It was around 6pm on October 27, when all residents of the Gaza Strip lost contact with the outside world, and with each other in the besieged area. My family was gathering with my uncle at his house in Al-Maghazi refugee camp, in the center of the Gaza Strip. We left our home in the western region and headed south on Israeli orders. We were all in one room for a simple reason: if we had died under the bombing, we would have been together. Neither of us wants the other to suffer the pain of grief alone.
As I always do, I took out my laptop that evening to make sure the battery was charged. I was talking with a Canadian journalist about the terrible situation in the Gaza Strip. My father was talking on the phone with my brother Adham, who lives in the United States, trying to reassure him. In the same room, my cousin Reem read the news on Telegram, giving us updates on the locations that had been attacked, so we could communicate with our loved ones who live there. In another corner, my 13-year-old brother was playing with my nephew Hamoud, who will be two years old next year.
Suddenly, my internet connection was cut off. At the same time, my father said, “I lost contact with Adham,” and my uncle added, “I have no signal on my phone.” All we have left is the radio. When we turned it on, we heard the Al Jazeera broadcaster saying that Israel had cut off communications and the Internet throughout the Gaza Strip. We were shocked and silent. We wondered if this would be our last night alive.
My thoughts went to friends outside the Strip, and I imagined their suffering at not hearing from us. I also thought about my relatives who chose to stay in the most dangerous areas of Gaza. I knew I couldn’t tell the truth to the rest of the world because of the power outages and lack of communication. There is no feeling more painful than the combination of helplessness and fear that washed over me.
We relied on the Qur’an, prayed and begged God to protect us, our homes and our loved ones. Sleeping that night was impossible, because the artillery shelling continued without interruption. Fragments of the explosions reached the garden of the house. Just imagine: total darkness, constant bombing, isolation and disconnection from the world. That night was the longest of my life.
On October 26, one day before this tragedy, Israeli aircraft bombed the home of some of their relatives in the Maghazi refugee camp. Nine people died, including seven children. My family members fled to the streets in fear. Among them was an elderly woman who lost her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. She is a nice person, I often saw her laughing and listened to her stories about my childhood. My brother Karam, who had just completed his doctorate in economics in Gaza, was carrying the wounded in his car. Today, universities have turned into ruins.
On the night of October 26, the Israeli army targeted the only baker in Maghazi camp, adding to the sad toll of more than 11 bakeries bombed across the Strip after October 7. It is clear that Israel’s strategy is extermination and starvation. During this attack, I grabbed the bag containing my passport and ID, preparing to flee again. But this time I didn’t know where to turn. The bombing of the bakery led to the death of ten civilians. The fragments reached a school affiliated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), where about six thousand displaced people from the northern Gaza Strip were present, leading to the death of one person.
This is just a glimpse of the illusion of “security” that Israel claims to provide in the southern Gaza Strip.
When the internet connection finally came back, I wasn’t happy, but I was filled with pain. I took out my cell phone to see how my friends and relatives were doing. I went to my account, eager to learn about political developments and the extent of the destruction in Gaza, hoping to hear any news about a ceasefire. It was frustrating to know that the bombing would continue, and that there was no sign of calm in sight.
Perhaps the world cannot understand how sad it is to stand in line for four hours just to buy $2 worth of bread, and then see the bakery reduced to rubble by a bomb. In such cases, one is forced to resort to primitive methods, such as using wood to light a fire, in order to feed fifty people crowded together in a two-story building. The desperate struggle to secure a minimum of drinking water, enough to survive, is a pain that few can understand. The suffering resulting from isolation from the rest of the world, in the midst of Israeli naval and air bombardment, is an experience beyond imagination. ◆ fdl
Aseel Musa An independent journalist living in the Gaza Strip.
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