From a city in central Gaza, where communication lines have been nearly eradicated, comes a voice message from a journalist.
An enormous explosion thuds in the background halfway through the audio.
He states, “The situation is very dangerous,” and notes that many people are unaware of what happened to their relatives over the course of the night.
The WhatsApp voice message, which was sent on Saturday from the Gaza city of Deir al-Balah, offered one of the few glimpses into what was going on in Gaza that day and how the people there were handling Israel’s stepped-up airstrikes and ground operations.
According to the internet monitoring organization NetBlocks, there was a “collapse in connectivity” within the enclave. People were unable to get in touch with friends, family, or even ambulances to transport the injured due to the blackout.
Sunday saw the territory’s return to connectivity. However, the majority of people in Gaza were inaccessible on Saturday; messages sent via WhatsApp showed a single grey checkmark, indicating that they were sent but not received. Phone calls ended up in answerphone messages.
In our most recent correspondence with a professor in Gaza on Friday, he informed us that he was too afraid to move south as instructed by the Israelis, fearing that his family would be targeted by an attack while traveling. He was unavailable to us on Saturday.
However, a tiny percentage of Gaza residents possess foreign SIM cards that are able to detect Israeli or Egyptian masts; on Saturday, the BBC was able to make limited contact with a few of these individuals.
That included the Deir al-Balah-based journalist, who described the environment as tense and perplexed.
Since they’re not getting news updates via messages, some people think nothing is happening. They are somewhat at ease,” he remarked.
“Others are so nervous because they lost [contact with] all their loved ones.”
The BBC managed to have a brief phone conversation with another journalist in Gaza City, located further north. The man, who wished to remain anonymous, called the bombing that occurred over night “brutal”.
He added, “We didn’t expect that we would see morning,” and that “streets, governmental buildings, open fields, and the beach” had all been heavily bombed.
Since Friday night, the precise number of injuries and fatalities is unknown. On Saturday, images and videos captured widespread devastation and locals attempting to rescue people from the rubble.
One picture is too graphic to display, but it shows a man carrying a toddler’s body.
In a different video that was uploaded to Instagram, people could be heard frantically calling for an ambulance as a seriously injured man was hurried out of a building.
Rather, they placed the man in a truck’s rear.
Photographer Shebab Younis, who uploaded the video, called the circumstances surrounding him “catastrophic” in a shaky voicemail.
“We have lost contact with people who have been targeted or injured,” he stated.
“The lack of internet and communication services has made things extremely difficult when houses are being bombarded. When bombs occur nearby, a great deal of medical facilities and public service buildings are adversely affected.”
Senior Israeli government advisor Mark Regev responded to a question about whether Israel had cut off communication in Gaza by telling the BBC on Saturday that it was “standard behaviour to disrupt the communications of your enemy,” drawing comparisons to actions taken by the US and the UK in earlier conflicts.
The civilian population was “in grave danger” as a result of the blackout, according to the UN.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk stated, “Ambulances and civil defense teams are no longer able to locate the injured, or the thousands of people estimated to be still under the rubble.”
Residents can no longer get up-to-date information about where they can get humanitarian aid or where they might be safer. Now, many journalists are unable to cover the story.”
Some Gazanos were able to communicate with the outside world once more on Sunday.
However, the majority of individuals present on Saturday were, as one of our contacts put it, “disconnected from the planet”.