Palestinians Fleeing To Gaza's South Find Promises Of Safety Are A Deadly Lie
Residents of Gaza City and other northern localities are discovering that the occupation’s order to evacuate the north is not a guarantee of the lives, but a form of psychological warfare intended to displace them.
RAFAH — The Badawi family arrived at Mahmoud Barhoum’s house in the Palestinian city of Rafah on Saturday after deciding to move from their house in the northern half of Gaza to the south to escape Israel’s pummeling bombing campaign on civilian homes.
But the supposed safety of the south was an illusion. Hours after the family arrived at the Barhoum home, the house was hit by an Israeli airstrike. Fourteen people were killed in the blast, including Mahmoud’s wife and daughter. The other 12 were all members of the Badawi family.
“The family that was supposed to take shelter in my house was killed. Only a little girl, eight years old, survived this massacre,” Barhoum tells Mada Masr.
What happened to the Badawi family was not an isolated incident. According to testimonies that Mada Masr collected from Gaza, occupation forces have killed dozens of Palestinians who were attempting to reach the south of Gaza — a displacement directive that Israel issued to nearly 1.1 million people living in the northern half of the strip last week — or moving within the southern half of Gaza.
“People like the [Badawi family] heard the occupation say, ‘Go to the south for safety.’ Well, where is the safety?” Barhoum asks.
Barhoum believes that the occupation’s order to evacuate the north is a form of psychological warfare intended to displace people. “There is no safe place in Gaza,” he continues, “but people disregard this fact out of fear.”
Nonetheless, people need to move once their homes are bombed.
Mada Masr spoke to a range of Palestinians in Gaza and it is clear that a significant number of people have already been displaced from the north of Gaza to the south in the past few days.
Those who were fortunate enough to find shelter are now concentrated in United Nations-run schools and in hospitals or are staying with relatives. However, a significant number of Palestinians have been forced to sleep in the streets and in public places due to the lack of habitable spaces.
The UN estimated that the number of displaced people in Gaza is approaching almost half of Gaza’s 2.2 million-person population since the escalation began on October 7.
"We have no money left."
These people are living in tragic conditions, with no access to water, electricity, or food. The organizations providing rapid relief to the displaced, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) have announced that they are no longer able to provide proper support and can only open the doors of their schools to the displaced in different areas of Gaza.
Om Younis, who was displaced from her home east of Jabalia camp to her family’s home near a UNRWA school in the camp, says, “We can barely provide bread and water for the children. We have no money left. They have destroyed everything, the banks, the post offices. There is complete paralysis.” Om Younis also points out that she is unable to take medication for her chronic illnesses due to the lack of water in the houses. “The blood pressure medication requires one to use the toilet frequently. Well, what if there is no water and there are more than 30 people in the house?” she says.
16 October 2023, Palestinian Territory: Palestinians walk past the remains of buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on Khan Yunis.
To address the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by the occupation’s indiscriminate bombing, calls have spread on social media for the residents of the south to accommodate the displaced coming from northern areas.
Mahdi Zaarab, who lives in the Rafah area, has answered those calls and is preparing to accommodate five families from the northern Gaza Strip. He tells Mada Masr that his friends’ families have already been displaced to at least six places inside the Gaza Strip, and now they are preparing to move toward the south. He points out that the families are wary of the road to the south and of being targeted during their journey.
The road from northern Gaza to the south takes about an hour by car. However, the perception of time is different under bombardment. “The families that arrived said the fear of being bombed on the road made them feel like the journey took a whole day,” Zaarab says.
Last Friday, the moment when the occupation forces bombed a convoy of displaced Palestinians who were making their way from northern to southern Gaza was captured on camera. Seventy Palestinians were killed and 200 others were injured in the strike.
Despite the carnage and abject conditions, Palestinians are defiantly resisting displacement.
October 18, 2023, Gaza Strip: Palestinians inspect a destroyed buildings following the Israeli airstrikes.
A mass return
In response to Israeli officials’ constant refrains that Palestinians in Gaza should leave to Sinai, Zaraab says, “I haven’t seen anyone close to the Egyptian border. Moreover, people are fundamentally opposed to this idea. No sane person would think of getting close to the border. Everyone is heading to the south and no farther than that.”
So far, Egypt, Israel and the United States have not agreed to open the Rafah border crossing for the entry of humanitarian aid after it was closed following its shelling on October 9. Egypt has conditioned the exit of those holding foreign passports through the crossing on the entrance of aid.
The number of deaths and injuries will increase significantly due to the extensive and unprecedented shelling.
In fact, rather than move southward, many people who lived in north Gaza have begun organizing a mass return northward in defiance of the Israeli displacement plan. However, it is unclear whether the displaced people will eventually be able to return, especially with the difficulty of movement in public streets and people’s fear of being targeted by the occupation army while moving. Others have demonstrated in Hoga Street in northern Gaza to protest displacement.
Since the escalation began on October 7 until the morning of October 18, the number of deaths in Gaza has risen to over 3,478 and the number of injuries to 12,065, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza. Medical sources estimate that the number of deaths and injuries will increase significantly due to the extensive and unprecedented shelling by the occupation army against Gaza and the inability to rescue the victims from under the rubble.
- Israel's Ground War In Gaza Would Be A Brutal Race Against Time ›
- Will Israel Strike Iran As Revenge For Hamas Support? ›
- The Hamas-Israel War: What We Already Know Has Changed Forever ›