I feel closer to death by the minute,’ reads a text sent by former Imperial student Nael Qtati. In a series of messages sent to the Imperial Friends of Palestine WhatsApp chat, Qtati paints a picture of the dire circumstances he and other civilians face, trapped in the Gaza Strip.
He began updating the group chat on 13th October as a means of ‘express[ing] what we go through every day in Gaza’.
Qtati, who graduated in 2020 with an MSc in Health Data Analytics & Machine Learning, had been living in the Al Zeytoun neighbourhood in Gaza City with his family.
On 17th October, an explosion at the local Al-Ahli hospital killed hundreds of civilians – only a day after Qtati and his family evacuated to the south to stay with relatives.
However, he said he knew ‘many families who did not evacuate... because they just can’t afford it.’
“No place is safe”
Securing food, water and electricity is a ‘very hectic daily task’. ‘We run out of water every 48 hours then we try to secure it again.’
But, wrote Qtati, ‘It’s probably bombs that would kill us, not lack of food’.
‘Nights are horrible,’ with ‘no signs of life’ save for the cries of scared pets and ‘the massive sounds of bombs’ that punctuate the air.
He explained that he would wake up ‘15-20 times during the night’ at the sound of bombs, but avoided sleeping during the day (‘so the nighttime can pass easier’).
‘There is no pattern in bombing, [but] with time I became [an] expert [at] identifying the sounds, the depth, intensity that each sound produce[s].’
‘Yet every night has its own unique surprises, bombs you never experienced before.’
In the aftermath of Hamas’s 7th October terrorist attacks, Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip with bombs. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has urged Gazans to evacuate to the south. But both north and south continue to come under fire, leading senior UN officials to call “the current siege imposed on Gaza... collective punishment.”
”No place is safe,” wrote Qtati. “No place.”
“We are already killed [sic], it [just] hasn’t been announced yet.”
Qtati last message to the group chat was sent on 26th October. The next day, the Israeli government severed internet and communication links in Gaza. Qtati’s current whereabouts are unknown.
We are already dead, it just hasn’t been announced yet.
Two weeks ago, 11 Imperial societies, led by Friends of Palestine, submitted an open letter imploring Imperial to leverage its ‘influence and network... to help facilitate [Qtati’s] safe evactuation’.
Expressing concern at ‘the deteriorating humanitarian situation’, Brady said that Imperial ‘does not have operations on the ground in Gaza and is not in a position to support graduates under such circumstances.’ He suggested Qtati may be able to receive support from ‘one of the international non-governmental organisations’ operating within Gaza, or from the Council for At-Risk Academics, if he holds an academic post.
Friends of Palestine Society says it will now write to Imperial College Union in the hopes of securing support for Qtati and his family.