Gazans have been uprooted time and again during the more than seven months of Israel’s invasion and bombardment. Facing the prospect of having to pack up and flee once more, some in Rafah are putting off leaving, at least for now.

More than 800,000 Palestinians have already fled the southern city of Rafah and its surrounding areas over the past three weeks as Israel presses a military offensive there, according to the United Nations. But many are holding on in what was once considered the safest place in the Gaza Strip, where more than a million had come to find shelter.

They are exhausted, hungry and know that the next place they flee to likely won’t be safe either. Israel has continued to bombard Gaza, even in areas previously designated as safe.

Israeli forces dropped leaflets ordering people to evacuate and launched a military offensive this month in the eastern part of Rafah, and they have been advancing yard-by-yard deeper into the city. The U.N.’s top court appears to have ordered Israel to stop its offensive, but Israel, so far, has signaled that it will continue.

Some in western Rafah are waiting to see what comes before getting out. Others have even fled and returned, having found neither safety nor the essentials of life elsewhere.

“The most despicable word I don’t like to say or hear is ‘displacement,’” 30-year-old Randa Naser Samoud, a math teacher from northern Gaza, said on Thursday as the Israeli military pushed toward the center of the city. “Evacuation means loss of value in life, so much suffering and pain.”

Along with her husband — a dentist — and their three children, Ms. Samoud has already been displaced four times. They are now living in a tent near a U.N. warehouse, and though their area has not received orders to evacuate, about three-quarters of the people around them have already fled.

As Ms. Samoud walked with one of her young sons on Thursday, she saw trucks on the street being loaded with the belongings of families preparing to flee.

“The topic of evacuation is not an easy thing to talk about or decide on,” she said. “I am always talking with my husband about the plans if needed but it’s still hard to decide.”

Her father suggested they move to a school building in one of the cities where many people had fled for shelter. But Ms. Samoud says that the schools-turned-shelters are not good options because of a lack of sanitation and garbage piling everywhere. She worries her children will get sick.

With each displacement, Gazans must start anew, as they often can’t take much with them. Transportation costs can be hundreds of dollars.

“The ultimate horrible thought on my mind is the moment that I have to escape my tent and leave everything I have collected or bought behind me,” she said, pointing to the clothes, dishes and food they have in their tent.

Ahlam Saeed Abu Riyala, 40, said that concerns about access to water have kept her and her family of eight in western Rafah after they were displaced four times.

For months, they have been living in a tent steps away from the Egyptian border — close enough to speak to the Egyptian soldiers on the other side. As Ms. Abu Riyala stood outside her tent speaking to a neighbor, a water truck nearby pumped out clean drinking water for the displaced people in the camp.

“We are now of two minds; I say we should evacuate Rafah before it is too late, but my husband says ‘no,’” she said. “But we cannot leave for many reasons, and water is the top priority.”

The sounds of Israel’s air and ground invasion keep them on edge. They can hear tanks and, at times, Israeli armed drones that play the message “security” in Arabic or the sound of dogs barking, she said.

Even if they choose to leave, the cost of such a trek might be beyond their means.

“Mentally, physically and financially, I’m exhausted and fed up with the word ‘evacuation,’” she said. “I hate my life and all of this suffering.”



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *