At exactly 1:00 am, on 16 May 2021, Israeli jets bombarded a densely populated residential area in the centre of Gaza City, Al-Wehda Street, without any prior warning. The bombardment lasted for just a few minutes but killed 43 people (19 of whom were children), including 14 women and nine little girls.
Believing that staying at the lower floors would protect them from the bombardment, all 35 members of the al-Qolaq family gathered in two adjacent residential buildings.
Zainab was 22 years old at this time, she was preparing for her final exams prior to graduation from the English department at her university.
That night, Zainab lost 22 members of her family including her mother, her only sister, two of her brothers, and many other uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. In a blank of an eye, a big part of her family was wiped out. She survived alongside her father Shukri, her brother Osama, and 10 other relatives.
Zainab remained under the rubble of her home for 12 hours during which she struggled to breathe. She knew nothing about the status of her family. During the first few hours of being trapped, Zainab was able to communicate with a paramedic through her phone—which was still in her hand—before its battery died, she screamed for help for hours until she ultimately lost her voice. Civil defense crews managed to dig through three floors and ceilings for hours to rescue her.
Months later, Zainab passed her final exams at the university but did not celebrate the graduation she had once longed for. Zainab wore a graduation gown at her home feeling lifeless without her mother and siblings, and described herself as a "corpse in a gown”
This publication was produced with the support of Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and UN Women Palestine
"I am 22, I lost 22 people" booklet in English
"I am 22, I lost 22 people" booklet in Arabic