From one war zone to another: A Syrian family is stranded in Gaza

From one war zone to another A Syrian family is stranded in Gaza 02 (1)
(Photos: Twitter/X)
Ameera Malkash, a 40-year-old mother of three, fled one war only to find herself in another.

In 2012, Malkash was living in Damascus and was desperate to escape the civil war in Syria. She and her husband, Elian Fayyad, made a fateful decision: They would seek safety in the Gaza Strip, which he had left when he was 17.اضافة اعلان

“The war was getting very close to where I lived with my family,” Malkash recalled about Syria at the time. “The bombardments were very intense and very close.”

Now war has come to them again. After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks prompted Israel to launch a retaliatory military offensive, Malkash and her children fled their home in southern Gaza for a makeshift refugee camp set up in a school. Then, as Israeli forces intensified their attacks in the south, she and her children sought refuge at a shelter in central Gaza. (Fayyad, her husband, died of cancer soon after the family arrived in Gaza in 2012.)

“There is no life here, no future,” Malkash said by phone recently. She left school after seventh grade and has never worked. Even before the war, she said, she lived on charity in Gaza, which has long been blockaded by Israel and Egypt and where even longtime residents struggled to find work.

Since the war began, many people who held foreign passports have left Gaza after their countries secured permission from the Israeli government. But that did not include Syrians, leaving Malkash and her children trapped — like more than two million others in Gaza.

Malkash and her children, who were living in Al Qarara, east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, first took shelter at the nearby Al Hinawi school, run by the United Nations, along with more than 5,000 others.

Her eldest son, Solaiman, 16, began suffering from severe stomach pains, but the nearest hospital turned him away because it was receiving “too many casualties,” she recalled. “They gave him some medicine and dispatched him.”

Solaiman recovered, but Malkash said she feared for her children's health. UN officials report soaring cases of diarrhea, respiratory infections, meningitis, and other illnesses in Gaza.

Malkash, whose Syrian passport has expired, said she would apply for a Palestinian passport after the war so she could leave Gaza for good. But she doesn’t know where to go. Syria was not an option, she said.

“Things in Gaza have always been harsh, but things in Syria have been extremely bad too,” Malkash said. She recently spoke to her sister-in-law there, who said she hadn’t had a decent meal in three years.

As the war rages, Malkash dreams of simple pleasures in a new home. “I want a place where I can feel alive and enjoy peace,” she said.