In a cloud of distress and anxiety, two university students, hailing from a region marked by strife and unrest, have found themselves grappling with a newfound reality – they have lost contact with their family in Gaza. Sisters, Suhad and Raghad Alkhatib, stand on an unfathomable precipice of fear and worry for the safety of their near and dear ones following the escalation of Israeli air strikes and ground incursions.
“The weight of concern is such that I find it gnawing at my concentration,” shared an emotionally drained Raghad. “My studies, my examinations, they all feel insignificant now. My mind is consumed with worry for my family.”
The sisters are no strangers to the terror inflicted by rocket strikes. Their childhood, spent in the crucible of Gaza for a decade, bears witness to such horrors. “We have seen things no child should be witness to, lived through the horrors of war,” Raghad solemnly expressed, revealing a stark reminder etched on her face in the form of a scar left by exploding glass.
Her sister Suhad vividly recalled the chilling events, “The resonating sound of the strikes, glass shattering around us, a sudden plunge into darkness as electricity failed and everyone was consumed by panic – these memories haunt me.”
Going without contact for two days, the sisters find themselves dreadfully unsure about the fate of their family. “Their safety hangs in thin air as the strikes have caused blackouts and continuous bombing has disrupted all form of communication,” Suhad expressed, her voice tremulous with latent fear.
Since the beginning of this dispiriting campaign on the Gaza Strip, they estimate that conflict has claimed nearly 20 lives within their family. Many others grapple with living conditions made abysmal by the lack of clean water, damaged homes due to bombings, or the threat of imminent uprooting.
Suhad gives voice to their piercing anxiety, “We’re on edge, not knowing the situation they’re in. The stress is unrelenting.”
As Gaza weathers a situation aptly described as “catastrophic” by a spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with acute shortages of basic amenities like food and water, the sisters are finding it arduous to navigate their ordinary lives, weighed down by the grim awareness of their family’s plight.
“We grapple with guilt. We’re living a life of privilege, while our family back home fights for their survival,” Suhad confessed.
In the aftermath of the outbreak of the war, supporters of the Palestinian people have taken to the streets across Canada. Amidst helicopters that hovered and police that standby, a sea of protesters in Edmonton marched from Sir Winston Churchill Square to the Alberta legislature this past Sunday, with their voices echoing the need for proactive action from the federal government.
Fatmeh Kalouti, the organizer of the rally, resonated this sentiment, “We’re calling for an end to the inflicting of horrors on the people of Gaza. We also implore the Canadian government to halt its armament supply to Israel.”
Kalouti underlined the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, urging all Canadians to exert pressure on their government to support the Palestinian people. This call for action has found echoes internationally, with organizations like UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders seeking an immediate ceasefire.
Countries including Canada have championed the call for ‘humanitarian pauses,’ aiming for the safe return of foreign nationals and the entry of humanitarian aid into these embattled territories.