Ibrahim Abdo struggles to answer when asked how he comforts his family in the Gaza Strip.
“How do you give hope to people that know they’re going to die? If not today, tomorrow?” the Sydney well-being consultant asks, almost rhetorically.
“My cousin sent me a video two days ago of her neighbour’s house being blown up and she literally said to me, word for word, that they wear their best clothes to bed every night, just in case, in the morning, when people find them, they’re ready to be buried in the clothes they’re in.”
The bodies of martyrs are not washed under Islamic law, but are buried directly in their clothes as a means of honouring them, and Abdo’s cousin is certain that fate awaits her and her family.
“So they wear their best clothes to bed, because they tell me, it’s not maybe we’re going to die, it’s when we’re going to die.”
“There’s an acceptance to it.”
Abdo, whose extended family live in Gaza, says much of his family have learnt to live with hopelessness and anxiety, as the strip comes under bombardment from the Israeli militaryagain.
In the worst escalation in violence in the territory since 2014, and amid bouts of intercommunal violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinian homeowners across the occupied territories, residents fear the worst.
Abdo has found the past few weeks difficult to stomach, as he’s watched from afar.
“I feel very disassociated and emotionally numb. There’s just so much happening over there that I can’t keep up emotionally, because its not just today and last week, and the week before, it’s been the last 15, 20, 30 years of my entire life.”
He said they’ve come to accept what they feel is an impending death.
“I think they’ve already grieved enough, but now there is no grief, there’s just surrender. Maybe it’s just surrendering to God, but I think it’s also an internal surrender, an acceptance of their fate and the role they feel they’ve played in the world.”
According to the health ministry, 103 people, including at least 27 children, have been killed in Gaza. Just on Thursday, 49 Palestinians were killed in the enclave. In Israel, seven people, including two children, have been killed.
People there live with a general sense of anxiety, 24 hours a day
The Israeli military has said that more than 1,700 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Monday, with most either falling in Gaza or being intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.
Sameeha Elwan, a Palestinian-Australian who lives in Perth, said her brother and parents were still in Gaza and she goes for days without hearing from some of them.
“I can’t really reach them by phone,” she told Guardian Australia. “If they find electricity, they only find two hours of electricity every day, they try to charge their phones.”
Elwan said it was “horrific” to see footage of bombs and air-strikes, because she knew what it was like.
“I moved here in 2013 … I have lived through this. I have lived through two wars before, the one in 2008 and 2009. To be seeing this, and reading the news, it’s quite close. I know exactly what it is like to be under constant bombing and shelling by the Israeli war planes. And to feel like you do not matter and your life is on the verge.
“All my family and my husband’s family are there. My brother, my parents, my in-laws. Everyone I know is there … I am helpless.”
Elwan’s brother lives near a large residential tower hit earlier this week.
“My brother just told me yesterday he was there when the tower was bombed and he was hit by shrapnel. It is nothing too serious. He is not dead or anything. It is just the fact that they are surrounded by death. There is no safe space to go to. There are no bomb shelters.
“There is a serious blackout of media. As well as an electricity blackout … The electricity plant, the main generator in Gaza needs fuel on a daily basis. That comes through an Israeli checkpoint.
“That means we have long periods in which we are not sure whether our families are OK or not.”
Noura Mansour, an educator, activist and political analyst based in Melbourne, said her family was living in a state of anxiety and fear.
“People there live with a general sense of anxiety, 24 hours a day. Especially when things like this happen, they know that they are targets.”
Mansour’s family live in Acre, a port city north-west of Tel Aviv, and she says they have heard mobs walking the streets of the town, inciting violence towards the Palestinians living there.
“My entire family is there, and the situation there is terrifying because they are hearing calls and chants for genocide, hearing things like ‘death to Arabs’, and there’s been attacks on Arab houses and Palestinians.”
There’s no easy way to process this conflict. It’s horrific
“Its quite horrifying this situation there and the settler violence is something that has been enabled by the Israeli government and police.”
Mansour, who’s direct and extended family all live across Palestinian territories, says she has struggled with being so far from them.
“There have been a couple of sleepless nights, it makes me extremely worried and concerned that Palestinians don’t have any protection whatsoever from the state.”
“I am very worried for them, I’m constantly texting them and trying to tell them to be careful and to stay safe. And being so far makes it harder, being here I need to constantly check and read the updates and make sure that they’re safe.”
“My whole life is there, not just my family, most of the people I know and grew up with are still based in Akke.”
But amid the sense of pessimism, Mansour said she still held out hope that there would one day be peace in the region.
“This isn’t something new, this is recurring, it’s not that we’ve just started to hear this, I grew up with it, it was something I was used to when I grew up in Akke.”
“We will make it happen, we will make sure we make it happen at some point, for the sake of our children.”
Ending the cycles of violence is something Australians with friends and family in Israel hope for too.
Liam Getreu, the executive director at the New Israel Fund Australia, lamented the escalation, saying it was difficult to be watching on from Australia.
“It’s very hard to process the deadly nature of the conflict, it’s hard to see my friends sheltering in bomb shelters and in stairwells in Tel Aviv, and it’s heartbreaking to see Palestinians killed in Gaza.”
Getreu said cycles of violence would continue endlessly if underlying issues were not resolved.
“There can’t be a military solution to the conflict. There can only be a diplomatic or political solution. More violence, more rockets, a deeper military incursion, won’t solve the crisis, it will only perpetuate it.”
Getreu says dialogue between communities was important, and that it was impossible to not be distressed watching the violence unfold.
“It’s impossible not to be distressed and saddened by what’s happening, this is a conflict that has been going on for so long, and always seems to come back with an even greater physical toll on Israelis and Palestinains.
“And it’s because the core issues of the conflict remain unresolved, and until we do, we’re going to continue seeing this cycle of violence.”
“There’s no easy way to process this conflict. It’s horrific.”