A Palestinian refugee-turned-Nasa engineer has spoken about the heart-rending humanitarian situation being endured by Gaza residents, including his own parents, who are stuck in the densely populated enclave currently under complete siege by Israeli forces.
Loay El-Basyouni, lead electrical engineer on Nasa’s Ingenuity helicopter that flew on Mars, told The National he lost touch with his parents on Saturday and is worried for their safety.
Surgeon Mohammed El-Basyouni, 75, and his wife Alia, 68, both German citizens, were visiting Gaza to meet family members and were supposed to return to Germany next month.
“They are trapped there without food, water, power or food. I cannot reach them as there is no internet,” said Mr El-Basyouni who grew up in the village of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza before moving to the US to pursue engineering.
“I last spoke to them on Saturday and they said they are alive."
'Water used as weapon'
Israel has cut off water and electricity to the 2 million Gazans ahead of a significant “land, air and sea attack” as the 24-hour time limit allowed for residents to move to the south expired on Saturday evening.
“It's very sad when water is used as a weapon, leaving people like my parents without it. This cruel tactic involves controlling water access for political or military reasons, and it goes against international laws,” he wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday after losing contact with his parents.
“I got hold of the German Foreign Ministry, they said they cannot evacuate anyone to this point. Their names are not on the list."
After Israel ordered 1.1 million Gazans living in the north to move to south, Mr El-Basyouni’s parents moved from their family house in Beit Hanoun to Gaza city but they were again asked to evacuate because of the bombings.
“My father cannot walk for long distance because of back surgery last summer,” he said.
“In the face of these challenges, my parents have made the difficult decision to stay. They believe that dying with honour in their home is better than risking their lives on the perilous roads."
He said his parents, along with 70 others, have taken refugee in his father’s old clinic in Gaza. “Tragically, 10 of them left after receiving the evacuation order and were hit by Israeli bombing. It's a dire situation.”
Mr El-Basyouni said he was supposed to travel to Gaza on Sunday – for the first time in more than 20 years – but called off the trip due to the war.
“I was so looking forward to go back home where I grew up. It is a beautiful place and everyone told me that it is safe to go. But now everything has changed.
“It is sad to see governments and individuals encouraging violence instead of stopping it.
“This whole thing looks ridiculous to me. When I look at a picture of Earth from space, I wouldn’t see Palestine, nor would I see Israel. There are no borders to separate people. There is just one Earth.”