Home News People leaving Rafah describe fear of fleeing Israeli attacks

People leaving Rafah describe fear of fleeing Israeli attacks


Manal al-Wakeel and her extended family of 30 thought they were going home.

Ms. Waqr, who was displaced from her home in Gaza City several months ago with relatives, began packing her belongings on Monday to dismantle her tent in Rafah, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas announced it had accepted a ceasefire offer from Qatar and Egypt, leading many Gazans to believe a ceasefire was imminent. Their joy is short-lived. It soon became clear that Hamas was not talking about the same proposal that Israel had approved days earlier, and Israel said the two sides remained deeply divided.

Instead, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets east of Rafah telling people to flee and move to what Israel calls humanitarian zone to the north as Israeli forces bombarded the area. Gaza health officials say dozens of people have died since Israel invaded parts of Rafah this week.

“We thought a ceasefire was possible that day,” said Ms. Alwakr, 48, who helped prepare hot meals at the aid group World Central Kitchen.

She and her family have been sheltering near the Abu Yusuf al-Najjar hospital in an area hit by Israeli airstrikes and ground fighting. The hospital’s director, Dr. Marwan Hames, said on Monday that the hospital had received the bodies of 26 people killed by Israeli fire and treated 50 injured. The hospital was evacuated the next day.

So instead of returning home on Tuesday night, Ms. al-Wakeel, her husband, her 11 children and other relatives found a semi-truck that could transport them and their belongings, including handbags filled with clothes. boxes, pots, pans and tents worth $2,500 shekels – about $670 – to find another place to stay.

They left Rafah around midnight and headed north along with hundreds of tuk-tuks, trucks, cars and donkey carts packed with other displaced families and their belongings.

“It was a terrible night and the truck was moving slowly because it was so heavily loaded,” she said.

After leaving Rafah, they often stopped at schools and other buildings, desperately searching for any open space where they could take shelter. But every place was packed with people.

Others were unable to find a place, and Ms. Wacker saw many people sleeping on the roadside next to the belongings they had fled with.

At a United Nations school in Deir al-Balah, a young man suggested they live in an empty concrete building with no doors or windows belonging to the Hamas-led government’s Ministry of Social Development.

“It seemed like a dangerous place,” she said, adding that they had been told that a woman and her daughter had previously been killed by an Israeli missile in a room in the building.

But they did not dare to wander any further in the darkness and decided to spend the night there and look for a safer place the next morning.

“I’m very sad and disappointed about what happened in Rafah because our situation there is stable,” she said. “We spent a lot of time trying to find new places for ourselves again, and we became frustrated and exhausted from repeating the same pain.”

Within a month of Saeda al-Nemnem, 42, giving birth to twins, Israel dropped leaflets on their shelter in Rafah ordering them to leave. Her family, also displaced from Gaza City, sent a relative to find a truck that could transport them north, despite heavy Israeli air strikes at the time.

The relative, Mohammed Jojo, was killed when Israel attacked the tractor he was riding in, she said.

She said he was “killed while taking us out of the area to a safer place”. “I feel like I caused his death.”

As dangerous as it is to hit the road, it’s not safe to stay in Rafah.

During the horrific journey to the city of Khan Younis, she said she and her family of eight found shelter in a room attached to Al-Aqsa University’s main building where they could hear the explosions of Israeli bombs, missiles and artillery Voice.

“My kids’ hearts were beating so fast, I could feel them,” she said. She said it was the most intense bombing she had ever heard, “so close and so scary for me and my children.”

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