This article was originally published in English
The UN has gone from describing the situation as a “human catastrophe” to saying it will be “even more hellish.” The last message Ahmad received from his loved ones was last Saturday, and since then he has not heard anything. Like him, thousands of Palestinians in Europe long to receive messages from Gaza.
Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, Ahmad Salama’s family, spread between Germany and Saudi Arabia, has been glued to the television.
Although the news of the conflict is very distressing, it is the only way they have to know how their relatives who fled from northern Gaza to the south are doing.
This 23-year-old Palestinian, who has been studying in Germany for six years, hears from Zahr, his father’s aunt, once a week.
“It’s distressing, we can only send them WhatsApp messages and wait for a response. We have the TV on all the time to make sure the part where they are hasn’t been bombed or that there are no problems“, explains Ahmad to Euronews.
“We wake up every day knowing there’s a chance they’re not there… If we lose them, I don’t even know how we’ll know. So we just watch the news and wait four or five days for a response,” he added.
The last message they received was last Saturday, shortly after the end of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas; since then, they have not heard anything.
They know that Zahra is in Gaza’s second city, Khan Yunisbut they also know that the war is gaining momentum there.
The city, once home to around 200,000 people, has doubled in size with the arrival of displaced people from northern Gaza.
The UN has gone from describing the situation as a “human catastrophe” to say that it will be “even more infernal” for the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, for the Ahmad family and the rest of the Palestinian population in Europe, each voice message from Gaza is a moment of relief.
Voices from Gaza
“We don’t know what to do. We came to the south because they told us it would be safe, and now they are bombing the south too,” is the first thing Ahmad hears when he presses play on the WhatsApp voice message.
It is his father’s aunt who goes on to describe his situation: “They torture me. When it gets dark, I am very afraid. I can’t sleep and the night is very long. “There’s no electricity, so I wait seven hours before I see the sun again.”
After their home in northern Gaza was bombed twice while they were there, Zahr and his family fled south. As soon as he fled, his house was bombed for the third and final time.
They now live in Khan Yunis thanks to friends who were able to take them in, along with 22 other people.
However, fleeing quickly, they left all their belongings in their bombed home in the north. They have no food, no electricity, no Internet, no warm clothing and it is getting colder and colder.
There is nothing to buy, and Zahr says the little humanitarian aid that arrives disappears in seconds.
“Es basically like russian roulette and they’re trying to figure out what to do. Either they stay and a bomb kills them, or they flee and may die on the way,” Ahmad said.
“I am nervous every day because I could wake up and hear from my father that we have lost our family. I have to live with this fear because in the end nothing is certain,” he added.
Ahmad says that when he goes online and sees an entire family with his same last name among the names of deceased people, he shudders to think that they could be his second cousins.
The war in Khan Yunis intensifies
The United Nations estimates that in Gaza there are at least 1.9 million internally displaced, nearly 80% of the population.
The shelling has intensified since the end of the ceasefire and the Palestinian Health Ministry The Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip estimates that 15,500 people have died since October 7.
“Life is difficult, it has become very prehistoric. I can see Israel’s planes above me all the time. We have lost everything, but thank God we have not lost any member of our family,” continues Zahr from Khan Yunis.
Things are getting complicated for Palestinians whose families survive in Gaza. With no internet or electricity in the area, they fear this could be the last message they receive from their loved ones.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rafah is now the only place in the territory where limited humanitarian aid can still be distributed.
Very little aid reaches Khan Yunis, and access to areas further north is cut off.
“It’s heartbreaking. You get angry at the same time you cry because you feel helpless, and you want to help, but you don’t know how.“, said Ahmad.
“It’s a combination of very unpleasant feelings,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Zahr dreams of returning to his home in the north of the strip. He talks about the end of the war and the hope of returning and renting an apartment to live.
“Don’t worry about us“he says in his farewell, “I hope everything ends well“.