Under normal circumstances and despite a high rate of literacy, Palestine's Internet penetration rate stands between 13 and 15 per cent (including both the West Bank and Gaza). Given the ongoing attacks on Gaza, however, Internet access has been significantly diminished. Although there is a small number of bloggers writing directly from Gaza, many Gaza residents are instead sending text messages and making phone calls abroad in the hopes that their stories will be told.
Mohammad of KABOBfest, who is based in the West Bank, has been reporting on Gaza for several days now. In his first post on December 29, he tells us:
I wanted to call my uncles and check up on them and their families, but for most of the day I couldn't. I was too afraid to know the state they might be in. But when I did call, I was pleasantly surprised.
My uncle Jasim told me things were much better today, there was still a fear but people had begun to recover. We've managed to absorb the shock of that initial attack, he said, and that is helping us get by today. He said the sky had been quiet for about half an hour over Khan Younis, but the warships were attacking the shore. His voice was strong, just like it was when I'd talk to him at any time before the massacre began, and told me to not worry so much. They had no power, as usual, so I told him about the ongoing demonstrations and clashes in the West Bank and the outpouring of support across the world. I told him that nobody has forgotten them, and he told me to just keep praying for them. His youngest kids were asleep, but his daughters, Haneen and Yaqeen, were still up. I told him to tell them we're all thinking about them.
Next I called my uncle Mahmoud. Yesterday, he told me he was waiting for death. The Israeli army had called him and told him they would bomb his home within a few minutes. It had left us all terrified, but today he told me it had become apparent that the Israeli army had sent that message to tens of thousands of homes. It is a sadistic and cruel tactic, designed to terrorize hundreds of thousands inside their own homes.
But his hopefulness soon disappeared. On January 3, Mohammed reported again:
I managed to get through to my uncle Mohammad again in Gaza City. For the duration of the phone call, an explosion would be heard every 20 seconds or so. In the bitter cold of the night, terror is blanketing the people of Gaza, and Gaza City in particular. The gunfire and explosions are framed against a background of a blackened sky buzzing with invisible war planes and attack helicopters. Nobody knows what is being hit. My uncle tells me there have been explosions all around them, near and far, from all sides, but even the local radio, which so far has been excellent at reporting what happens on the ground, cannot determine what the targets are that are being hit. Nobody is sure if the airstrikes are targeting homes, buildings, mosques or previously bombed sites, therefore nobody knows if any change in tactics has occurred. In war, for civilians as much as for soldiers, there isn't much that is more terrifying than not knowing.
In a third post, he details calls with several family members across Gaza, comparing the situation on the ground from Gaza City to Khan Younis. He describes one phone call with his uncle's wife:
I talked to Areej again. She had calmed down somewhat, but still sounded very scared. I asked her about the kids. She said the baby, Yazeed, was asleep next to her. Dina had also fallen asleep, and their mother had told Nada and Haya to go to their room, where it would be safer. I asked her if they were keeping warm with the windows always open to the wind, and she said when they sleep they wear as many layers as they can and are covered in as many blankets as possible, but during the day and evening it does get very cold. I asked about Adham, her 11 year old son. She told me he had lit two candles and laid out his toys and was trying, despite the cold and fear and shelling and death and trauma, to play. He had lego blocks and toy cars, and some toy soldiers. I didn't bother asking her what he was doing with the soldiers. I didn't want to know.
Global Voices’ own Ayesha Saldanha of Bint Battuta in Bahrain has also been posting updates from friends in Gaza. Today's SMS update from her friend Hasan includes a telling last line:
6.30 am: “Neither the [landline] telephone nor the electricity is working. I have just got up and saw your sms. I heard very loud tanks shelling outside. Apache and the drone [too]. They might be nearer we don't know”
8.20 am: “Still not near. i hope so. If electricity keeps off like in gaza we won't be able. I am trying to call my sister or text her but in vain”
1.30 pm: “my wife asked why are you frowning. Give me anything that might give me a hope and I will smile I replyed. Today after the lists of our needs became too much. Medicine, food, cleaning material. I decided to go downtown although they struck a market in Gaza. They killed 5 and injured a group of people. As I entered the market F16 struck 2 houses very near to the market. All the people thought like me. Either the market or the mosque. I felt panic. I bought half our needs and hurried home. In my way they struck another house near my home. The tanks shelled a lot last night we were very worried”
6.30 pm: “If things got worse I'd put my [simcard] in my wife's mobile. F16 is shelling right now. and the sound of the ambulance is loud. Everyday is worse than the previous”