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My daughter Somaya's birth is the first light in this darkness
independent minds

It has been the bloodiest, most violent day yet here in Gaza City. Israeli tanks came in from the south, shelling and bombing in the residential areas. But even with this death, bloodshed and chaos all around us, we are filled with joy. Twelve days after my father was killed by an Israeli airstrike, our first baby has been born, healthy at 3.8 kilos, with dark hair, just exactly as her mother wanted. I couldn't believe my eyes, seeing her for the first time. I kissed and hugged her softly. She cried when I took her in my arms. 

On Wednesday evening as Alaa was in labour, there were signs of hope for an end to the conflict; we heard reports that Hamas had accepted the Egyptian plan for a ceasefire. "Perhaps our baby, and peace, would arrive together," I thought.

But overnight the Israelis escalated their attacks, targeting an area of the city called Tel al Hawa which is definitely not a Hamas stronghold. It is an area of big villas and where wealthier people live. I spoke to one of my friends who described terrible scenes, with injured people running into the streets. I called the International Committee of the Red Cross, they said they had suspended operations because tank fire hit the Al-Quds hospital causing panic and terror among survivors of earlier incidents. The UN building, struck by three shells, burned all day.

Alaa had been very frightened at the prospect of giving birth and, to make it even more terrifying, we could hear the bombing as we got in the taxi to the Shifa hospital. Conservative Muslim customs apply in public hospitals so I wasn't allowed in to the labour ward. It was disappointing, but Alaa's sister came out from time to time to tell me how it was going.

I knew the birth would take a long time, the doctors induced the labour. So I went down to the front entrance where the ambulances were arriving. From a civil defence fire engine, I saw eight wounded people taken out, all were civil defence staff still in their fluorescent jackets. A house near their base had been hit by a missile. They had rushed to evacuate the house but then another missile struck. It was a terrible sight. Most of them had their legs cut off from beneath the knee and severe shrapnel cuts.

All day yesterday, the Israelis intensified strikes on Gaza City and, at the emergency wing of the Shifa hospital, away from the calm of the maternity ward, the ambulances never stopped arriving. For 20 minutes, I watched the injured and dying coming in non-stop convoys of ambulances, ordinary vehicles, civilian cars, pickup trucks, anything that could be used to transport the casualties. Some of the wounded were burnt, some were cut very badly. Some were being sent directly to the morgue. I saw three cases where the medics did that. Most of the victims seemed to be women, girls, and children including a very small baby, wrapped in white blankets. Every day has been bad since this war began but this is the worst.

My mother joined us in the hospital. She managed to hold back the tears but I knew she was sad, thinking of my dad who would have been so happy to see his new granddaughter. And yet, I know that as one family member leaves us, another is born. It reminds you that life is a circle, a continuous thing.

We evacuated our home earlier this week, and then our apartment was badly damaged by blasts. After yesterday's violence, I feel we are not even safe in the hospital. I'm afraid for my wife and new daughter. I only hope Somaya's birth will be accompanied by the end of the violence and the killing. For our family, if not for the rest of Gaza, her birth is like a light in the dark.


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Kids, babies, women, young and old,siblings, parents, neighbours, friends.. houses, buildingd, belongings.. desperate supplies.. all destroyed in no mercy in the name of self defence and eventual PEACE!

Fares hold on to your faith and whisper to Somaya and ask her to pray for you and every single palestenian... coz there'll always be hope...

i had to say Mabrouk, they wont take that too from us !! i'm so glad u managed to upload a picture, she's adorable & amazingly u look good. Its weired how terrible unhuman situations like this make u realize how much u can put up with on many levels...i hope the coming days r less violent & that they've had enough! so u could enjoy ur baby a little bit! Tell ur wife not to worry too much, just enjoy ur baby.

Somaya is a lovely name...

Following your blog and journal, a voice from the hell inside Gaza, a voice describing the daily life, all the horror and death while trying to make some sense, in a world without sense. I can only thank you for sending to the world what should never had happened, a world that let the Palestinians down so many times, and today even more. Ashamed of being European but trying to do what I can from where I am.

A baby daughter which will bring you laugh and smiles, a new light in this world. I wish you the best and for this terror to end now so that your girl will face another world that has to be possible.

How to finish, wishing you safety for your family.

Out of the darkness comes light.

"Allah in your calamity has granted you a beautiful substitute"
Like her name may Allah grant you and all the martyr's including your father a beautiful garden in paradise.
And may Allah grant her the strength of her name sake Somaya mother of Ammar, the first martyr of islam.

be strong and have faith in almighty

First of all,i want to congratulate you & your family for having a beautiful baby girl. Hopefully she will bring the light of hope and there shall be no more bloodshed in Gaza.

Tell your wife to keep on praying for the best. Soon or later your prayer will be answer by Allah. Just want you to know that we, the citizen of the world are doing everything we can to stop this madness. Our thoughts are always be with you people and you're not alone. Remember that you still have friends from this part of the globe & i'm sure that the whole world is watching & listening to you people of Gaza.

We have felt so moved by your reporting and desperate about the plight of so many people in Gaza. Please may you all keep safe and the fighting stop

Israel and international common law

The Israeli Government behaves like a rogue. They make nothing of international law, the UN mandates, the Geneva conventions, and the UN is their laughing stock (avowedly the UN don't look very tough really). The point is whether this is the international law we shall accept or shall it be reserved for the exclusive use of the poor Israelites who suffer so much, just them? This is the question that the new American administration will have to elucidate, and be confronted by the so-called Western international community.

My sincere congratulations! I hope that your daughter and my son will live in peace and will not experience all these horrors you experience now. There's no other way, we are neighbours and cousins, we must find the way for peace and good neighbourly co-existence.

Congratulations! May Somaya's life be long & full of joy and happiness! I pray that your family will know peace and freedom in your homeland one day soon!

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter.
I hope that peace AND justice will come soon.

Mabrouk to you and your wife on the birth of your beautiful daughter. May Allah(swt) grant you all peace and justice. I hope that Somaya grows up in a free, independent, prosperous and happy Palestine isa. So many millions are around the world are praying for you all,Allah will not let their prayers go unanswered. Please post us more photos of Somaya if you can, and one with her mother would be lovely to see.

My sincere congratulations to Alaa and you on the birth of your beautiful daughter!
May she and all her generation know lasting peace in this barbarous world of madness and mindless killings!

I congratulate you and your wife on the birth of your daughter and hope that you have many more (or perhaps a son or two :)). I sincerely hope that the next baby will be born in happier and more peaceful times. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your writing.