Some besieged Gazans say they face ‘no future’ there, want to leave for good

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For the people of Gaza, there’s a common exhaustion that many express — exhausted by the war, of living in such dire conditions, by the death that surrounds them.

“We are tired of this living,” Muhammad Jawad Ibrahim Al-Barbari, a 46-year-old employee at Gaza International Airport, told ABC News in an interview last Friday, the day the week-long temporary cease-fire ended between Israel and Hamas.

Al-Barbari and his family had to leave their home in Al-Zahraa city in northern Gaza after it was bombed by the Israeli military. They moved south to Khan Yunis, and for the last six weeks have been living in a tent in a United Nations-run shelter.

He shares the tent with his other relatives, three families crammed in together. The conditions are bleak, he said. Al-Barbari said food and water are scarce, and his tent was even flooded with sewage.

To be honest, I am having a crisis,” he said.

He is not alone. The UN estimates there are now 1.9 million people displaced across Gaza, the equivalent to 86% of its population. Pictures on social media Thursday morning show crowds in the thousands gathered outside UN facilities, people queuing for hours to try and get some food.

Almost two months in, the Israel-Hamas war has left much of Gaza destroyed. At least 17,177 people have been killed and 46,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health. In Israel, at least 1,200 have been killed and 6,900 injured, with 138 Israeli hostages still in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli military is continuing its operations into Gaza, in retaliation for the Oct. 7 surprise terror attacks by Hamas, and is now focusing on its second largest city, Khan Yunis.

He is not alone. The UN estimates there are now 1.9 million people displaced across Gaza, the equivalent to 86% of its population. Pictures on social media Thursday morning show crowds in the thousands gathered outside UN facilities, people queuing for hours to try and get some food.

Almost two months in, the Israel-Hamas war has left much of Gaza destroyed. At least 17,177 people have been killed and 46,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health. In Israel, at least 1,200 have been killed and 6,900 injured, with 138 Israeli hostages still in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli military is continuing its operations into Gaza, in retaliation for the Oct. 7 surprise terror attacks by Hamas, and is now focusing on its second largest city, Khan Yunis.

Younes, like many Gazans, has moved several times since Israel retaliated against Hamas. He was distressed by the news that the Israeli military have now designated the city of Khan Yunis as a “dangerous combat zone,” dropping leaflets last Friday urging people to “evacuate immediately and go to the shelters in the Rafah area,” on the border with Egypt.

“Where will we go? We were in Gaza and were displaced to Al-Zahra city, and now we are here, more than this, where will we go?” Younes asked.

“People have nowhere to go,” Juliette Touma, director of communications at UNRWA, told ABC News Thursday. She said the Israelis have twice told the people of Gaza to move.

On Oct. 12, it announced evacuation orders from the north of Gaza to the south. Then on Friday, Dec. 1, after the temporary cease-fire ended, they warned people to move toward safe zones in Rafah and a small sandy area on the outskirts of the town of Al Mawasi.

“It’s less than a quarter of the whole of the Gaza strip,” Touma said.

The IDF leaflets dropped in the Khan Younis during the weekend that warned people to leave the area and a QR code map showed the zones designated as safe by the IDF.

“We want civilians not to be in the area where we are fighting,” Israeli Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus told ABC News Monday. “We want to focus our firepower on Hamas and Hamas only.”

The conditions at Al Mawasi are desperate, Nour Al-Swirki, 35, told ABC News Tuesday.

“I was displaced for the second time, and I did not cry this time, but rather I was silent in the face of the horror of war, its madness, its oppression, and the frightening scenes of displacement,” she said. “People walk unconsciously, no one knows their way, these streets are strange to us, empty streets.”

Al-Swirki, a mother of two from Khan Yunis, said daily life is a struggle.

“In order to survive, everyone is searching for water. They stand in lines carrying yellow [water containers] that can be identified in the hands of every displaced person,” Al-Swirki said. “They search for firewood but cannot find it. They are forced to uproot old trees, palm fronds, and lighting poles that are no longer needed due to the power outage.”

In and around Rafah, people are camping wherever they can, setting up shacks in parks, fields on the streets, Touma said.

“They have just pushed them towards Rafah. Our shelters there were already overcrowded. We just cannot take more. People were queuing for two to three hours to go to the toilet, sleeping on concrete floors without mattresses,” Touma said. “It’s an appalling situation. It has gone from a crisis to a catastrophe.”

And for some, the situation is so dire they have now decided to leave Gaza for good.

“When the war started, I thought it would last for several days and would stop, but it continued for several weeks in a row,” Fatima Suleiman, a 59-year-old from Gaza City, told ABC News. She has been staying for the last month and a half at her cousin’s house, along with fifty other relatives, hoping to return home.

“But rather, last week, when the war returned violently after a week-long cease-fire, we received leaflets from the Israeli army to evacuate our homes and search for a safe place. There is no safe place. It is difficult to move from one place to another. I wished to die at this moment,” she said, adding, “The Nakba was repeated for the second time in 2023.”

The Nakba, or catastrophe, is how Palestinians describe the forced displacement that came as the result of the 1948 war with Israel. As many as 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes as Israel laid claim to their land.

For many Gazans their displacement is a painful reminder of the past, with some refusing to leave their homes for fear they may never come back.

Suleiman said she has family in Germany who are trying to help her leave Gaza.

“They repeatedly asked me to agree to leave Gaza, even for a temporary period until the end of the war, but this is a difficult decision. I have to leave the rest of my brothers and their children here in Gaza. Either we leave or we all die together here.”

The decision is not so hard for Awad Abu Akar. This 32-year-old from Khan Yunis lost his wife and child after their home was bombed by the Israelis. He said he cannot wait to leave Gaza, forever.

“I am waiting for the war to end so I can travel outside Gaza, perhaps Egypt or Turkey, but I will never stay in Gaza,” he told ABC News.

“This difficult war made me lose my family … and we had dreams, and we were trying to build the future of our first child, but with a missile from the Israeli plane this dream ended,” he said.

He, too, compares what is happening in Gaza today to what happened in 1948.

“This is the migration and the catastrophe that our ancestors lived through and told us about. We will not blame our ancestors for immigrating and leaving the country,” Abu Akar said. “The fear they suffered from the Israeli army is what we are experiencing in this war, a suffering that will not stop and has not stopped.”

Alam Farhat, 37, who owned a café in Khan Yunis, has also decided to leave.

“There is no future for our children in a region full of conflict. This is why I decided to sell my house and the cafeteria and travel to Egypt to start a new life there. I love Gaza very much and my heart cries for what we are leaving there,” he told ABC News.”I cannot accept the idea of living here with my children. There is no safety and no life here.”

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