UNRWA says 800,000 'forced to flee' Rafah since start of Israeli operation

AFP , Saturday 18 May 2024

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday that 800,000 people had been "forced to flee" Gaza's far-southern city of Rafah since Israel began military operations there this month.

Palestinian women and children flee Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip with some belongings on May 15, 2024. AFP


"Nearly half of the population of Rafah or 800,000 people are on the road having been forced to flee since the Israeli forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said in a post on social media site X.

"The claim that people in Gaza can move to 'safe' or 'humanitarian' zones is false ....Gaza does not have any safe zones," he said. "No place is safe. No one is safe."



Before launching its assault, Israel told hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sheltering in some eastern parts of the city to leave, describing its operation there as "limited".

Israel's closest ally the United States expressed firm objections to the expansion of operations in Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinian civilians were sheltering before the operation began.

On Saturday, Israeli air strikes and artillery shells pounded eastern parts of Rafah as warplanes criss-crossed above.

Lazzarini said people were fleeing to "the middle areas and Khan Younis including to destroyed buildings," without water supplies or adequate sanitation.

Al-Mawasi, a 14 square kilometre town on the coast, as well as the central city of Deir el- Balah, were "crammed" with recently displaced people, Lazzarini added.

"Every time, they are forced to leave behind the few belongings they have ....Every time, they have to start from scratch, all over again," he stressed, adding that "any further escalation in the fighting will only wreak more havoc on civilians."

According to UNRWA, more than 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million population have been displaced multiple times since the start of Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip on October 7.

About 70 percent of Gaza’s 439,000 homes and nearly half of its buildings have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli airstrikes and bombings.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza health officials.

Israel's siege has pushed more than half of the population to the brink of famine, with people in north Gaza already living under "famine-like conditions."

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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