Gaza Strip – After a day and a half of zero communication with their families in Gaza, many Palestinians took to X, the social media site formally known as Twitter, to express their joy at finally being able to get in touch with their relatives.
“My family is alive!” Hanan Abunasser, who lives in Sweden, posted.
Ramy Abdu, who lives in Switzerland, also posted: “My family is alive. STOP #GAZAGENOCIDE”.
In Istanbul, journalist Yasser Ashour, whose entire family lives in Gaza, said: “Hearing from our families and friends in Gaza is like a rebirth.”
The Gaza Strip was plunged into a total communications blackout on Friday night – no internet, mobile or landline services – in tandem with what residents said was the most ferocious night of Israeli bombardment and shelling yet.
Many Palestinians were left wondering how they managed to remain alive and some shared photos of themselves to prove that they had survived.
Amjad al-Dirdasawii posted a photo of himself and his three sons and relayed a short conversation between them.
“Is the network back, Dad?!
“It’s back, my sweetheart…
“So let’s take a picture to reassure them we’re OK…
“The 24th dawn of the war…”
-رجعت الشبكة يا بابا ؟!
-رجعت ياقلبي ..
-ط يلا ناخد صورة نطمنهم علينا..
— 𝙰𝙼𝙹𝙰𝙳 𓂆 𝙶𝙰𝚉𝙰 🇵🇸 (@AlDirdasawii) October 29, 2023
For some of those living in the blockaded territory, limited access to internet and phone lines came with ominous news.
“I am in Al-Shati [Beach] refugee camp in the areas north of Wadi Gaza,” said one user called al-Meqdad.
أنا في مخيم الشاطئ بالمناطق الواقعة شمال وادي #غزة.. منذ الساعة 7:00 مساء يوم الجمعة، لم يتوقّف القصف لحظة واحدة. مدفعي وبحري وجوي. ليلة السبت تعرّضنا لأصعب قصف نعيشه، أكثر من 200 غارة خلال نصف ساعة، كنّا متيقنين أننا سنموت خلالها، استيقظنا على استشهاد 45 شخص حولنا.
— Meqdad #غزة (@Almeqdad) October 29, 2023
“Since 7pm on Friday, artillery, naval and aerial bombing has not stopped for a single moment. On Saturday night, we were subjected to the worst bombing we’ve ever experienced, more than 200 raids within half an hour. We were sure we would die, we woke up to find that 45 people near us had been martyred.”
Noor Ashour wrote that once the internet was back, she was finding out that people she knew had been killed.
“From the moment I connected to the network, every minute we hear the news of a new person being killed,” she said. “If only the internet stayed disconnected.”
Checking with my family, colleagues, and friends, the massacres carried out yesterday when the internet was completely shut down were horrific.
Israeli attacks flattened hundreds of residential homes, trapping families under rubble with no way of seeking help. pic.twitter.com/WrPsBIwPD1
— Ramy Abdu| رامي عبده (@RamAbdu) October 29, 2023
Another user, Belal Nezar Rayyan, said that his friend from northern Gaza found out that his sister had been killed during the blackout.
“After communications were restored, it was revealed that 17 members of the family had been martyred,” he posted.
Isolated and scared
The blackout created a level of fear that made it akin to psychological warfare against the Palestinians.
As the bombardment increased in intensity, residents were left literally and figuratively in the dark, with no idea where explosions were, who had been injured and who had been killed, and very little information about what was happening on the ground.
Furthermore, a limited incursion into the eastern regions of the Gaza Strip shook those living nearby when the death and destruction that had been hidden from the eyes of the world was revealed.
Enas Kamal, 27, was sick with worry over the fate of her sister and her children, who live in the southern city of Khan Younis.
“We were completely isolated from the world, and we couldn’t move anywhere because of the continuous bombing,” she said. “When the connection was restored again at dawn on Sunday, I called my sister immediately. Hearing her voice was like having my soul returned to me again.”
So telecommunication in back to Gaza. And the first news I heard from my family is that the only niece who survived the bombing that killed 20 of my family has just succumbed to her wounds.
Rest in peace habibti Malak. Rest in peace.
حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل pic.twitter.com/Wu3CZGbbVG
— Ahmed Alnaouq (@AlnaouqA) October 29, 2023
The only limited source of information available to some families was the radio, but that couldn’t tell them which areas the Israeli military was targeting or which families were affected.
“Is death and destruction not enough for them?” Salim al-Shennah asked. “Does Israel want to commit more heinous crimes, but in the dark? We’ve lived through all forms of siege, but cutting off the internet and communication from people was a cruel thing. Thank God it came back to make us feel that we are not alone.”
The 48-year-old had been frantic over the fate of his relatives who were stuck in the rubble of their building in Khan Younis after it was targeted in an Israeli air raid.
Unable to make his way to the site because of the heavy bombing, he was relieved to find out on Sunday that his relatives had been rescued.
Saeed al-Qurm and his heavily pregnant wife had left their home in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood and were staying at the European Hospital in Khan Younis.
“We left because we were scared something would happen to my wife and our unborn child,” the 35-year-old said. “But the rest of our family had stayed in Tel al-Hawa.”
Al-Qurm couldn’t get through to his family, and when he was finally able to talk to them again on Sunday, they told him that they had just been through the two worst days of their lives, but they were all alive.
“Some of the displaced people lost their families during the previous two days, and some of them had their homes destroyed,” al-Qurm said.
“We are living through the worst war in the history of our lives.”