Three days since the truce ended, the Israeli army announced that it had launched 10,000 airstrikes on Gaza since the beginning of the war. Total war continues, with the invader’s fiercest fight waged against life itself.
RAFAH — On the evening of the 57th day of the war, I was facing a situation that no one would envy.
A friend from Jordan called to tell me her brother and his children, who had been displaced from Gaza City to Rafah, were injured by a bombing in the Al-Geneina neighborhood in eastern Rafah, where I now live. She wanted to check on them. As soon as she mentioned her brother's name, I knew that he had been killed. I told her: “I will ask at the hospital, and will let you know.”
At that moment I stopped thinking. What would I say to her? It is not easy to be the one who tells a friend their loved one is dead.
The next day, the friend called back to say she’d found out her brother had been killed, and that his wife and children had been injured but were fine. She asked this time for help to search for her five-year-old nephew, who was missing and had not wound up at the hospital. After hours of searching, they found his body. He died too from the bombing.
Warplanes and explosions
Since the end of the temporary ceasefire, the Israeli army has carried out some of its fiercest attacks across Gaza. During the past three days, individual homes have been bombed, with two missiles dropped on each targeted home to be sure it was fully destroyed.
Among the attacks was the Israeli army’s bombing massacre in the Al-Geneina neighborhood Sunday, killing 15 Palestinians and some 100 others injured in an olive mill when rubble fell on them.
At dawn, Israeli warplanes bombed a nearby house where I was staying in Al-Geneina, causing a terrifying explosion that shook the neighborhood. The number of casualties was not clear since the house included large numbers of its owners and displaced people as well.
This is what is happening right now in Rafah, which the Israeli army had recently told the world was a humanitarian refuge. Indeed, much of the city of Khan Yunis was forced to flee to Rafah.
Palestinians fleeing battles between the Israeli army and Hamas from the city of Khan Yunis towards the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.
The south of Gaza, like the north
Israel had already forced the residents of Gaza City and locations to the north to evacuate under aerial bombardment. They were supposed to flee to the south of Gaza, under the pretext that the Israeli army would carry out a ground operation in Gaza’s north.
And yet, it is now continuously bombing the south of the strip, killing hundreds.
The Israeli army also dropped warning statements from the air, urging the residents of Khan Younis, as it is a dangerous combat zone, to flee to Rafah. The leaflets it dropped show the southern Gaza Strip divided into hundreds of quadrants, forcing residents to move from one place to another, almost without warning.
The scenes of people fleeing from Khan Yunis to Rafah are heartbreaking.
It has become clear that the leaflets and notices that talked about safe shelters are pure lies and mere propaganda, merely a response to the American request to protect civilians and a way to claim that the Israeli Defense Forces are operating in accordance with international law.
So many people fled from Khan Younis to Rafah. During this past weekend, I saw and spoke with many displaced people, and I received calls from friends to help them search for places to shelter. Already, many of the displaced people from Khan Younis had previously been displaced from Gaza City and the north.
The scenes of people fleeing from Khan Yunis to Rafah are heartbreaking. There are large numbers of displaced people, the majority of whom had been previously displaced from Gaza to Khan Younis.
They are fleeing again, the refuge is now a target.
Daily battles for survival
People gather in front of crowded shelters, such as the “Al-Quds Secondary School for Girls” in the center of Rafah, which published an announcement pointing people to Tal Al-Sultan, the Saudi neighborhood, due to its inability to accommodate additional displaced people.
This school center had been set up by the Education Directorate in Rafah and is not under the responsibility of UNRWA. It is only a place to stay without providing any assistance, though some charities provide the displaced with meals and water.
These are just a few snapshots of the daily battles for survival that Israel has created for so many innocent people in Gaza, while it has not accomplished any military or security objective. It is the utter disregard for the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Three weeks ago, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced a mechanism to distribute flour to Palestinian refugees and citizens and set dates for distribution based on the size of the family and the number of its members.
No tomb – and no cemetery – was found for his burial.
This is one more part of the daily struggle. People line up in long lines starting from the early hours of dawn to receive flour, and some of them spend long hours waiting amid scenes of misery, frustration, and anger.
What is happening is unprecedented in terms of attempts to subjugate and humiliate the Palestinian people, forced to battle for their survival while defending the national project, and the right to freedom and self-determination.
Amid the U.S. pressure to increase the amount of humanitarian aid reported by media outlets, Israel claims that it does not oppose increasing aid. But in fact, Israel allowed the entry of 150 aid trucks and only two fuel trucks on Saturday and Sunday – after the end of the truce - according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Palestinians set up tents near the Egyptian border after fleeing battles between the Israeli army and Hamas from the city of Khan Yunis towards the city of Rafah.
Enormous needs ahead of winter months
Humanitarian aid, for Israel and U.S. President Joe Biden as well, is not necessarily about meeting people’s needs, but rather to reduce starvation, thirst, and the spread of epidemics so that they are not transmitted to Israeli soldiers in their tanks that could prevent them from continuing the war of extermination.
Media advisor and spokesman for UNRWA, Adnan Abu Hasna, said that the needs are enormous, especially with the onset of winter, which requires the provision of clothing and blankets in large quantities, in addition to medicines and fuel. There are concerns about the spread of diseases, as intestinal diseases have spread fourfold, and skin diseases have also increased threefold, in addition to reports of the spread of hepatitis.
The aid that enters the Gaza Strip is a drop in the ocean of humanitarian needs, both before or after the temporary ceasefire.
A few days ago, a relative of mine, Abdul Khaleq, died from a severe heart attack. He was in his 50s, and his family live in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood, west of Rafah.
He was supposed to be buried in the Tal al-Sultan cemetery, but they told us that the cemetery was full. At the time of writing this article, no tomb – and no cemetery – was found for his burial.
Right now in Dubai, the climate summit (COP28) is discussing the future of the planet. Gaza, meanwhile, is no longer fit for life.
*Moustafa Ibrahim is a Palestinian rights activist.