In Maghazi, Gaza Strip, it was around six in the evening last Friday when all of Gaza found itself disconnected from the outside world and even from each other within this besieged enclave.
My family, along with my uncle’s family, had gathered in a single room in his house in the Maghazi camp. We had left our home in the western part of Gaza, obeying Israeli directives to move to southern Gaza for what they claimed was our safety. However, as a survivor of Israel’s brutal aggression on Gaza, I can attest that the promise of relative safety in southern Gaza is a mere illusion.
Our reason for gathering in one room was straightforward: if we were to be subjected to bombings and, God forbid, lose our lives, we would do so together. None of us wished for the other to bear the burden of grief alone.
As was my custom, that evening, I reached for my laptop to ensure its battery was fully charged, allowing me to continue my work as a journalist. Just moments before, I had been conversing with a Canadian journalist, discussing the dire circumstances in Gaza.
Meanwhile, my father was on the phone with my brother Adham, who resides in the United States, attempting to reassure him about our safety.
In that same room, my cousin Reem diligently followed news updates on Telegram, keeping us informed about the areas that had come under attack in and around the Gaza Strip, so we could reach out to our loved ones living in those regions.
In another corner, my younger brother, who is just 13 years old, played with my cousin’s son, Hammoud, who would turn two the following month.
Suddenly, my internet connection dropped, and I asked in a trembling voice, “Is there an issue with the internet?” At that exact moment, my father said, “I’ve lost contact with Adham,” and my uncle added, “I have no phone signal at all!”
We were left with only the radio as our means of communication. When we turned on the radio and heard the announcer from Al Jazeera radio reporting that Israel had severed communications and internet access throughout the Gaza Strip, we were all left in shock and silence. We began to ponder Israel’s motives for isolating us from the rest of the world.
Among us, there were those who believed they aimed to isolate us to carry out further actions away from the international community’s scrutiny. Some even wondered if it might be our final night on Earth.
We exchanged glances, silently bidding farewell.
My thoughts were consumed by concern for my friends outside of Gaza, imagining the anguish they must be feeling with no means to receive updates about my safety. My worry extended to my relatives who had chosen to stay in Gaza’s more precarious areas, refusing to relocate to the south.
The weight of my responsibilities as a journalist weighed heavily on my mind, knowing that I was powerless to convey the truth to the rest of the world due to the blackout and loss of internet connectivity. I couldn’t imagine a more agonizing feeling than the overwhelming combination of helplessness and fear that engulfed me.
We turned to the Quran, seeking solace for our souls, and we recited prayers, imploring God to protect us, our homes, and our loved ones.
Sleep was impossible that night as the artillery shelling continued relentlessly, without respite. Fragments from the explosions even reached our garden. The sounds of the missiles were terrifying, but what was even more chilling was our complete lack of knowledge about the targets and who had fallen victim to this senseless violence.
From the first day of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, we relied on an LED light. As time passed, the darkness grew more oppressive, and our light grew dimmer as we struggled to recharge the battery that powered our LED.
Try to imagine this: complete darkness, ceaseless artillery and ground bombardment, isolation from our loved ones and friends, and disconnection from the entire world.
That night was the longest of my life, marked by our abrupt isolation from the world. It followed heavy bombings in the Maghazi area, a place far from the areas of Gaza that Israel had advised us to vacate.
The day before this tragedy, before communications and internet access were severed, Israeli planes had bombed my relatives’ house in the Maghazi refugee camp, resulting in the loss of nine lives, including seven children.
Those fleeing in fear through the streets were my own relatives. Among them was an elderly mother who had lost her son, daughter-in-law, and her grandchildren. She is a kind woman whom I hold dear. I used to see her laughing and would listen to her stories from my childhood.
My brother Karam, who had just enrolled in a doctoral program in accounting in Gaza a few days before the Israeli aggression on Gaza, was the one who transported the injured in his private car. Today, both universities have been reduced to rubble on the ground.
On the night of Thursday, October 26, the Israeli occupation targeted the sole bakery in the Maghazi camp, adding to the grim tally of more than 11 bakeries bombed across the Gaza Strip during this aggression. It is evident that Israel’s strategy in this war is one of extermination and starvation.
During this particular attack, I hastily grabbed my evacuation bag, which contained only my passport and identity card, preparing to flee once again. However, this time, I was uncertain of where I could seek refuge.
Tragically, the bombing of the bakery resulted in the loss of approximately 10 innocent civilians. Furthermore, the debris from the attack reached a UNRWA school housing about 6,000 displaced Palestinians from northern Gaza, causing the death of one person at the school who was injured by stones propelled by the bakery’s blast.
This is just a small glimpse into the illusion of “safety” that Israel claims to offer in the southern Gaza Strip.
When Gaza finally regained internet connectivity, I didn’t experience the joy that many did. Instead, I was overwhelmed by a sense of dread. I immediately reached for my mobile phone to check on my friends and relatives, fearing that they might have been injured or worse.
I had reason to fear: On October 22, in a horrifying Israeli air raid targeting his home, my colleague, the aspiring translator, Mahmoud, had tragically lost his life. His entire family was mercilessly killed – his father, his brother, his sisters, and their children.
I turned to my X account, formerly Twitter, to catch up on the events in Gaza during the two days that I was cut off from the world, reading tweets from friends describing the horrors they endured during the relentless bombings.
I was desperate to learn about the political developments and the extent of the devastation in Gaza, hoping to hear any news of a ceasefire and an end to the relentless massacres against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, all while Israel continued its aggression without being held accountable.
It was disheartening to hear that the brutality of the bombing persisted, and there was no indication of a resolution in sight.
The world may never grasp the heart-wrenching reality of queuing for nearly four arduous hours, just to obtain a $2 worth of bread, only to have the bakery reduced to rubble by a bombing.
In the face of such adversity, you are compelled to resort to primitive methods, like using wood to ignite a fire, just to provide bread for more than 50 individuals huddled together in a modest, two-storey building.
The desperate struggle to secure even a minimal quantity of drinking water, just for the sake of survival, is a hardship few can understand.
And the agony of isolation from the rest of the world, amidst the relentless onslaught of Israeli artillery, naval, and aerial bombardments, is an experience beyond imagination.
Last Updated: 30 October 2023