(CTN NEWS) – A journalist’s voice note emerges from a city in central Gaza, where communication lines have been severely disrupted.
In the midst of the audio, a loud explosion reverberates in the background.
“The situation is very dangerous,” the journalist remarks, noting that many residents remain in the dark about the fate of their loved ones following the overnight events.
This WhatsApp voice note, transmitted from Deir al-Balah on a Saturday, offers a rare glimpse into the circumstances unfolding in Gaza.
It sheds light on how civilians are coping with Israel’s escalated airstrikes and expanded ground operations, as traditional communication channels are disrupted.
Internet monitoring group NetBlocks reports a significant “collapse in connectivity” within the enclave.
This blackout leaves people unable to reach out to friends and family or even to call for ambulances to assist the injured.
On Sunday, there are signs of connectivity slowly returning to the territory.
However, on Saturday, most Gazans were effectively cut off: WhatsApp messages remained at a single grey tick, indicating that they had been sent but not received.
Phone calls led directly to voicemail messages.
In our last communication with a Gaza-based professor on Friday, he expressed fear regarding Israeli evacuation orders and moving south, as he worried about his family’s safety during the journey.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t establish contact with him on Saturday.
Nevertheless, a small group of people in Gaza possesses foreign SIM cards that can access Israeli or Egyptian networks.
The BBC was able to establish limited contact with some of them on Saturday.
The journalist in Deir al-Balah described the atmosphere as a mixture of tension and confusion.
“Some people believe nothing is happening because they are not receiving news updates through messages.
They find some comfort in this,” he said.
“Others are deeply anxious because they have lost contact with all their loved ones.”
Further to the north, within Gaza City, the BBC managed to establish a short but significant conversation with a different journalist over the phone.
This journalist, who chose to remain anonymous, painted a grim picture of the situation, characterizing the overnight bombings as “brutal.”
He expressed a sense of disbelief, stating, “We didn’t expect that we would see morning.”
The intensity of the bombing was such that it struck a wide range of targets, including “streets, governmental buildings, open fields, the beach.”
The sheer scale and intensity of the attacks had caught many residents off guard.
Amidst the chaos, the exact number of casualties and injuries since the events that unfolded on Friday night remains uncertain.
Photos and video footage emerging on Saturday depicted scenes of widespread devastation, with local residents desperately attempting to extract people from the debris.
One particularly heart-wrenching image, too graphic to be publicly shown, displayed a man carrying the lifeless body of a toddler, a stark reminder of the toll this conflict was taking on innocent lives.
In a separate video, shared on Instagram, the urgency of the situation was palpable.
A badly wounded man was swiftly evacuated from a building as a frantic crowd shouted desperately for an ambulance.
In the absence of an ambulance, they resorted to placing the injured man into the back of a truck, underscoring the resourcefulness and resilience of the community in the face of such a dire and perilous situation.
In a fragmented voice message, Shebab Younis, a photographer responsible for posting a video, painted a harrowing picture of the situation around him, using the word “catastrophic” to describe it.
The grim reality became evident as he lamented, “We have lost contact with people who have been targeted or injured.”
The airstrikes on residential homes only exacerbated the challenges, considering the severe disruptions to communication and internet services.
This disruption had a far-reaching and detrimental impact on various aspects of life, with a particularly devastating effect on medical facilities and public service buildings when they found themselves in the crosshairs of bombings.
The issue of disrupted communication in Gaza raised questions about its intentional nature.
When challenged on this matter, Mark Regev, a senior advisor to the Israeli government, offered a perspective that many found contentious.
He likened the disruption of communications to “standard behavior to disrupt the communications of your enemy” and drew parallels with practices he claimed were followed by the UK and the US in previous conflicts.
This perspective brought into focus the broader debate about the ethics and consequences of such actions in a modern, interconnected world.
The United Nations, recognizing the dire humanitarian consequences of the communication blackout, expressed deep concern.
The situation placed Gaza’s civilian population in extreme jeopardy.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk underscored that ambulances and civil defense teams were now unable to locate the injured, nor could they extend assistance to the countless individuals estimated to be trapped beneath the rubble.
Additionally, the blackout hindered civilians’ ability to access updated information on where to find humanitarian aid and safer locations.
The blackout also impeded the crucial work of journalists reporting on the unfolding crisis, further highlighting the importance of open communication channels in such situations.
On the following day, some individuals in Gaza regained the ability to communicate with the outside world.
However, on Saturday, as one of our contacts poignantly described it, the majority of people in Gaza felt utterly “disconnected from the planet.”
They were cut off from the essential communication and information channels that are vital in times of crisis.
The blackout underscored the profound challenges faced by the people of Gaza, who were grappling with the consequences of a conflict that had left them isolated and cut off from the rest of the world.
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