Gaza: Alaa Abu Al Ouf spent as much time as he could by his wife’s bedside. Diana Zeyad Abu Al Ouf laid in a hospital in Gaza suffering from several pelvic fractures, unable to speak or move except for her eyes, which would dart around the room, often wet with tears. Days earlier the shopkeeper had buried his two daughters Shaima and Rawan. He has not been able to bring himself to tell his wife that they died nearly two weeks ago in the same Israeli strikes that left her in critical condition.
Diana was transported to a hospital in the West Bank on Wednesday for treatment she desperately needs.
One week after a cease-fire between Hamas and the Israeli military took effect, the Gaza Strip is gingerly starting to pick up the pieces. Some streets in Gaza City have been swept clear; sharp glass shards have been removed from naked window panes. Cars are back on the roads, too, but when they drive past Wehda street, a central thoroughfare once bustling with stores and cafes, they cannot help but slow down.
There, an entire apartment building, where Abu Al Ouf and his family lived, collapsed early on May 16, reduced to rubble after Israel blanketed the city with airstrikes. Fourteen members of his family were killed. The Israeli government said they were targeting Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, and that the casualties were “unintended.”
Almost two weeks since the bombardment, that pile of wreckage remains, a mountain of cement dotted with household items: a stuffed animal, an unfinished book, a sofa split into pieces.
Abu Al Ouf, 48, cannot think about rebuilding. He is focused on his wife and surviving children.
“I ask her to be strong, to get better so our daughters can see her,” he said. “I ask her to come back to us.”
The 11 days of violence left about 250 Palestinians and 9 Israelis dead. Abu Al Ouf said he lost many in his family, “all in a matter of seconds.”
He does not know when he will see his wife again. But keeping her in Gaza was not an option. Inside the strip, where most of the casualties occurred, a fragile health system is struggling to care for the wounded. And a strict blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt is making it difficult for patients to access care.
“I am in pain but I try not to show it,” Abu Al Ouf said. “The head of the household is supposed to be in control.”
But he keeps returning to that night, when he lost so much.