Gaza soccer stadium is now a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians

AP , Ahram Online , Saturday 6 Jul 2024

Thousands of displaced Palestinians in northern Gaza have sought refuge in one of the territory’s largest soccer arenas, where families now scrape by with little food or water as they try to keep one step ahead of Israel's latest barbaric "military operation".

gaza stadium
This image from video shows children sitting amongst rubble in Yarmouk Sports Stadium Friday in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. AP


Their makeshift tents hug the shade below the stadium's seating, with clothes hanging in the July sun across the dusty, dried-up soccer field. Under the covered benches where players used to sit, Um Bashar bathes a toddler standing in a plastic tub. Lathering soap through the boy's hair, he wiggles and shivers as she pours the chilly water over his head, and he grips the plastic seats for balance.

They’ve been displaced multiple times fearing death at the hands of Israeli forces in their months long guersome genocidal war, she said, most recently from Israel’s renewed operations in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City.

“We woke up and found tanks in front of the door,” she says. “We didn't take anything with us, not a mattress, not a pillow, not any clothes, not a thing. Not even food.”

She fled with a group of 70 other people to Yarmouk Sports Stadium — a little under 2 miles (3 kilometers) northwest of Shijaiyah, which was heavily bombed by Israel and largely emptied early in the war. Many of the people who ended up in the stadium say they have nothing to return to.


This image from video shows a woman drying clothes, Friday, July 5, 2024 in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Yarmouk Sports Stadium, once Gaza's biggest soccer arena, is now sheltering thousands of displaced Palestinians who are scraping by with little food or water. AP


“We left our homes,” said one man, Hazem Abu Thoraya, “and all of our homes were bombed and burned, and all those around us were as well.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have remained in northern Gaza, even as Israeli troops have surrounded and largely isolated it. However, aid flows there have improved recently, and the UN said earlier this week that it is now able to meet people's basic needs in the north. Even as Israeli maintains a tight blockade on Gaza, it continues to shift the blame for the lack of aid on the UN. 


This image from video shows a boy sitting amongst rubble in Yarmouk Sports Stadium Friday, Gaza Strip. AP


Still, residents say the deprivation and insecurity are taking an ever-growing toll.

“There is no safe place. Safety is with God,” said a displaced woman, Um Ahmad. “Fear is now felt not only among the children, but also among the adults. ... We don't even feel safe walking in the street.”

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