Palestinian refuges

Gazans flee fighting: “See how we are dying.”

Amidst the harrowing situation in the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians are making a perilous journey from the central region to the south, driven by the relentless Israeli bombings. Families, laden with meager belongings and winter blankets, had sought refuge in central Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp, only to face further displacement since the eruption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

The streets of Bureij witnessed a mass exodus, with donkey carts laden with belongings, families pushing prams with babies, and elderly members led through the crowded streets. Walaa Al-Medini, a wheelchair-bound survivor of a strike on her Gaza City home, spoke of the dire conditions: “This is not a life: no water, no food, nothing.” Recounting the loss of her daughter and the destruction of her home, she emphasized the urgent need for attention to their plight.

An evacuation order issued by the Israeli army on Friday instructed residents of the Bureij refugee camp to “leave immediately for their own security” and move towards Deir Al-Balah city in the south. The conflict has displaced approximately 1.9 million Gazans, constituting over three-quarters of the population, according to UN figures. The majority of hospitals in the besieged territory are incapacitated, leaving only a few partly functional, as reported by the World Health Organization.

Aqsa hospital in central Gaza struggled to accommodate an influx of patients from Al-Maghazi refugee camp. Medical staff worked tirelessly in overcrowded conditions, treating injured individuals on the floor, while a baby cried in a cradle with blood smeared across its tiny forehead.

The health ministry run by Hamas reported more than 410 casualties in the Israeli bombardment over 48 hours. Street-by-street combat between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters has engulfed parts of Gaza City. The conflict originated on October 7 when Hamas gunmen breached Gaza’s militarized border, resulting in the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, predominantly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures. Palestinian militants also abducted about 250 people during the attack.

In response, Israel initiated a relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza with the aim of destroying Hamas. The toll, according to the latest Hamas figures, stands at 20,057 people killed so far, with a significant number being women and children. Large portions of Gaza now lie in ruins, and the displaced population faces challenges in securing essentials such as food, fuel, water, and medical supplies.

Salem Yussef, displaced from Gaza City, voiced skepticism about designated safe areas, stating, “They tell us it’s safe, but there’s no safe place.” He expressed hope that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would halt the violence, decrying the killing of innocent civilians and the destruction of homes. Yussef concluded, “Everything that Netanyahu is doing is wrong.”

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