- Israel is bombarding Gaza after Hamas militants launched surprise attacks across Israel.
- Abu Samo is among the tens of thousands of Gaza residents who have been displaced.
- Samo and his family keep fleeing from the attacks, but he said the situation is changing by the minute.
Abu Samo has spent more than 24 hours on the move with his family, including his two young children, constantly fleeing the Israeli bombardment that can be heard throughout the Gaza strip.
Samo, who used a nickname with Insider due to safety concerns, is among the 123,000 Gaza residents who have been internally displaced since Israel launched its counterattack on Saturday, according to the United Nations. Israel began striking Gaza after the militant group Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory, conducted a wave of surprise attacks in Israel, killing hundreds of civilians and taking some hostage.
Israeli officials on Monday said more than 900 of its citizens had been killed, mostly civilians, with thousands more injured. Meanwhile Israel’s retaliatory attacks have killed at least 687 people in Gaza, including women and children, with thousands more injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Samo told Insider his family and thousands of their neighbors fled their homes in the Rimal area of Gaza City after the Israel Defense Forces announced they would be striking in the area and encouraged civilians to flee. The IDF has said it is attacking Hamas targets, but homes and large apartment buildings have been destroyed.
“Sometimes they target houses without warning the people. Sometimes they warn. We were lucky that they warned us, and we escaped from the neighborhood,” Samo said.
Samo said some of his neighbors fled to their houses of worship, while others went to the main hospital in Gaza, which is what his family did. However, not long after arriving at the hospital they got word of another warning from the IDF: that a tower not too far from the hospital was going to be struck.
He decided it was not safe for his family to stay, and so they fled again, moving from place to place before finally stopping at a hotel that appeared relatively safe. When he spoke with Insider at about 10:30 p.m. local time on Monday night, he had been at the hotel for a couple of hours and had booked a room. However, he and his family were waiting in the reception area, worried that it would be unsafe in the hotel room located on a higher floor.
The situation in Gaza is changing by the minute
Samo said even from the hotel they could still hear attacks, including one that had recently hit about 2 km, or about 1.2 miles, away from the hotel. He said all 2 million people living in Gaza, which is roughly 140 square miles, could hear the strikes.
The situation is so volatile that they are taking it minute by minute, Samo said, adding there’s no way to know for sure what will happen from each moment. He’s unsure if they’ll be able to remain at the hotel, or for how long, or how his family will get food or water in the coming days.
Israel on Monday announced a “complete siege” of Gaza, which included cutting off its food, water, fuel, and electricity. Samo said power and communications had already been unreliable, and that local journalists in Gaza were even struggling to inform citizens of what’s going on or where attacks are planned for next.
Samo said he couldn’t even get information on what happened to his neighborhood. The Associated Press reported Israel carried out a bombardment in the Rimal area on Monday evening, destroying a building that held the headquarters of the Palestinian Telecommunications Company.
At this point, Samo said all he can do is hope there is a ceasefire soon, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday the Gaza airstrikes were just the beginning. “What Hamas will experience will be difficult and terrible; we are already in the campaign and we are just getting started,” he said, adding, “The state will leave no stone unturned to help all of you.”
Gaza residents just want to live ‘normal lives’ in peace
Samo said for many Gaza residents like himself, the Hamas attacks were as much of a surprise to them as they were to Israel, and that as civilians, there wasn’t anything they could do. He also noted that everyday life in Gaza is already difficult, and that he can’t imagine what it will be like under a full-blown war.
Gaza has been under Hamas control since 2007. Since then, both Israel and Egypt have blockaded the territory, restricting the movement of people and goods. Gazans face limited power and internet, water and food shortages, overcrowding, and high unemployment.
According to the United Nations, 80% of Gaza Strip residents are living in poverty, with 63% of people being food insecure and relying on international aid. The UN Secretary-General has said the blockade has imposed “hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed.”
Israel has said the blockade is a necessary security measure to protect Israeli citizens from Hamas.
Samo said he wants the rest of the world to know that most residents of Gaza just “want to have a normal life, like everyone: To work. Education. Good food. Freedom of movement.”
“We are 2 million. Not all of us are Hamas. Not all of us are Islamic Jihad. We are normal people,” he said.
“We really need a real life. We need peace.”