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Gaza Special: 'A catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza' MEMO in Conversation with Aseel Safi

As the Israeli offensive against the occupied Gaza Strip enters its sixth day, reports of intense bombings of apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, and commercial establishments continue to flood in.

October 12, 2023 at 4:00 pm



The situation is dire in the Gaza Strip as the sole power plant grinds to a halt due to fuel shortages after Israel cut off energy supplies. Now, 99 per cent of civilians are without electricity.

Water, a basic necessity for survival, is also becoming scarce. This leaves the Palestinians trapped and grappling with every essential for survival.

The communication infrastructure has also been targeted, leaving a vast portion of Gaza without internet access. Aseel Safi, a 25-year-old English literature student at Al-Aqsa University, is depending on a dwindling battery, a lifeline to the outside world that may soon be severed.

“Since Saturday, all Palestinians have been suffering a catastrophe. What you are seeing in social media is only one per cent of what we are living through in Gaza. It’s miserable,” she said.

“The electricity company announced there is no fuel to turn on the electricity in Gaza. The Israeli occupation has cut off the electricity, so water supplies and all kinds of survival services are gone. I am using a battery for this Zoom call; about 80 to 90 per cent of people in the Gaza strip have no Internet.”

In this sudden plunge of darkness, one cannot help but wonder, what are the people doing to survive? All of Gaza’s crossings are closed, making it impossible to bring in fuel for the power plant or the generators on which residents and hospitals have long relied.

In this time of crisis, explained Aseel, Palestinians are uniting, sharing their resources with one another. Families and neighbours have opened their homes to those forced to evacuate due to relentless bombings by the Israeli military, especially in the northern part of Gaza. Aseel highlights the compassion and solidarity amongst her people, stating that those with access to essential resources are sharing them to ensure as many survive as possible.

“Some people might have some water or electricity or batteries, who help by sharing it so we can survive as long as possible. This is the situation right now. People open their homes to the people who have evacuated from their houses, especially in the northern part of Gaza, because there are so many genocides that the Israeli occupation committed in that area – in Al-Rimal, Al-Karama, Sheikh Ijleen, Sheikh Radwan – all these neighbourhoods have been wiped out.”

Her voice cracked, as she continued to describe the horrors unfolding and highlighted the disproportionately high number of women and children among the Palestinian casualties, emphasising that Israel’s actions are both unjust and inhumane.

“If you take a walk here in Gaza, you’ll find that every place has been destroyed. All you’ll see is rubble and the remains of martyrs everywhere. There is too much destruction. If we are still alive after the war, we won’t recognise the places to rebuild because they are completely destroyed. There are no streets, nothing. It’s like a ghost city.”

READ: Israel military units striking Gaza with white phosphorus artillery rounds

Meanwhile, amid the cacophony of conflict, misinformation and propaganda is being spread by the Israelis. “Do not believe anything that the Israeli occupation is publishing,” Aseel emphasised. “By publishing fake news, they want the world to sympathise with them and are acting as victims and this is so far from the fact.”

The conflict began when the Palestinian Resistance movement, Hamas, on Saturday initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood against Israel, a multi-pronged surprise attack including a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel via land, sea and air. Hamas said the offensive was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli settlers’ growing violence against Palestinians.

Israel has responded by putting the enclave, home to 2.3 million people, under total siege and launching the most powerful bombing campaign in the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, destroying whole residential and other neighbourhoods. Critics have pointed out that this amounts to collective punishment and is, thus, a war crime, but Israel has been emboldened by its claim of “self-defence” being endorsed in Western capitals.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza says that more than 2,700 people have been killed, of whom 171 were women and 326 were children.

“The children are understanding everything that they’re living under in the Gaza Strip, like the adults. When the bombs are falling, they scream out to their parents ‘come here, mama, baba, come here! it’s dangerous there!’.”

She explained how the Palestinian children, who have known little else but conflict and chaos and far removed from the innocence of childhood found elsewhere, are forced to grow up before their time. However, they continue to play and live their lives, despite the ever-present danger.

Large Western nations, including the US and the UK, continue to support Israel despite the overwhelming evidence of Palestinian suffering, while some Arab nations have even normalised relations with the occupiers. As Aseel pointed out, Palestine finds itself isolated and forsaken on the world stage. Yet, this isolation has only strengthened their resolve.

With only a handful of leaders merely making symbolic gestures, uttering words of condemnation, she shared that the Palestinians have decided this is the time to say, “Enough.” They want justice, peace and the dignity that every human being deserves.

READ: Gaza Municipality: Water shortage reached 90%

She said, “The only solution is to end the occupation. Stop the airstrikes. Palestinians have been paying a high price for liberation and for the occupation to end. We don’t want this to keep repeating with a temporary ceasefire, that’s not a solution.”

The Palestinian Resistance Movements are a focal point of hope, and Aseel expresses the Palestinian’s unwavering support for the freedom fighters.

“The Resistance Movement started this war to make clear we’ve had enough, and that we want to live in justice, peace and dignity. We have full trust in the Resistance Movement,” said Aseel. “There is no dignity when the Occupation is controlling electricity, Internet, water, food supplies and the crossings. We don’t want to be living under Occupation for the rest of our lives.”

She noted, “I see online that the international community is commenting that the revenge by the Israeli occupation will be brutal and that it there will be genocide. But we’ve been experiencing attacks like this already; this is nothing new, it’s just on a larger scale than before. But this is what we’re used to living with under Occupation. We tried the International Court of Justice, but Israel continues to commit crimes against us in Gaza, in the West Bank and kill us without any feeling of mercy. So we can afford this fight for freedom; we survived the Nakba, we’re surviving this siege for the past 16 years, we can survive what is happening right now in the Gaza Strip, too.”

Aseel’s words echo loudly in the silence of the international community: Gaza and Palestine need the world’s unwavering support, and that support should translate into meaningful actions. They urge everyone to challenge the propaganda, to question the narratives and to stand with the Palestinians who, despite their isolation and adversity, remain unbreakable in their resolve to attain freedom and peace.