The Electronic Intifada by Ruwaida Amer
The idea that some places in Gaza are safe is a lie.
This is a dangerous lie because it forced people to leave their homes.
More than 1.8 million people are now displaced. They are all fleeing death.
Parents try to save their children from the horror of incessant bombings. People are clinging to the small hope that remains that the war will end soon.
In Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, fears deepened after Israel began its ground invasion and intensified its bombardment of the town. We had hoped that the brief truce at the end of November would be extended.
Then the war suddenly resumed.
The bombardment of Khan Younis was particularly intense after the truce.
There were martyrs everywhere.
There was the smell of missiles in the air.
The sound of ambulances did not stop.
It was as if the city had suddenly caught fire.
The Israeli army began ordering residents of the eastern area to leave their homes.
This meant going to schools and hospitals that were already full. Some people couldn’t find a place to stay and are now on the streets.
At the start of the war, Khan Younis was considered a safe zone by Israel. Today, all the residents are living a nightmare from which they cannot escape.
“At the start of the truce, we felt we could breathe a little and sleep without hearing the noise of warplanes and drones,” said Maryam al-Sayed from al-Qarara, east of Khan Younis. “My three children were able to sleep and began to go out into the street without worry. But when the Israeli army began to threaten the town of Khan Younis after the truce, I was very afraid. On the morning of the first day after the truce, I felt like I was going to die at any moment. I hugged my children and we sat in a room. I heard the neighbors say that the army wanted us to leave our homes. I talked to my husband and he said, “Where are we going? We will sleep at home tonight and tomorrow morning we will look for another place.”
“It was a very difficult night,” she added. “The bombings around us did not stop for a moment. I heard the sound of clashes between the army and the Palestinian resistance. It looked like Israel was trying to enter the town of Khan Younis with tanks. I tried to reassure my children and distract them from the noise of the bombing until the long hours of the night passed. When the sun rose, my husband told me that he had found accommodation with one of his relatives west of Khan Younis and asked me to pack some things. We settled there and a few hours later we learned that the tanks had started approaching the town of Khan Younis”.
Orders to evacuate areas east of Khan Younis were followed by other orders. Days after the truce ended, Israel asked residents of downtown Khan Younis to leave their homes.
The inhabitants of Khan Younis had to carry on their shoulders the goods they had taken with them.
Schools and hospitals had to accommodate more displaced people. With clean water in extremely short supply, the risk of disease spreading has increased.
Residents of Hamad City, one of Gaza’s newest settlements, were also ordered to evacuate.
Israel followed its evacuation orders by bombing this area.
“I will never be able to forget the scene of the six towers destroyed and falling to the ground,” said Yasser Fares, who lived in Hamad City. “In the hours following the bombing, there were not many people left in the city. We all went out looking for a place to shelter.”
Some of his relatives went to al-Mawasi, an area west of Khan Younis. They set up a tent.
“If we do not die from the bombings, we will die from cold, hunger and thirst,” he declared. “There is no other form of shelter. Gaza cannot face such an ugly and violent war.”
Yasser Fares and his family are at a school run by the United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA). “The school hosts thousands of displaced people,” he said. “We cannot sleep or rest. But we are forced to accept this tragic situation. We will do everything to keep our children safe, even if no place is safe. The “safe south” has become our graveyard.”
Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.