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Gazans being bombarded in south say there's nowhere to go

Published 12/02/2023, 09:23 AM
Updated 12/02/2023, 02:11 PM
© Reuters. Displaced Palestinians stay outside their tent where they take shelter, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip December 2, 2023. REUTERS/Saleh Salem

By Arafat Barbakh and Nidal al-Mughrabi

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza (Reuters) -Under aerial bombardment from Israel, people sheltering in the south of the Gaza Strip after fleeing their homes earlier in the war said on Saturday they had nowhere safe to go now.

The city of Khan Younis is the focus of Israeli air strikes and artillery fire in a new phase of the war after fighting resumed on Friday following the collapse of a week-long truce. Its population has swelled in recent weeks as several hundred thousand people from the northern Gaza Strip have fled south.

Some are camping in tents, others in schools, while some are sleeping in stairwells or outside the few hospitals operating in the city. A World Health Organisation official said on Friday that one of the hospitals was "like a horror movie" as hundreds of wounded children and adults waited for treatment.

Abu Wael Nasrallah, 80, scoffed at the Israeli army's latest order to move further south to Rafah, bordering Egypt. Children were injured in Israeli strikes in the town on Friday.

The message was delivered via leaflets dropped from the sky over several districts in Khan Younis.

"This is nonsense," Nasrallah told Reuters. He had heeded Israeli evacuation orders and moved from the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the war that broke out on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants crossed into Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Some 193 Palestinians had been killed since the truce expired, the Gaza health ministry said on Saturday, adding to the death toll of more than 15,000 Gazans announced by Palestinian health authorities.

Israel says it is making efforts to minimise civilian harm as the fighting moves south.

The United States insisted to Israel this past week that it make clear plans to limit civilian casualties in its southern offensive, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government did not give clear assurances on this, a senior U.S. official said on Friday as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a trip to the region.

A senior adviser to Netanyahu told journalists on Saturday that Israel had informed humanitarian groups of the "safer areas". Mark Regev said Israel had not asked the entire population of southern Gaza to leave. "But those neighbourhoods, those specific areas where we know there is going to be heavy combat, we've asked people there to relocate."

'NIGHT OF HORROR'

Nasrallah said he and his family would stay put because they had already lost everything.

"There is nothing left to fear. Our homes are gone, our property is gone, our money is gone, our sons have been killed, some are handicapped. What is left to cry for?"

A mother of four, who gave her name as Samira, said she had fled south from Gaza City with her children after Israel began bombing there last month. They now shelter with friends in a home west of Khan Younis.

She said Friday night had been one of the most terrifying since she arrived: "A night of horror."

She and other residents said they feared the intensity of the bombing in Khan Younis and the nearby city of Deir al-Balah meant Israel's ground invasion of the south was imminent.

Another man, who gave his name as Yamen, said he and his wife and six children had fled the north weeks ago and were sleeping in a school.

"Where to after Deir al Abalah, after Khan Younis?" he said. "I don't know where to take my family."

© Reuters. Displaced Palestinians stay outside their tent where they take shelter, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip December 2, 2023. REUTERS/Saleh Salem

The U.N. estimates that up to 1.8 million people in the Gaza Strip - or nearly 80% of the population - have been forced to flee during Israel's devastating bombing campaign.

Israel has sworn to annihilate Gaza-based Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 attack.

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