Shouq Alnajjar is calm at first, but her emotions build as she speaks.
“In the morning there were a lot of bombing and airstrikes, but this afternoon it’s been more quiet,” the 27-year-old Palestinian Canadian says in a WhatsApp video call Tuesday from Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza.
The phone minutes are precious. After weeks without electricity, her power is sourced from a car battery. The conversation is stilted by the poor signal, but the pain of her experience comes through.
“Every night, we think we are going to get hit, it’s our turn,” she says with a brutal acceptance.
150 people holed up in three small apartments
Alnajjar is a former University of Alberta student who now lives in Gaza City. She fled south to Khan Younis with her husband and mother when the Israeli airstrikes started, clinging to a new and compromised definition of safety.
WATCH | Canadian shares despair of being stuck in Gaza:
At her grandmother’s apartment building, about 10 people normally occupied three apartments before the war, she estimates. Now, about 150 people shelter in place. They wait hours in line for flour to make bread to share, and hours more for water to drink.
But, she tells senior correspondent Susan Ormiston, “finding water and food is not a concern for us as much as staying alive.”
Alnajjar says the hardest nights have been the ones when Gazans were disconnected from each other and the world. The territory’s communications signals were cut off over the weekend, as bombing intensified and the war entered a new phase with an Israeli ground offensive.
She struggled, she says, knowing how worried her father and brothers in Edmonton would be.
The reality of her new world is hard to fathom, but Alnajjar doesn’t shy away from discussing the emotional toll.
“After more than three weeks being stuck in this nightmare, I’ve completely lost hope. I’ve even lost hope in humanity. I don’t understand how this is still happening and it is still going, and no one is able to make an end to this.”
She is angry, too.
“It’s disappointing when I saw the world was celebrating the entrance of food trucks or aid trucks and thinking this was an achievement when we were still getting bombed and killed.”
Canadian government attempting to secure safe passage
Alnajjar says she has heard from the Canadian government. They expressed that there were efforts to find safe passage out of Gaza for Canadian citizens, but for now, she says, they can’t do anything.
She admits that she has lost the optimism she once felt defined her: “I’m not that person anymore.”
As they wait for Canadian rescue or ceasefire, even small comforts are corrupted by uncertainty.
“When I sit with my mother and talk, I just think, ‘Well, maybe this is the last talk I’m going to have with my mother’… We say, ‘Well, maybe this is the last cup of tea we’re actually going to have,’ because we don’t know when we’re going to get hit.”