Fearful anticipation has a smell all of its own. It smells like breath held a beat too long, the scent of anxious eyes and a body steeled to run. I know you are thinking those things do not smell but they do. It is the smell immediately before sweat breaks, the odour emitted before undiluted fear reigns. It is most marked in the agitated moments, sometimes the hours, before terror consumes all.
In a crowded street where the heave of human activity fills every available space and where there are more people than possible escape routes; on a darkened road, where every movement is a potential threat, in unlit homes barricaded against armed invaders while the rumble of heavy engines draw nearer, its’ smell is most pervasive.
In Gaza, its’ acrid smell will have taken up residence between the bombed out buildings on rubbled streets. It will be piled up in the sewage-ridden gutters and seeping into the corners of rooms where huddled children watch the skies, waiting. It is the stench of powerlessness, of living with terror, of knowing the inevitability of sudden, indiscriminate, violent death. By now, it is clinging to the clothes of the people, blanketed over the roof of Shifa Hospital, wafting down its blood-strewn corridors. It is wrapped around the hills of Beit Hanoun and Gaza City, pungent and unrelenting.