As Israel steps up airstrikes on Gaza, evacuees say nowhere is safe | ET REALITY


Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who heeded the Israeli military’s order to evacuate parts of the Gaza Strip face deadly airstrikes from Israeli warplanes even after they have moved. And a grim question loomed over the enclave Tuesday: Was there anywhere safe to go?

Last week, after the deadly October 7 cross-border attacks by Hamas, Israel ordered all residents of northern Gaza (about 1.1 million people) to leave their homes ahead of an expected ground invasion of the strip and headed south. Hundreds of thousands obeyed and left by car, motorcycle and even on foot.

But on Tuesday, Israel said it had stepped up its bombing of the southern Gaza cities of Khan Younis and Rafah, just as residential buildings there were swelling with new arrivals and as food, water, medicines and other supplies.

Asked why Israel continued to attack in southern Gaza after ordering people to evacuate there, Maj. Nir Dinar, an Israeli military spokesman, said Israel was seeking to avoid civilian casualties but that Hamas members were hiding among civilians. from Gaza. He added that southern Gaza was relatively safer than the north, but not entirely safe.

Some Palestinians who fled the north said they were considering returning to their homes as attacks in the south intensify. The north has been under incessant shelling by Israel for the past 10 days.

“There is constant shelling, even in these areas that they say are safe, but there are no safe places in Gaza anymore,” said Mohammad Ayoub, 57, who had fled with his family from Beit Hanoun with only a few personal belongings.

“Today is worse than all the previous bad days,” said Dr. Mohamed Zaqout, general director of Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. He said his hospital had received 42 bodies from Tuesday’s attacks; 26 of them remained unidentified in the morgue hours later. Among the dead were 10 women and 15 children, he said.

An attack also hit the Ahly Arab hospital in Gaza City, killing at least 500 Palestinians, according to a Palestinian Health Ministry spokeswoman. Many civilians took refuge in the hospital, better known as Al-Ma’amadani.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the hospitals were not Israeli military targets. “The IDF is investigating the origin of the explosion and, as always, prioritizes accuracy and reliability,” the Israeli military said in a statement. “We urge everyone to proceed with caution.”

Everywhere one looked in Khan Younis, there was a sense of a city on the brink of disaster. People slept in the streets. There were long queues in front of water tanks, bakeries and market stalls, and fights broke out over the last remaining loaves of bread and tomatoes. Some people were building ovens with sand and earth to bake bread in the traditional way and save their families from hunger.

Everyone is “just trying to survive,” Yousef Hammash, advocacy officer for the Norwegian Refugee Council, an aid group, said in a voice message from Khan Younis. Mr. Hammash is among those displaced from the northern part of Gaza.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel’s evacuation order, combined with the imposition of a “complete siege” on Gaza, could amount to a forcible transfer of civilians, which which is illegal according to international law.

Some people were staying in UN schools converted into shelters, but most were housed by their families in overcrowded homes or simply sleeping rough.

Rami Abu Moleg, 43, a taxi driver who lives in the southern city of Deir Al Balah, said his family of five was struggling to find bread and water, all while hosting six members of his cousin’s family who had fled Gaza City in the north. . He described regular shelling in the area, with at least six explosions since early Tuesday.

The house has been without electricity for four days. The two families were huddled in the same room where the windows had been removed to prevent them from breaking during the air raids. Two days earlier, Abu Moleg said, a house near his was attacked, killing three children and their mother.

“If we die, we prefer to die together,” he said of himself and his family.

Hospitals in southern Gaza are increasingly stretched to their limit. At Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the intensive care unit is full and there are no beds available for patients who have suffered amputations or need surgery for brain injuries and severe burns suffered in the latest attacks, according to staff.

Chest tubes (which must be discarded after a single use) are running out, so doctors are sterilizing them and using them over and over again.

The World Health Organization, which has staff in southern Gaza, said on Tuesday that hospitals were facing “a severe shortage of medical supplies and equipment” and “a looming water and sanitation crisis.”

The limited water supply is immediately putting the lives of more than 3,500 patients at 35 hospitals in the strip at risk, the agency added.

Basil al-Weheidi, a retired official with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, left his home in Gaza City for Deir al-Balah with his wife, children and his family to comply with the Israeli evacuation order. . But in the south they feel little safer, he said.

“There was a lot of bombing in our neighborhood around us; and there are still bombings around us; she feels close to him,” al-Weheidi said over the phone as he charged her phone in his car.

“I can’t tell you exactly where it is, though: we don’t have internet. “We are in the middle of all this and we have no idea what is happening.”

Abu Bakr Bashir and Hiba Yazbek contributed with reports.

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