Fieldset
Entering Gaza

When I accepted the mission to Gaza you can imagine that the reactions of my friends and family varied but generally were along the theme of “That’s a dangerous place, are you sure you want to do this?” Needless to say, I do know the risk and yes, this IS what I want to do.  Since accepting the m

When I accepted the mission to Gaza you can imagine that the reactions of my friends and family varied but generally were along the theme of “That’s a dangerous place, are you sure you want to do this?” Needless to say, I do know the risk and yes, this IS what I want to do.  Since accepting the mission, the ceasefire is now in place and so things have settled down.

I received comprehensive briefings from MSF colleagues in Paris and Jerusalem on the current situation in Gaza, what to expect when entering Gaza, and what I would see when I arrived. That information, and the reading I had done once I received the assignment, made me feel relatively well prepared for reality.

Just entering into Gaza is a challenge… from Israel through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza there are 3 checkpoints. The first one was with the Israel Army, and there were two stops, one outside where they asked me about weapons I might be carrying, followed by a looong ten minute wait for the gate to open. Once inside the checkpoint it felt like a normal passport check but inside a big empty airport-like building. No real visible presence of armed guards but I had no doubt they were there… watching my every move. The questions were simple… is this your first time in Gaza? What are you doing in Gaza? How long will you stay? After gaining approval to move on I simply followed the signs to Gaza.

After leaving the terminal building there was a long walk (1000 meters) in a fenced in corridor across a no-man’s land. The walk felt ominous… I was crossing alone, it was quiet, the area outside was full of debris, and was barren. While no guards were visible, again I am certain I was being watched. At the end of the walk I went through a small turn-style (no small feat with a backpack and a suitcase) and was at a dead end… no visible door or way forward. So I stood there… trying not to look worried or anxious… and then the wall slid aside and I entered Gaza. Honestly it felt a little dramatic…

The next stop was a trailer where my passport was checked again, this time by Fatah (Palestinian Authority). He didn’t ask any questions (or at least none that I remember so they must have been easy). The man was friendly and helped get the attention of a taxi driver to take me the 800m down the road to the Hamas checkpoint. At the Hamas checkpoint I was greeted by an MSF driver (that’s as far as they are allowed to go right now) with the necessary paperwork and my bags were searched. I was asked about any weapons I might be carrying. I’m glad I had the simple answer of “no weapons”.

And so my mission (adventure) in Gaza began…