(NEW YORK) — Gazan Younes Elhallaq is hiding from airstrikes in a home with 30 of his family members — seven families housed in four rooms under one roof.
Many of them evacuated to the south of the Gaza Strip looking for safety from the onslaught of Israeli retaliatory airstrikes following the Oct. 7 surprise terror attack from Hamas in Israel.
But safety and security are still not guaranteed, the 24-year-old said. Their fears are heightened not just by the explosions around them, he said, but the dwindling access to food, clean water, electricity and a growing disconnection from the rest of the world as internet and cell service remain unstable.
“We are dying,” Elhallaq told ABC News. “Slowly, slowly, slowly.”
He says Israeli airstrikes hit one of his family’s homes, killing three children inside.
“We didn’t know ’till the dawn when the internet came back and we could go to the house to check those injuries and martyrs,” he said.
“Everything here in Gaza is targeted,” he said. “We have bodies everywhere in the hospitals. Like yesterday, I went to the hospital. I saw all the injuries in the rooms of the hospital … It’s like a film. Even the films couldn’t imagine this.”
Gaza, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has been under siege since the militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas carried out an unprecedented terrorist attack into Israel from the neighboring Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking over 200 others hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
In response, the Israeli military has conducted wide-scale airstrikes on Gaza, killing more than 8,000 people and injuring over 21,000 others, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
ABC News has not independently confirmed the casualty figures.
The IDF said it has struck more than 11,000 targets in Gaza since the attack.
Elhallaq said he couldn’t discern a reason as to why their college, the Islamic University of Gaza — a place where young Gazans were learning marketing, accounting, English literature and medicine — was targeted in the strikes.
Elhallaq was a student, and his 22-year-old sister-in-law Batoul Abu Ali was a graduate of the college. The two reminisced about the institution, which had been bombed and completely destroyed.
“They don’t have any relations with Hamas, didn’t have any relation with the resistance,” Elhallaq said. “I lived one of my perfect and, like, amazing moments in my life in the Islamic University. … We have never expected to be bombed or targeted because we don’t have any relation with the resistance in these universities.”
Ali added, “In the blink of an eye, everything was destroyed. So we lost everything, knowledge and our freedom.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when pressed on whether Israel is inflicting collective punishment on Palestinians for Hamas’ actions, said civilians don’t have to die, that safe zones have been set up. Netanyahu claims Hamas is preventing civilians from evacuating.
“As Hamas’ use of Palestinian human shields results in the international community blaming Israel, Hamas will continue to use it as a tool of terror, and so will others,” Netanyahu said in a press conference Monday. “While Israel is doing everything to get Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep Palestinian civilians in harm’s way.”
The Israel-Hamas war comes amid the backdrop of a longstanding history of conflict over land and independence that has plagued the region. Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but when Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, overtook the region, Israel and Egypt later imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip that greatly restricts the movement of people and goods into and out of the area.
These restrictions have been a concern of humanitarian groups around the world about the conditions in which Palestinians are forced to live. Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly warned of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza amid Israel’s total siege.
Elhallaq said they’ve lost hope that the international community will come to their protection: “If they wanted to do something, they would do it.”
Still, both the days and nights are “hell,” Ali said.
“We hate the night,” Ali said. “In the end of our day, we pass our time waiting. We pass our time waiting for the night.”
ABC News’ Camilla Alcini contributed to this report.
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