Publish dateSunday 3 December 2023 - 15:21
Story Code : 281506
Airstrikes leave no safe place for Palestinians in southern Gaza
A health crisis is looming as residents fleeing the north are crowded into a small area that lacks basic services.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA) - Monitoring: Mounds of rubbish now dot the landscape of southern Gaza, sprouting in the areas where the enclave’s population has clustered in search of safety from Israeli airstrikes.
Israel has repeatedly warned residents of northern Gaza to move south, forcing the population into an even smaller living space, where food and water shortages have combined with a breakdown of services, including rubbish collection that threatens a health crisis.
Evacuees have had to deal with these living conditions while still facing danger. Air wars, which monitors harm to civilians, said last week that it had documented reports of 127 incidents involving explosive weapons within the “safe zone” in the first week after Israel’s warning on October 14.
Lena, an employee of the American NGO Mercy Corps, who did not wish to be identified, said a bakery in the town of al-Nuseirat was bombed only two days after her family moved there from Gaza City.
“It was midnight when they bombed the bakery and the workers inside it. We woke up to the sound of very loud bombardments and the workers who were still alive were screaming from the burning, and their voices were very loud,” said Lena. “We cried a lot that day, and I didn’t know that it would be the last time I could cry in this way because every day was a new horror. The next day, they bombed a market in the same street.”
The attacks forced the family to return to their home in the north, which they found had been half-destroyed, but they had to leave again when bombing intensified in their neighborhood, having to walk south through the corridor created after Israel’s ground invasion.
“I saw death as I walked through this ‘safe’ corridor more than ever before. I wished I would die at that moment and not smell the scent of blood, not see the body parts, not see death everywhere in my homeland,” said Lena. “I wish I had never left my home, instead of living in this ‘false safety’ they sent us to. In my opinion, the goal of this truce is to force those who remain in the north to leave and prevent anyone from returning there.”
With 1.8 million people displaced in Gaza, the UN has repeatedly warned of a health crisis caused by the lack of basic services for them. The World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week there had been more than 100,000 cases of respiratory infections and almost 80,000 cases of diarrhoea.
Most of the displaced are staying in UN facilities or schools, while others have crowded into the homes of relatives in order to be together.
Dina Safi, who moved to al-Nuseirat from Gaza City early in the war, said life in the south was a struggle, with little access to food or water. She said 11 of her family members were sick at one point from drinking polluted water.
“Rubbish and rubble is everywhere. The smell of rubbish is everywhere, it’s intolerable,” she said. “It’s spreading. Where there is any empty space between houses, the rubbish is moved there and it’s especially bad near evacuation shelters and schools.”
For her family safety has also become an issue. Her brother-in-law was left buried under the rubble in an airstrike on his mother’s home that killed most of its inhabitants, including Safi’s eight-year-old nephew Waseem. Soon afterwards, an explosion shattered the windows of the house she was staying in.
Since the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas ended, there has been concern about whether fighting will increase in the south of Gaza. The fear was heightened after Israel dropped leaflets on the city of Khan Younis, warning residents to leave as it had become a “dangerous combat zone”.
The leaflet included a QR code, which when scanned directed people to a map produced by the Israeli military that divided Gaza into numerically-labelled blocks. It told Gaza residents to note the block they lived in and watch for mention of it in future messaging and the media.
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said there was no safe place for Gaza’s population.
“Israeli authorities have pounded the Gaza Strip over the course of nearly two months. They have hit schools, they have hit UN facilities, hospitals, and refugee camps. They’ve done so throughout the Gaza Strip even outside the evacuation zone. Israeli officials have already clearly indicated they intend to intensify strikes on the south of Gaza, where they had ordered the population to evacuate to in October,” he said.
“The [safe] space is entirely evaporated. Whether families in Gaza live or die has become a pure product of chance, or luck. That’s the scale of killings that we’ve seen take place and certainly intensifying the bombing in the south.”/Guardian
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