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Israel-Palestine war: Middle East Eye loses contact with Gaza-based reporters

MEE has been unable to reach Maha Hussaini and Mohammed al-Hajjar after Israel told Palestinians in northern Gaza they had just 24 hours to flee

Middle East Eye lost contact with its Gaza-based journalists Maha Hussaini and Mohammed al-Hajjar on Friday after the Israeli military told more than one million Palestinians they had just 24 hours to relocate to the southern part of the besieged enclave.

The last contact MEE had with Maha Hussaini, who won the 2020 Martin Adler Prize for journalism and was a finalist this month in the local reporter category at the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, was at 03:40 GMT.

On Thursday, Hussaini published what she feared could be her "last video", and said she had lost contact with at least nine fellow journalists, some of whom had either been covering events on the ground or were at their homes at the time of an Israeli air strike.

"Everything and everyone can be targeted in Gaza," she said.

"Internet services have been disrupted after Israel targeted and bombed the two main telecommunication companies in the Gaza Strip.

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"While wiping out entire families and knocking down entire residential buildings, Israel is making sure that victims do not have access to the internet and also are completely disconnected from the world."

Since Israel issued the unprecedented order, the UN has warned that asking so many people to flee en masse could be calamitous.

Gaza's health ministry said on Friday that roughly 1,800 people had been killed in the territory - more than half of them under the age of 18, or women.

As MEE has reported throughout Friday, thousands could be seen fleeing their homes in overcrowded minibuses, in cars, donkey carts, and on foot as they contended with fuel shortages and destroyed roads.

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Many Palestinians, however, have hesitated to leave, fearing nowhere was safe in the tiny territory under constant bombardment by Israeli air strikes. 

The last communication MEE had with Hajjar was at 13:00 GMT, when the father of two said some 70 members of his extended family were trying to leave Gaza City. With only two cars between them, Hajjar said he was unsure whether they would be able to do so.

With much of the city reduced to rubble, many streets are impassable.

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"In the morning, I received the Israeli order that I should leave, but I don't know if I should die there or die here with my family," Hajjar said.

"We are desperate. The US moved very quickly to provide Israel with help. We have no one. There is nothing left for us except sabr (patience) and dua (supplication to God)."

Gaza has been sealed off from food, water and medical supplies and has been under a total power blackout after fighters from the besieged Gaza Strip launched a multi-pronged assault on southern Israel, killing at least 1,300 people and taking at least 100 Israelis captive.

"Maha and Mohammed have been at the forefront of MEE’s coverage of Gaza," said David Hearst, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye.

"We owe them a huge debt and pray they and their families will get through these truly apocalyptic times that western leaders actually support. The carnage Palestinians in Gaza are suffering beggars belief.

"No one can claim, thanks to the coverage Maha and Mohammed gave us, that they did not know."

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.