‘Freaks me out’: Americans say they are trapped in Gaza

(NEW YORK) — Terrified by constant bombings all around her and with food and water running out, American Maha Barakat said Sunday that her desperate attempts to flee Gaza have been met with frustration and confusion.

Barakat said U.S. State Department officials have contacted her twice, telling her they are doing all they can to get her and other U.S. citizens out of Gaza.

“They kept saying the opening will happen on short notice and this freaks me out,” Barakat said. “Like, what do you mean, short notice? There are hundreds of Americans here and it will take hours to get everyone out.”

Barakat said she couldn’t risk just getting into her car and driving to the southern border without some solid assurances that she would be allowed to cross.

“I only have enough fuel in my car for one trip,” Barakat said.

Retreating back to the Gaza neighborhood she has been residing in, Barakat said she is staying in a place with 50 other people, including children “who keep crying and screaming with every bomb.”

“We ran out of water. We ran out of cooking gas. Cars are running out of fuel,” Barakat said over a spotty WiFi connection, her voice fading in and out as she spoke to ABC News. “We hardly managed to secure drinking water enough for the night.”

The rocket attacks from Israel into Gaza have been relentless since the Hamas surprise attack on Israel.

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants began their onslaught with a barrage of thousands of rockets launched at Israel. The initial salvo of the multi-pronged and seemingly well-planned attack was followed by thousands of Hamas terrorists breaching numerous areas of the border fence and infiltrating Israeli towns and kibbutzim, indiscriminately gunning down civilians and soldiers.

The merciless Hamas fighters also attacked by storming beaches in motorboats and even swooped into Israeli neighborhoods on motorized paragliders, Israeli Defense Forces said.

The terrorists went door-to-door massacring entire families, Israeli officials said, killing children in front of their parents and parents in front of the children. They also took women, children and the elderly hostage, carrying at least 126 captives across the border into Gaza and threatening to kill them if the terrorist group’s demands were not met, Israeli officials said.

The death toll in Israel stands at more than 1,300, officials said. Another 3,227 people were injured in Israel. Among the dead are at least 30 American citizens, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Sunday.

An undetermined number of Americans were taken hostage, U.S. officials said.

The response from Israel has been swift and brutal, with eight straight days and counting of missile strikes on Gaza neighborhoods.

As of Sunday morning, at least 2,228 people have died in Gaza and more than 8,740 others have been injured since the retaliatory airstrikes by Israel began, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. At least 724 of the dead in Gaza are children and 458 are women, the health ministry said.

The sole power plant in Gaza was shut down last week when it ran out of fuel, leaving Gaza without electricity and without running water dependent on electrical pumps. Israel also cut off its electrical supplies to Gaza and because the border with Egypt has been closed, no supplies or fuel have been able to enter the Palestinian territory.

Israeli officials said that while it is not their intent to kill or harm civilians in Gaza, they have no choice, accusing Hamas of using civilians as human shields and hiding in miles of tunnels constructed under residential neighborhoods.

Sari Bashi, program director for Human Rights Watch, told ABC News Live on Sunday that the situation in Gaza is “about as bad as it can get.”

“People are being forced to drink brackish, untreated water because the price of bottled water has gone up beyond what most people can afford,” Bashi said. “Food is short, there is no electricity. Even emergency generators that hospitals have are running low on fuel, and supplies are dwindling.”

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Sunday advised U.S. citizens that if they safely can do so to move to southern Gaza toward Gaza Valley and Khan Younis.

“The military conflict between Israel and Hamas is ongoing, making identifying departure options for U.S. citizens complex,” embassy officials said in a statement. “We are working on potential options for departure from Gaza for U.S. citizens.”

Tala Herzallah, a Palestinian woman who has been sharing her horrific ordeal in Gaza with ABC News, said Khan Younis and Rafah near the Egypt border were both bombed by Israel Saturday night.

“They’re telling us to move there, and then they are bombing the houses there without warning people. So, please know that, and know that they’re not helping us,” Herzallah said, adding, “Things are getting worse day by day.”

Lena Beseiso, another American stuck in Gaza, told ABC News Sunday that she has now driven to the southern border twice within a week on the advice of the U.S. State Department only to be turned away.

“We waited until it was a bit after 6 p.m., and the border still closed,” Beseiso said of her last trip to the Rafah crossing on Saturday.

Beseiso said each journey to the border crossing is a white-knuckled drive.

“I had hope of we’d be safely back home, putting my life and (other) families’ lives at risk even more by leaving to the Egyptian crossing,” she said. “I’m not doing very well, disappointed with the false hope that we have been given in being able to leave.”

She added, “Our government has the power to demand the Egyptians to open the border. Why do they delay, keeping our lives in danger?”

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