Palestinians mourn more deaths from an Israel airstrike on UNRWA school in Nuseirat Refugee Camp,

Palestinians mourn after Israeli air strike on UNRWA school in Nuseirat Refugee Camp.

(Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

To See Our Humanity

It goes sickeningly on: Israeli forces just dropped U.S.-made bombs on displaced Gazans, mostly women and children, sleeping in a UN school in Nuseirat refugee camp, killing at least 40 and injuring hundreds in yet another massacre of innocents that "contradicts all human values." The victims will be added to a steadfast documenting of losses that, despite the horrors - "blood and screaming, blood and screaming" - seeks to share their stories "in loving memory," and insist, "They were never numbers."

Israel has now killed almost 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza - most civilians, too many children - and wounded, often devastatingly, over 83,000; tens of thousands remain under rubble. Last Sunday, in a merciless new low, Israel dropped seven massive, U.S. bombs, which ghoulish Nikki Haley autographed with "Finish Them!", on a crowded tent city of sleeping, displaced people in Rafah. The resulting fires burned alive at least 45, mostly women and children, and injured hundreds; the most horrifying image from the hellscape showed Abdel Hafez holding up the beheaded body of his 18-month-old son Ahmad, killed with his mother and two siblings and later buried without his head. Despite international outrage, Doctors Without Borders describes an "insane escalation of violence" across Gaza, with Israeli attacks and a Rafah border closed to humanitarian aid creating "apocalyptic" conditions for Palestinians trapped there.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society says Israeli forces are firing on them in the West Bank even as they try to remove the dead and injured; UN officials worry warm weather and dirty water mean "cholera may become prevalent"; experts say that nine of 10 children suffer severe lack of food, over a million people could "face death and starvation" by mid-July without more aid, and thousands have been effectively killed by months of extreme hunger, with malnutrition causing permanent damage to many children. Within a decimated health system, exhausted doctors and nurses work alongside an "unbearable...odor of blood," patients are strewn everywhere, dead bodies "brought in plastic bags" pile up, the body of a dead woman lies on the floor, cut open, next to the body of her dead fetus. A young doctor describes being evacuated from hospital to hospital; each time, she says, "It was a different place, but the same horror."

Thus did Thursday's bombing of the UNRWA al-Sardi school at Nuseirat refugee camp eerily echo the Rafah massacre. Again, hellfire from the sky targeted hungry, desperate, displaced Palestinians asleep at 1:30 in the morning for the crime of seeking shelter. Missiles hit the second and third floors where people slept on mattresses on classroom floors; of perhaps 40 killed, at least 25 were women and children, legs blown off, skulls shattered, bodies charred by the same US-made GBU 39 missiles that hit Rafah's tent city. Many dead were taken to already-overwhelmed Al Aqsa Hospital, their bodies lined up in the courtyard as relatives wept over them. A father came by cart from Rafah "in disbelief" to see his dead children: "Is this reality or a dream?" Two children were laid out beside their mother: "What did she do to deserve this? She was sleeping safely with her children. What did these children do to deserve this? It is shameful of them." And, "They are killing us."

Up to 6,000 people were reportedly sheltering at the school. After the assault, many still milled in the courtyard near balconies hung with washing; with nowhere else to go, most plan to remain. Over 450 Palestinians have been killed, and nearly 1,500 injured, in Israeli attacks on about 170 UNRWA buildings, the "vast majority" former schools become shelters; almost every time, Israeli military officials say they're targeting Hamas and using "precision" weaponry. In this case, they claimed "20 or 30" Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters were using the site as an operations center; they offered no evidence, and both Hamas and UNRWA disputed the claim, noting the IDF is given the coordinates of all U.N. facilities and "knew it was a school." Still, Israel argues Hamas tries to use UN facilities as "their Iron Dome, and they will not have a safe place." Despite guerilla warfare" with still-active Hamas units in north and central Gaza, Israel insists, "Any negotiations would be conducted only under fire."

Despite or because of their growing isolation, criticism of Israel's "man-made catastrophe" remains politically fraught, with reports of an "unprecedented crackdown" on pro-Palestinian speech in this country. Last month, an acclaimed Palestinian-American nurse at NYU's Langone Health was fired for briefly citing the Gaza "genocide" - RIP irony - after receiving an award for her "stellar patient care." For ten years, OB-GYN nurse Hesen Jabr has worked with grieving mothers who lost babies during pregnancy or childbirth. "It pains me," Jabr said in a speech, not to be able to comfort the bereaved women of her country "going through unimaginable losses (during) the current genocide in Gaza." Her first day back at work, she was fired for "bringing politics into the workplace," told to return a merit bonus, and escorted out by police. She's suing for the chance to "emphasize the humanity of those in Gaza being killed, to have somebody see my humanity, see our humanity as a people."

That righteous, fundamental goal is what gave birth in 2015 to We Are Not Numbers, a Gaza non-profit that in collaboration with Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor seeks to tell the stories behind the bloody numbers. Arundhati Roy: "There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” Now, amidst Gaza's genocide, others have taken up the task of reminding us, "They were never numbers - they were people who had homes, families and dreams." The heartbreaking names and photos of Palestinian martyrs goes on and on. Sabreen, 3, happy at the beach in a black and white striped dress that, two days later, she was buried in. Tiny Fatima, her newborn photo used for her memorial. 51-day-old Rayyan, born during a ceasefire, killed by a strike. Five-month old Jamal, died of hunger. Malak, 8, who loved going to school, killed in her sleep. Shahad, 11, killed while eating dinner, an "exceptional child, calm and innocent."

The Joudeh family in Rafah, dad, pregnant mom, 3-year-old daughter all dead, fetus saved. Mother Samah and newborn Lara. The toddler dead of starvation, first fat-cheeked, then skeletal. The journalist, electrician, artist, doctor, football player, new groom, teacher killed on his way to school, principal killed with his wife and grandchildren, PhD student dead from poisoned water, doctor who wouldn't leave his patients at al-Shifa, shot in front of them. The dentist, engineer, farmer killed while trying to find food for their families. The 4-year-old girl shot in the neck, the 5, 2, 4 year-old, six-month-old twins, boy with his pet bird killed along with 23 relatives. The boy on dialysis, the boy on his bike, the boy terrified of the sound of rockets finally killed by one, the first grandchild, "sweetheart of my heart," killed visiting his grandfather, the 10 year-old who wanted to be an engineer who in her last moments her father begged to forgive him for not being able to save her.

The hard-working father of five, one of 25 al-Baghdadis killed. The al-Husayna family massacre. The 17 Khayats killed, with photos alive and dead of engineer Basel and his two daughters, killed with their mother and two brothers, one only 45 days old, "hence the tiny body bag." Mahmoud newly engaged: "He wrote days before his death, 'All the pain and oppression in the world is present in us.' May he become a groom in paradise." Son Ahmad to Father Haj, killed fasting: "My first hero, the light of my eyes." Killed praying, in prison, returned to inspect home, when he wouldn't leave home. "I am Nour al-Deen Hajaj...I am not a number. I refuse to have the news of my death be spread without letting it be known I loved life, happiness, freedom, children's laughter, the sea, coffee, writing and everything delightful." "Ibrahim was a brilliant 3-year-old, advanced for his age, his family's first grandchild. He was looking forward to starting preschool...His body remains under the rubble."

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