“Israel is committing genocide. Please continue raising your voices,” reads a text sent tonight via Messenger by Abood from Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.
As Israel readies its heavily armed troops for a ground assault into this tiny sliver of land that is often described as an “open-air prison”, the more than two million Palestinians living there are losing all hope and trust in humanity.
Amid continuing Israeli airstrikes on the densely-populated besieged territory Abood calls home, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding after Israel cut off electricity, water, and other supplies. Yet, Abood Elassouli, 47, plucks up his courage and does all that he can to continue being a shoulder to lean on for his family and the around 40 people to whom he is providing shelter in his home.
Around 3,785 people – including journalists – have died and 12,500 have been wounded in Gaza as a result of the Israeli strikes, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. The Israeli bombing campaign is taking place in retaliation to an unprecedented surprise attack carried out on Israeli territory by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group ruling Gaza, on the 7th of October. The deadly assault resulted in the deaths of at least 1,400 people and injuries to 4,629 others, according to Israeli officials.
“Our streets are full of displaced people from the North,” the father of two told The Journal from his home, that has sustained some damage but is still habitable. “They are sleeping in the streets, in cars, in the stores and shops, with no water and no electricity. Our basic needs have run out and there’s nothing left here in Gaza, except ourselves.”
A human rights advocate, Abood described the suffering brought about by the lack of food in Gaza: “We do not have enough food to feed everyone. This is the second day that we’ve had no bread. Bakeries, except two in the entire Khan Younis, almost stopped working. Thousands are lining up to get some bread. This is happening under heavy air strikes. I am lucky to live near a baker, but others cannot access bread at all.”
The situation is desperate, Abood points out, and the people’s exasperation becomes even more excerbated when they hear that, since the first day of the Israeli blockade, there has been an aid convoy of some 20 trucks waiting at the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.
The Journal got in touch with Abood via Karl Schembri, a Maltese humanitarian worker and former journalist who spent four years working in Gaza, between 2009 and 2013. Our attempts to establish contact with Abood had been hindered by the significant damage to internet and telecommunications infrastructure in the territory, which has led to near-complete internet and data blackouts, in addition to inoperable phone lines. We were glad when he eventually managed to reply, during a brief period where internet connectivity was restored, and learnt that he and his family are pulling through.
“I know Abood from when we both worked at Oxfam,” Karl recalls, “and he is still working in the human rights field. He is a very good friend of mine, a colleague who was extremely diligent in advocating for human rights in Gaza. Hearing about his situation now, in these trying times, makes me very concerned for him and for all those around him. The world looks on as if Palestinian lives mattered less.”
Main photo: Mahmud HAMS / AFP