Rafah (Gaza) (EFE).- Anas Baba
After more than 300 dead in 24 hours and amid extreme devastation, Gaza is experiencing the most significant internal displacement in its recent history: almost a million people fled between yesterday and today from their homes in the northern half of the enclave due to Israeli alerts and bombardments, and are taking refuge in the south in complete collapse.
In a few hours, Gaza’s coastal road and Salahedin Avenue, the main arteries that run through the Strip from north to south, were filled with hundreds of thousands of thousands of people heading towards the southern area after leaving everything behind and taking a few belongings with them, in great confusion and not knowing exactly where to go or where to find a roof over their heads.
It reminded many of the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948, when the creation of Israel led to their expulsion or flight from their homeland, in the so-called Nakba (catastrophe, in Arabic), an event that is deeply engraved in Palestinian memory and very present in a Strip where more than 70% of its 2.3 million inhabitants are refugees and feel that they are facing the abyss of suffering a new ethnic cleansing.
This is the view of Rana, a 25-year-old businesswoman who came with her family from her neighborhood of Shujaia in Gaza City to the southern city of Khan Younis. There are many displaced people like her, who sleep on the ground and feel she has become a refugee again like her grandparents were, she laments in a conversation with EFE.
Like Rana, many others – just like the EFE journalist who signs this piece – went south by car, others loaded onto trucks, and many on foot, following Israel’s order for civilians to evacuate all the towns in the north, including Gaza City, the enclave’s most populated city, with more than 600,000 inhabitants.
Among the displaced are the elderly, people with disabilities, children, and other vulnerable people, according to EFE.
Israel has wanted to leave empty of civilians the center-north of Gaza to continue with air strikes against the militias of the Islamist group Hamas in the harsh war that confronts them since the Palestinian movement made a surprise offensive a week ago against the Jewish State, which caused more than 1,300 deaths, mostly civilians, and at least 120 hostages captured.
Yesterday, despite Israel’s urging them to evacuate, claiming that they would be safe to the south, its fighter jets killed 70 people moving in three convoys, another massacre among the many in recent days, where there have been repeated images of dead people picked through the rubble of their destroyed homes.
Today alone, twenty people were killed in the attack on a residential building in the northern city of Jabalia, and two dozen more died in a similar bombing in the south-central town of Deir al-Balah.
There were also dozens of casualties in Beit Lahia and several in Nuseira, while the death toll is in the hundreds, and in 24 hours alone, there were at least 324, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Since the war broke out a week ago, at least 2,215 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, among them 724 children and 458 women, in addition to 8,714 wounded, to which must be added a humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s fierce indiscriminate attacks.
The Israeli government imposed a total siege on Gaza, which prevented access to food, fuel, electricity, or any supplies. Hospitals have no medicines or essential sanitary products, and many centers are sheltering displaced people, hoping not to be attacked.
Among others, the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City houses 35,000 people who fear an imminent Israeli ground operation.
Israel does not allow the entry of medical supplies or humanitarian material, including through the border with Egypt, where there are queues of trucks with supplies waiting for access, in a siege practice branded as collective punishment and possible war crime by human rights groups.
Drinking water is also becoming scarce because desalination plants and the water network have stopped working.
This means that “people are forced to use dirty water from wells.” Fuel is needed to bring the water supply back online because “otherwise people will start dying of dehydration,” the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, warned today.
“The situation is beyond horrifying,” Mukhaimar Abusada, a political science teacher who left his home with his family yesterday to head south, told EFE. So did Adam, an 18-year-old Palestinian boy, housed in crowded classrooms with his family at a UNRWA school in southern Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of people are crammed together, again frightened and helpless. EFE