'This Time is Different…': Kashmiri Woman Stuck in Gaza With Husband, Daughter

This is the story of Lubna, one of the handful of Indians stranded in Gaza as Israel continues to battle Hamas.

South Asians
4 min read
Hindi Female

"There is the smell of gunpowder everywhere, there is shelling all around, (White) Phosphorus rained near my area," 52-year-old Lubna Nazir Wani Toman, who is stranded in the Gaza Strip along with her husband and daughter, told The Quint on Wednesday, 11 October.

Hailing from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, Lubna has lived in conflict-ridden Gaza since 1997 – but this time, she said, "the scenario is completely different."

Gaza is facing a spate of fresh attacks from Israel in retaliation to an unprecedented ambush from Palestinian militant group Hamas earlier this week.

"This is a war where civilians are being targeted in the 365 sq km strip. We are not safe here," she said, as she appealed for her evacuation at the earliest.

As the war enters its sixth day, at least 1,200 people, including 155 soldiers, have lost their lives in Israel, according to the country's military, while the Palestinian health ministry said that 1,050 have been killed – including at least 140 children – and over 5,100 have been injured.

"My eldest daughter is a doctor and is on an emergency call. She is not safe," Lubna told The Quint.


Lubna is one of the handful of Indians stranded in Gaza as Israel continues to battle Hamas militants.

While Israel's Consul General in Mumbai told news agency PTI on 11 October that more than 20,000 Indians live in the country, reports say that the number of Indian nationals in Gaza remains close to just 20.

However, with the Israeli land, air, and sea blockade, leaving Gaza is "close to impossible," a humanitarian worker in the region told The Quint.

Israel, which has held control over Gaza since 1967, has justified the blockade as a claimed crucial measure to thwart potential attacks by the Hamas. However, the United Nations and human rights groups argue that that the move has effectively transformed Gaza into what is often referred to as an "open-air prison."

'This War Is Different'

"I have witnessed every war here and never requested an evacuation. But this time, the situation is different," Lubna, who has been in Gaza for 26 years now, told The Quint.

Lubna is married to Nedal Toman, a Palestinian national who she had met in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh. While she was pursuing her Masters in Biochemical Engineering, Toman was studying Electronics Engineering. After completing her post-graduation, she got married to him and the couple moved to Gaza in 1997.

They have three children – two daughters and a son. While her eldest daughter is a doctor, her younger children are studying at Cairo University in Egypt.

"Israel has never faced such a situation before. They were never attacked like this. This is a brutal game of revenge now," Lubna said.

The Israel-Palestine conflict dates to 1948, when the UN and Britain supported the Jews' demand for a settlement, giving birth to Israel. But later, a war broke out between the Israeli settlers and the Arabs.

While Palestinians were displaced from their home, their territory was divided into Jewish Israel, Arab West Bank, and the Gaza Strip – which is a thin piece of land separated from Israel through a permeable fence.


'No Water, No Electricity, No Network, No Exits'

"There is no electricity, no water. Network has also been snapped. We have little food left," Lubna told The Quint. On Wednesday, 11 October, the Palestinian Energy Ministry said that Gaza's only power plant had run out of fuel, forcing it to be shut and pushing the region into a blackout-like situation.

Earlier this week, Israel's military had ordered a "complete siege" on the Gaza Strip, cutting off supplies of essentials, including food, fuel, and medicines to Gaza's over two million people. Of them, 190,000 have been displaced by the heavy airstrikes since 7 October, according to the UN.

"There are no exits either. The Erez border has been stormed by Israel and the Rafah border, which is the sole crossing point between Egypt and Gaza, has also been hit," Lubna said.

While the border fence between Israel and Gaza has five crossing points, The Quint was told by a humanitarian worker on the ground that only one of them – the Erez crossing – is operational for people to pass through.

On being asked if she has reached out to the Indian Embassy yet, Lubna said that she got in touch with them in Tel Aviv. However, she said: "They have not responded affirmatively." 

A source in the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed to The Quint on Wednesday, 11 October, that a letter appealing for Lubna's return to India has been received.


'Please Get Her Out of There': Lubna's Brother

"Lubna last visited us two years ago," her younger brother Sohail Nazir Wani told The Quint. He said that he was in touch with Lubna but communication is very limited because of the network being snapped in the area.

He said that Lubna tried going to Egypt, where her children are studying, but could not because "the exit points have been blocked by Israel." Her eldest daughter had also been planning to move on to Germany, he said.

"We are all very tense here. There is a pall of doom in the house. Please just get her out of there," Sohail said, appealing to the Indian government for Lubna's speedy evacuation from Gaza as the conflict in the region "refuses to abate."

Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that New Delhi has launched 'Operation Ajay' to help "facilitate the return from Israel of our citizens who wish to return."

The Indian Embassy in Israel said that they have sent emails to registered Indian citizens for a "special flight" on Thursday, 12 October.

However, it is unclear how Lubna, and many other Indians from Gaza, will be evacuated.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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