Every time Palestinian expat in Dubai M.A. speaks to his family in Gaza, he fears it is the last time he will hear their voice. “I have already lost several relatives,” he said. “My family home has been bombed and my parents have been staying in different places. Every chance they get, they go to a neighbourhood spot to charge their phones.”
With mobile phone and Internet connections disrupted, it’s getting difficult for expats in the UAE to speak to their loved ones in Gaza.
“The connectivity is so bad that I am able to speak to them only once every couple of days,” said M.A. “And every day that I am not able to speak to them, I fear the worst.”
M.A. last visited his hometown in 2022 after almost a decade. “I am so grateful that I at least have those memories to hold on to,” he said, tearing up. “Now, all I see is death and destruction everywhere. The last time I spoke to my parents, they said that everyone is just waiting for their turn.”
M.A. is one of the thousands of Palestinians living in the UAE who frantically try to get in touch with their families every day as Israel continues to bomb Gaza in response to a Hamas attack. With the death toll inching towards the 10,000-mark, the situation is dire for many in the besieged city.
Abdul Fattah, an administrative executive at a supermarket chain in the UAE, said his family members are in dire need of food, water and medicines. The essentials have been cut off and resources exhausted. "We have started to lose count of family members dying."
"The last I spoke to my family was on Friday and since then I have not been able to reach them. We are really worried for my brothers and sisters and their children," said Abdul Fattah.
Mohammed Herzallah, who has been a UAE resident for 17 years, has his mother, three brothers and a sister living in Palestine. He keeps calling them daily. “Sometimes the telecom network does not work and sometimes, the Internet is out. So there are multiple challenges when it comes to communicating with our families,” he said.
He pointed out that there is no electricity in some areas, and therefore, changing mobile phones is also not easy. “They have to find people who have generators. Transportation is also not easy; sometimes they even use animal carts,” said Herzallah.
Palestinian expat in the UAE Sajida Al Bashir, who has been living in this country for the past 28 years, said half her family is in Palestine, though not in Gaza. “My twin sister is a teacher there, which naturally brings about significant worries for their safety. The consequences of the ongoing conflict are deeply felt throughout Palestine, and its effects are now spreading globally.
“With the recent blackout, cellular towers, landlines, and internet connections have ceased to function in Gaza, making it nearly impossible to transmit or receive information within or from that area.”
Bashir speaks to her sister every day, feeling restless when she is unable to.
“I speak to her daily through different channels like the Facebook, Tawasal App and Botim of course. For us, concerns are mounting every day. There have been conflicts across the country. I not only have my family but several friends who work in Palestine and everyone is worried. The impact of war will not be restricted to the now and immediate future. It will have a long-term impact on day-to-day life in Palestine.”
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