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Israel-Palestine war: Friends remember Inas al-Saqa, one of Gaza’s celebrated playwrights

Saqa and three of her children died in an Israeli air strike in Gaza city in late October in an attack that also left two other children critically wounded
Inas al-Saqa was known for running summer theatre camps for Palestinian children (Social media)

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in the aftermath of 7 October has left thousands of people dead, the vast majority of whom are civilians.

At the time of publication, more than 9,000 Palestinians in the besieged region have been killed with many more bodies believed to be buried under the rubble of the buildings where they spent their last moments.

For much of the world, their experience of these Palestinian casualties has been in the form of death tolls that creep higher and images of mourning relatives, sometimes carrying the bodies of their loved ones.

Each death represents its own story and even as the killings continue, details about those who have died are coming out.

One such case is that of Inas al-Saqa, a Palestinian playwright and actor, who was killed in late October, with three of her children, Leen, Sara and Ibrahim.

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Saqa and her five children were sheltering in a building in Gaza City when it was hit by an Israeli air strike.

Two of her children, named Farah and Ritta, survived the attack but are critically injured and in intensive care.

Alongside 500 others, the family had initially sought refuge at Gaza’s Orthodox Cultural Center but were later told to evacuate the structure by the Israeli army.

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Eventually, Israeli air strikes would level the building on 31 October.

After leaving the centre, Saqa went to a friend’s apartment and it was there that she was killed.

Saqa appeared in the 2014 Palestinian film Sara, which was directed by Khalil al-Muzayen and dealt with the issue of honour killings in the Arab world.

She also appeared in the film The Homeland’s Sparrow, which was produced in Gaza and directed by Mustafa al-Nabih.

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The movie covered the Palestinian struggle from the Nakba in 1948 through to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which started in 1967.

Saqa is also remembered for her cultural work, including her association with theatre groups within Gaza.

As a producer, she not only participated in productions herself but also taught others about the creative arts.

During the summers, Saqa worked with children to teach them about theatre and acting.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture recognised her achievements and released a statement mourning Saqa and her children. 

“She had previously produced many plays and theatre workshops with children and had also participated in various community activities,” the statement read. 

Tributes also poured in from Saqa’s friends.

Khaled Juma, a prominent poet based in Ramallah, expressed his grief on Facebook, confirming the death of Inas and her children.

'Today, my friend, the curtain has fallen…and the theatre’s stage has darkened'

- Khaled Juma, poet

"Today, my friend, the curtain has fallen…and the theatre’s stage has darkened," Jumaa wrote.

Saja Elyan, a friend of Saqa’s daughter Ritta, shared her disbelief on social media, writing: "It's truly heartwrenching. Ritta is in intensive care. Please keep her in your prayers, and may God grant her the strength to endure this immense loss. 

“I'm writing, but I can't comprehend this. How long, oh God?"

Saqa’s last Facebook post was on 27 August and in it she spoke of her experience of surviving Gaza’s past horrors, not knowing the fate that was to befall her in October.

"Sometimes you look back and take a glimpse of your past... only to discover that you've come out alive from a massacre,” she wrote.

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