Bay Area man shares final phone call with cousin in Gaza: 'They are trying their best to live'

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Saturday, October 21, 2023
Bay Area man shares final phone call with cousin in Gaza
For Palestinian Americans, it's becoming increasingly harder to keep in touch with family members due to power shutoffs in the Gaza Strip.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- As the war rages on, Bay Area residents are trying to keep up with family members in Israel and in Gaza.

For Palestinian Americans, it's becoming increasingly harder because power is cut to all of the Gaza Strip. ABC7 News spoke to some locals who say they're trying to remain optimistic that their family members will stay alive.

"Right now, the people of Gaza have no spokespeople. They have no witnesses," said Rami Sultan. "It is a situation where you have to choose between what way you are going to die."

Sultan, a Santa Clara resident who works in hi-tech, is describing the conditions his family faces in Gaza. He recorded the last phone call he had with his cousin.

MORE: What is the Rafah border crossing, Gazans' last hope to escape the war?

"We can't find food to eat. We are sheltering in schools. Water is not available. And we don't have money," his cousin tells him.

Sultan says 500 of his family members had to walk almost 20 miles, fleeing Israeli airstrikes in northern Gaza, and taking refuge in U.N.-run schools.

"My cousin explained to me that is not safe. It is just somewhat less dangerous (than northern Gaza)," Sultan said. "They are trying their best to live. They are trying their best to live."

Sultan recorded the conversation to share his eyewitness account of what was happening on the ground -- and to serve as a family archive if his family didn't survive.

MORE: Family with US ties trapped in Gaza say they 'feel like bargaining chips'

"We don't have human rights. No one cares about us! It is all nonsense!" Sultan's cousin says on the call.

"My cousin conveyed that they had given up on human rights and the concepts of human rights, with respect to them being applied to their situation," Sultan said. "And what I want the world to know is that we are human. Our lives, my family's lives are just as valuable as Israeli lives."

"It is very important for us to remember our humanity. That this is not a political issue. And that this is a humanitarian issue," says Colette Ghunim, a filmmaker who lives in San Francisco.

Her first feature-length film, "Traces of Home" chronicles her Palestinian father's journey back to his childhood home of Safed -- in what is now Israel -- which he was forced to flee.

MORE: Palestinians struggle to evacuate northern Gaza amid growing Israeli warnings of ground offensive

"My father is definitely a refugee. He was removed in 1948 with 'The Catastrophe,' the Nakba. And our goal through the film was to have this return, to be able to go back, and find his original home," Ghunim said.

Her family is safe. But concerns are mainly around the deteriorating conditions on the ground in Gaza. As a filmmaker, she is, however, encouraged by the role of social media.

"To actually see what's happening through social media has been transformational. Also, having people (who) are not Palestinian, get to create their own opinions and to be informed of what is happening, really feels like it is shifting the narrative to understand what is actually transpiring," Ghunim said.

Because Israel cut power to the Gaza Strip, cell phones don't work can't be recharged. So, Sultan doesn't know how many of his family members are still alive. But he remains faithful.

"In our small strip of land that we live in, we won't give up. We show that we continue to resist, just by living," Sultan said.

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