World / October 18, 2023

My Family Is in Gaza. I Haven’t Been Able to Contact Them in Over a Week.

A Palestinian mother tells her story.

Asmaa Alkaisi
Palestinians run for cover during an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 18, 2023.

Palestinians run for cover during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 18, 2023.

(Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images)

Asmaa Alkaisi is a Palestinian mother, a Gaza native, and a graduate of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. She spoke to The Nation’s Jack Mirkinson from her current home in Belgium.

I have lost contact with my family for over a week now since they left their home in Gaza and had to walk for almost 35 kilometers under the bombardment so they could get to Rafah. There’s no network, no electricity, no Internet, so the last thing I heard was a text message from one of the neighbors telling me that they finally made it safe to Rafah. My house in Gaza was also completely destroyed.

I’ve been trying to contact my friends. I’ve been trying to contact my relatives. Unfortunately, there’s no coverage for the official network telecommunication, so I haven’t been able to contact any of them.

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My mother is a kidney patient. She has atrophy of both kidneys and she has to go through dialysis twice a week. She hasn’t been able to do that for the past week, which means that her health condition is also deteriorating.

I have no words to explain how I feel. I am very devastated by the situation. Being away and seeing all the news is just heartbreaking because I’m far away and I can’t be in touch with anyone and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Anyone I know is a target and might be a target and will be a target. So all I can do is just scroll down the news and see if, God forbid, one of my loved ones is on the list.

I just got my apartment a year ago and I haven’t been able to live in it yet because I was doing my master’s in the States. And it’s gone. I was there when it was being built. I haven’t even had the chance to see when it was finished. And I knew from the news. That’s more horrific because I haven’t been able to contact my family. They were not the ones who told me. I found out from the news. I saw videos of my whole neighborhood being completely destroyed and leveled to the ground. And I saw my building. I recognized it, and it was all gone.

I’m 38. I witnessed the eruption of the First Intifada in 1987. I was there in 2000 for the Second Intifada. I was still in high school. I was there in all the escalations in 2008, 2012, 2014, in 2021. So I am a firsthand witness to all of these aggressions.

Every time something happens, you think this is going to be the worst thing you’ll ever see. But I believe, even though I’m not there, this time it tops everything that we’ve ever been through.

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We’re talking about 3,500 people killed. We’re talking about more than 12,000 people injured. The hospitals have lost control. No functioning, no electricity, no water, nothing. So could it get any worse than this? I don’t know.

I am beyond shocked. What is happening there is, by all means, the definition of a war crime. And nobody is actually doing anything to save those innocent people. 2.2 million people in the largest open-air prison in the whole world are being watched, being killed, and nobody’s doing anything. Nobody’s doing anything to stop these massacres, these atrocities, this genocide against the people of Gaza.

I want Americans to know that we Palestinians are not second-class human beings. Our lives matter too and we deserve to live a normal life. Our children need and deserve to live a normal life. This cannot be tolerated. This cannot be accepted by the whole world. You need to do something.

Your taxes are being sent to Israel so it can buy more weapons to use against Gaza. This needs to stop. The aid needs to stop. The war crimes need to come to an end. And Israel must be held accountable.

I have six siblings, and my understanding is that they are now with relatives in the same house where more than 50 people are seeking refuge. Fifty people in a two- or three-bedroom apartment. They sleep standing. They sleep in shifts for a couple of hours.

And there’s children, about 20 children in that house, no electricity, no water to drink, no food, no medications, nothing. They are completely cut off from the rest of the world.

This is the textbook definition of a genocide, of collective punishment, of war crimes, and nobody’s doing anything.

And there are no words to describe how I feel or how 2.2 million Palestinians are feeling right now.

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Asmaa Alkaisi

Asmaa Alkaisi is a Palestinian mother, a Gaza native, and a graduate of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. She is currently living in Belgium.

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