Palestinians ordered to evacuate Gaza City plead: 'Where do we go now?'

AFP , Ahram Online , Monday 8 Jul 2024

Riding donkey carts, bicycles, or on foot, thousands of Palestinians fled Gaza City on Monday after Israel issued a third evacuation order for the city, where Israel's onslaught continues unabated.

Gaza City
A Palestinian woman comforts a girl as they stand in the grounds of the badly damaged Latin Patriarchate Holy Family School after it was hit during Israeli military bombardment, in Gaza City on July 7, 2024. AFP


Civilians have now been ordered out of the majority of the Gaza Strip's largest city, where thousands of families had sought shelter from Israel's assault in other parts of the war-stricken territory.

"Where do we go now?" asked Abdullah Khammash, who described how he left his latest refuge at 03:00 am.

Backed by fighter jets and drone strikes, Israeli tanks entered the city centre as an army spokesman ordered residents of the Sabra, Rimal, Tal Al-Hawa and Al-Daraj districts to flee to alleged "humanitarian zones".

Gaza's civil defence agency said even before the latest evacuation warning that it had reports of "dozens" killed and wounded from different parts of the city.

The Israeli military ordered Gaza City's Al-Ahli Arab Hospital evacuated after "a large amount of firing from drones" nearby on Sunday, the Episcopal Church's Jerusalem Diocese said in a statement.

The hospital was "compelled to close" by the Israeli army and is now "out of operation," the Diocese said. It expressed "dismay" and said "sick and injured people have few other options" for treatment in the territory where, according to the United Nations, fewer than half the hospitals are even partly functional.

Israel's relentless bombardment and ground invasion have killed at least 38,193 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded 87,903 others, mostly women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.

Israel's siege of Gaza has brought the territory's 2.4 million Palestinians to the brink of famine, with almost half a million people facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

"Due to unreliable access and limited stocks, families often don't receive the full rations and frequency they need," said WFP in a post on X.

"WFP reached 1 million people. but that's not enough."

UN office targeted

The Israeli military has been operating for nearly two weeks in the Shujaiya district of the city where it issued an evacuation order on 27 June.

Loudspeakers on armoured vehicles toured the Al-Daraj and Al-Tuffah neighbourhoods telling people to leave.

Israel said the operation targets included the headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in Gaza City.

For Palestinian Muhammad Bisan, the Israeli assault meant "an indescribable night".

"Planes and artillery are bombing and drones are firing from all directions, and we do not know where to run, right or left," Bisan told AFP.

Another Palestinian, Khammash, expressed frustration that the Israeli military "tell us to leave this area and go to another area, and then they come from that area."

He said his family, "slept in the streets. People felt sorry for us and gave us blankets and here we are again living in the rubble."

With a plastic bag under his arm, he said: "God knows what will happen now. Just bury us alive and make this end."

Early last week Israel's army also placed districts near the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah under evacuation orders, which the United Nations said affected 250,000 people as fighting flared.

The UN and international aid organizations have repeatedly warned that there is no safe place in Gaza due to Israel's indiscriminate bombing of the strip.

"People in Gaza are people. They are not pieces on a checkerboard -- many have already been displaced several times," wrote Thomas White, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, on social media just two months into Israel's war on the territory.

"The Israeli army just orders people to move into areas where there are ongoing air strikes. No place is safe, nowhere to go," he stressed.

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