Gaza Genocide: Voices from Rafah

Lina AbiRafeh
7 min readFeb 16, 2024


This blog was written by feminist activist Rebecca O’Keeffe, first published on: Republished with permission… because everyone needs to read this.

The most dangerous stage of the genocide is about to happen. Extermination — the last step in Israel ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Gaza.

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) are preparing a ground invasion of Rafah. For context, Rafah is the southernmost point of Gaza, shares a border with Egypt, and was designated a “safe zone.” Rafah is only 64 sq km (25 sq miles) in size and, with 1.5 million displaced Palestinians trapped there, is now one of the most densely populated places on earth.

The US-backed IOF have already begun airstrikes, coming after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a ceasefire proposal from Hamas, saying he would expand the offensive into Rafah. Further escalation will make it the deadliest massacre yet because, in the words of Lynn Hastings, Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, “there is no safe place in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go.

We have watched the world’s most documented genocide unfold in front of our eyes while our so-called world leaders have enabled and funded Israel to continue its massacre of Palestinians. International media has dehumanised Palestinians and demonstrated blatant bias and hypocrisy. The vast majority of Western politicians have refused to speak out, intervene, and have not acted in a way that is representative of public opinion. Even after South Africa’s historic case at the International Court of Justice, which ruled Israel is plausibly committing genocide, one might question whether countries are applying enough diplomatic pressure and taking every action in their power to prevent genocide — action they are obliged to take under the Genocide Convention.

While attention has focused on Gaza, it is worth noting there has been an escalation in Israeli settler and army violence across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. It is also worth noting that due to Israel’s 17-year blockade, Gaza was already a humanitarian crisis before the genocide. However, experts say the rate of death and destruction in Gaza is the deadliest of the 21st century. Specifically, over the last four months, Israel has massacred at least 28,340 Palestinians, injured nearly 68,000, detained 4,000, and forcibly displaced nearly 2 million people. Israel has damaged 355,000 homes, destroyed schools, bakeries, places of worship, and hospitals — there are no fully functioning hospitals in Gaza, according to the World Health Organization. There are acute shortages of shelter, electricity, clean water, food and medicine.

Israel is starving Gaza — a direct result of the occupation’s genocidal policies.

And, as evidence shows, in such circumstances, women and children are disproportionately affected. In Gaza, nearly 1 million women and girls have been displaced, women and children make up 70% of civilian fatalities, and two mothers are killed every hour.

In four months, more than 12,300 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel.

If this alone does not stop anyone in their tracks, then humanity has failed on such an incomprehensible scale.

Yet, at the same time Palestinians are not numbers. These figures do not capture their lives, hopes, dreams, and dignity. There are stories behind these numbers. And if the numbers have not compelled you to do something, let their words speak. In the words of Refaat Alareer, Palestinian poet and professor who was targeted and murdered by Israel, “If I must die, let it be a tale.” The story of Palestine — the struggle against occupation, the quest for justice and liberation, and the hope for a better future — should be told by Palestinians. Their stories will not die with them.

As a feminist and peace activist long involved in Palestinian solidarity, I received the following messages from two women in Gaza asking for help. These are two stories yet they represent the voices and stories of so many.

Duha Latif is a teacher from Gaza and, at only 29 years of age, has already lived through five wars — miraculously surviving each time, she says. She is married and has two children, Ameer, six and Kareem, one and a half.

There is a fierce war here, I hope that I can evacuate my kids and leave here safely.

I am interested in spreading the story to many people who can help us get out of here as soon as possible.

Time is equivalent to life in Gaza now. Every minute passes by a year for us here, and every night our hearts break over the fear of our children.

Ameer was in his first year of primary school for a month before the war destroyed his beautiful dreams. He always asks me eagerly, “Mom, when will I go back to my school?”

I want to save my children and their lives, no matter the cost, because I feel guilty for bringing them into this life in this patch of land that knows neither peace nor safety. I cannot bear the loss of my sons in this conflict and in this merciless war.

I cannot bear hearing the cries and panic of my children as the rockets fall, and the sound of ambulances terrifies my elder son, causing him fear and depression, and it crushes my heart when I cannot answer his questions: “Mom, will we die? When will the war end? When can I sleep peacefully?

In addition to the constant threat of death due to this war and the lack of safety, we are suffering greatly from the lack of electricity, clean water, and food. The health situation is very bad; there are no hospitals, no medications, not even the basic necessities of life.

She goes on to explain the difficulty in seeking humanitarian asylum and the large sum of money needed to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, which connects Gaza and Egypt. Duha’s GoFundMe appeal is to cover these evacuation costs, as she says, we do not want luxury; we just seek salvation, we seek safety. The compassion of international communities is our only remaining hope. Please stand with me in this critical moment.

Ghada Saed Abu Samra is a 24-year old entrepreneur from Gaza who has been displaced multiple times in the last four months and is dealing with homelessness and lack of food and clean water. She was one semester away from completing her university studies before the university was destroyed in the bombings.

I’m facing an incredibly tough and the worst time as my family and I have had to relocate seven times since leaving our home in Gaza since the war started — we are currently displaced, homeless, and living in a tent in Rafah. Our house, my four-year-old candle business that was my source of living, and even my university have been all destroyed. Four years working on my business despite the blockade, wars, restrictions, and grappling with the constraints of being a woman in Gaza and I made it, you can see my work here but now we have lost everything.

On her candle business page, Ocean and Waves, she posted the following:

Crafting candles became my act of resistance against the darkness, symbolizing hope for me when we were denied our basic rights. They didn’t stop at just slowly suffocating us; their aim was to crush our dreams and snatch our lives away as well, amidst the struggle and ongoing war. To me those candles embodied resilience, pushing back against forces trying to extinguish our dreams in the face of oppression. We refuse to surrender.

Now feeling helpless, she continued to me, I’m trying to find hope and rebuild. I’ve started a GoFundMe campaign to evacuate from Gaza and rebuild our lives with my family. Your support by sharing my story and the link would make a world of difference.

Ghada is trying to evacuate and get to safety abroad. This is a last resort.

Duha then also updated me:

The situation is getting worse. They are preparing to arrive in the area where I live.

I asked if her family was safe.

Situation is very bad here in Rafah. They said they will attack within some days. I don’t know where we can go.

So until now we are safe but after today, I don’t know what will happen. A very bad feeling that cannot be described.

These women demonstrate how Palestinians have remained resolute and dignified, tirelessly showing us time and again what humanity really means despite Israel’s — and the world’s — attempts at their erasure.

This is everyone’s moral litmus test.

We need to show up and not lose hope. We must continue to act. To pressure. To mobilise.

So, what can we do?

Donate through their links: Duha and Ghada; keep following and amplifying Palestinian voices on the ground; apply political pressure whenever and wherever you can; participate in demonstrations and rallies; read credible news sources; have conversations with family and friends. There is a comprehensive Palestine action guide written with Dr. Lina AbiRafeh, detailing these actions and more.

It all counts and it is more urgent than ever.

After the strikes on February 11th, described by many Palestinians as among the worst and most terrifying nights, I reached out again. I do not know when, or if, I will get another update from either Duha or Ghada. Duha’s last words to me were:

We are still alive. Pray for us.



Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights activist, author, speaker, aid worker with 3 decades of global experience - and lots to say! More on my website: