A mother and her two children, aged only 5 and 8 years old, were killed in an airstrike while they were sleeping.
Palestinians living in Gaza have described the massive devastation and human loss in the occupied territory, saying innocent civilians are paying the price as Israel continues retaliation over Hamas’ surprise attack.
At least 1300 Israelis have been killed, while more than 3000 have been injured since Hamas militants entered Israel via land, air and sea, killing or abducting hundreds.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to take ‘mighty vengeance’ and eliminate Hamas, responding with air strikes that have hit residential buildings, refugee camps, medical centres and mosques.
In Gaza, at least 1400 people have been killed and 6000 injured.
Israel has also tightened its blockade on Gaza, cutting off food, water and electricity to about 2.3 million people who live there.
The siege means Gaza is in complete darkness, and Australian woman Ramia Abdo Sultan said her family members who live in the Strip are surviving on limited food and water reserves.
Sultan said her 25-year-old cousin, Youssef Abu Abdoh, who was soon to be married, was killed when a missile struck a building in Gaza City this week.
“I am a mother and cannot begin to imagine what every mother is going through,” said Sultan, who is also an executive member of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.
In a separate attack, a residential building that housed 70 of Sultan’s family members in Khan Yunus was also bombed, but they survived, she said.
“They found out by coincidence that they should probably evacuate the building, only for it to be bombed to the ground minutes later,” she said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government was supporting 19 Australians trapped in Gaza, who are currently unable to leave through the Rafah Border Crossing because of airstrikes on the route to Egypt.
Sydney resident Fatima Abu Mustafa is among those who been overwhelmed with devastating news from Gaza this week.
Her friend Balsam Dahlan and the woman’s two children, Ward, five, and Saed, eight, were killed in a single attack while they were sleeping.
Another friend of Mustafa’s, journalist Salam Al-Masri, was killed along with her husband, Mohammed Al-Masri, and their three young children, Sham, Hani and Ali.
A cousin of her husband, who was days away from his 19th birthday, was also killed earlier this week.
“Believe me, all my life is now frozen. I’m just watching the news 24/7. I’m not enjoying my life at all. We can’t even eat food. Food has no taste for us,” Mustafa said
“We can’t play with our kids, we’re sad, we’re crying all the time.”
Many of Mustafa’s other friends have been injured in bombardments.
A video shared with her shows her friend and his son laying in hospital beds, the child wrapped in bandages for his burns.
In the video, the son tries to comfort his father, telling him to strong and that it will be OK, before his father kisses his forehead.
Local independent journalist Akram al Sattari said whole families were being killed in a single airstrike, while others were trapped under the rubble of their houses.
“Palestinians have been living under occupation for a very long time. They have been chronically impoverished and left with no choices whatsoever,” he said.
“I have little access to food and water that is depleting by the minute.”
An estimated 340,000 Gazans have been displaced since the conflict began, with about 218,600 sheltering in United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools.
Brothers Haytham and Hamza Dawoud, who live with cerebral palsy, are sheltering at a school with 13 other people in a single room.
“We saw hell last night. The house almost fell on our heads. All of Gaza is very dangerous,” they said.
“I want (Australians) to know that we need to live in peace and freedom as disabled brothers.”
Frustration with media coverage
Palestinian Australians have expressed their frustration during this conflict, saying there have been fewer media stories highlighting the personal impact and tragedy on innocent people living in Gaza.
A number of prominent Muslim groups have also condemned Australian politicians’ strong support of Israel and their statements describing Israel’s declaration of war as self-defence.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the situation required calm leadership.
“This is not a time for certain politicians to be seeking to play into the fear and division in the community, it is time for all of us to say we stand against all hatred, all prejudice,” she said.
“One of the great tragedies, apart from the horrific nature of Hamas’s activities … is they have pushed further away the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.”
Human Rights Watch says it has verified Israel’s use of white phosphorous in Gaza, which violates international law, while the Israeli Defence Force says it’s not aware of the use of the noxious substance.
White phosphorous is used as a smoke screen, but can cause severe burns and have long-term impacts on civilians.
Sultan said she felt scared and distressed for people in Gaza who were collectively being punished for Hamas’s violence.
“Are we just numbers and stats and data or are these human beings?” Sultan said.
“What we are seeing this time around is an unprecedented level of brutality by the Israeli Defence Force.”
Mustafa said her community felt the “Western World” sympathised with Israeli deaths more than those of Gazans.
“I hate to see anyone killed, any innocent people killed,” she said.
“We are all the same (but) we’re starting to question the equality and justice they promised us to have in this country.”