Omar Mansour/Canadian Press Omar Mansour (left) during a visit to family members in Gaza. After trying for four days to call his family in the Gaza Strip, Omar Mansour said he was able to hear his brother's voice for a few minutes Monday morning.
The bombs had barely started falling on the Gaza Strip last month when Omar Mansour's family realized they had a crucial question to answer: Would it be better to face death together or apart? p>
A day after Hamas fighters stormed into Israel — massacring at least 1,400 people, capturing about 240 hostages and sparking a war that still rages today — Mr. Mansour gathered in one of their homes to discuss the dilemma.
After contacting Mr. Mansour in Vancouver on October 8, the relatives passed the phone through the group to debate the merits of moving in with cousins, seeking refuge in United Nations-run schools or simply staying put.
They tried both options in the weeks that followed, but the central question persists as the war intensifies in the besieged enclave where local authorities say at least 9,700 people have died in a full-blown humanitarian crisis. /p>
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Out of options
“Until now the discussion is still the same, but we are really out of options,” said Omar Mansour, a permanent resident of Canada since 2014, in a telephone interview.
“It’s extremely dangerous. So even this option, of dividing us into different groups to go to different places, is not valid at the moment. But there are no other options,” he added.
Two of Mr. Mansour's sisters — along with their husbands — initially chose to follow the advice of Israeli authorities and leave their family home in the north of the Gaza Strip to settle in the southern part of the enclave. But Mr. Mansour said they were injured and decided to return to their family home.
Newly reunited, the group of 11 decided to stay in the northern Gaza Strip for as long as that they could.
They held on until November 1, when the house next door to theirs was bombed, prompting the family to pack up and seek shelter .
Mansour said they sought shelter in the house of one of his sisters, located between the borders of northern Gaza and Gaza City. But the bombs razed the neighborhood the night they arrived, forcing the group to flee on foot. Mansour said they narrowly escaped.
The group went to the vacant home of another relative who was outside the territory when the war broke out.
The nearly three-kilometer journey took several hours and was fraught with pitfalls, Mansour said. His family members said they dodged Israeli drones and struggled to navigate rubble-strewn streets.
He noted that the trip was a particular ordeal for his parents, who 70 years old and don't have enough strength to walk after being deprived of adequate food and water for the past month.
Their current home, designed for two people, now accommodates 11.
Omar Mansour said water remained the most precious resource, adding that at one point the family had gone without drinking water for almost 10 days.
“They finally had water. water, but they didn't shower the whole time, he said. They can't flush the toilet. »
A phone call like the one the family shared at the start of the war is increasingly difficult to organize.< /p>
Mr. Mansour said recent attempts to connect with his relatives only yielded a message in Arabic saying the parties could not be contacted. And on Sunday evening, Gaza experienced its third total communications blackout since the start of the war. Palestinian communications company Paltel announced that all of its “communications and internet services” were down.
As the conflict enters a new phase, Omar Mansour says he is worried about what happens next.
The Israeli army announced on Sunday evening that it had surrounded Gaza City and divided the Gaza Strip in two.
“Today there is northern Gaza and southern Gaza,” he said. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters, calling it an “important step” in Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas. The group governs Gaza and is classified as a terrorist organization by many countries, including Canada.
Israeli officials have maintained that Hamas operated using a complex 500-kilometer network of underground tunnels.
Gaza's health ministry, run by Hamas, said more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in nearly a month of war, and countries around the world are increasingly calling for ceasefires or humanitarian pauses in fighting to allow the provision of food, fuel and other essential supplies in the territory.
Thus, the debate within the Mansour family has returned to square one as its members wonder whether they should stay put or move and risk dying alone and scared.
“They will have to spread out on the streets in different places, which means that even communication between them will be completely interrupted and we could lose people,” explained Omar Mansour. If someone dies, we won't hear anything. »
With files from the Associated Press.