza in the summer, during Rulli’s wedding to Bashar. They were engaged for seven years and married in August, after Rulla completed her medical studies in Egypt.
“My sisters are six and seven years younger than me, so we were like best friends,” Dina said.
“I wish I was with them now. I wish we either died or lived together.