'See how we are dying': Gazans flee refugee camp as Israel orders evacuation to south

Israel's bombardment and ground assault has displaced some 1.9 million Gazans according to UN figures, over three-quarters of the population

By AFP

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Photos: AFP
Photos: AFP

Published: Sat 23 Dec 2023, 9:01 AM

Grabbing blankets and their meagre belongings, thousands of Palestinians fled from the centre of the Gaza Strip to the south Friday to escape what they said were relentless Israeli bombings.

Many had recently sought refuge in central Gaza's Bureij refugee camp in search of safety after having been uprooted several times since Israel's war with Hamas erupted on October 7.

Donkey carts creaked with their belongings as they passed through the streets. Families pushed babies in prams and led elderly relatives through the crowd, packing winter blankets for the road ahead.

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"This is not a life: no water, no food, nothing," said Walaa al-Medini, who had been injured in a strike on her home in Gaza City and uses a wheelchair.

"My daughter died in my lap, and I was rescued from under the rubble after three hours," she said. "Our house, along with everything around us, was destroyed."

She said she had not slept properly for 40 nights.

"My message to the world is for them to look at us, to see us, to see how we are dying. Why aren't they paying attention?".

An evacuation order issued Friday by the Israeli army told residents in the Bureij refugee camp to "leave immediately for their own security" and head towards Deir al-Balah city further south.

Israel's bombardment and ground assault has displaced some 1.9 million Gazans according to UN figures, over three-quarters of the population.

It has put most hospitals in the besieged territory out of action. Nine remain partly functioning, the World Health Organization says.

At Aqsa hospital in central Gaza, medical staff rushed to find space for patients streaming through the doors on stretchers from another refugee camp in Al-Maghazi.

In the packed hospital, they treated an injured boy on the floor. A baby screamed in a cradle on the ground, blood smeared across its tiny forehead.

The Gaza health ministry says more than 410 people had been killed in Israeli bombardment over 48 hours.

Parts of Gaza City have seen street-by-street combat between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.

The war began on October 7 when Hamas gunmen broke through Gaza's militarised border and killed around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Palestinian militants also abducted about 250 people during that attack.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, where 20,057 people have been killed so far, according to the latest death toll.

Most of the dead are women and children.

With swathes of Gaza reduced to rubble, the displaced have been forced into crowded shelters or tents, and are struggling to find food, fuel, water and medical supplies.

At the Bureij refugee camp, Salem Yussef planned to make the journey south to Rafah.

Displaced from Gaza City, he said he first took refuge at the Al-Shifa hospital, then spent a month and a half at the Nuseirat refugee camp in the centre of the besieged territory.

Israel has repeatedly told Palestinians to make their way to areas in the narrow Gaza Strip it says are safe, but strikes have continued to devastate these areas.

"They tell us it's safe, but there's no safe place," Yussef said.

He said he hoped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "stops the crimes and killing of innocent people and stops claiming to hit (Hamas armed wing Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades) locations when he can't even reach them.

"I also hope he stops the killing of children and the destruction of people's homes over their heads," he said.

"This is wrong. Everything that Netanyahu is doing is wrong."

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