Nowhere to hide in Gaza as Israeli military continues to target civilians

Israeli Forces resume deployment of soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles near the Gaza border. (Photo/AA)

On a recent morning, Salma, a mother of three, woke up hoping to find work and get food for her children.

Her family had taken refuge in the Al Quds Hospital in Tel al-Hawa area of Gaza City after having been displaced seven times due to the Israeli military’s attacks in the different parts of the Palestinian enclave.

That morning loud explosions shook the floor and walls of the hospital. Her children woke up terrified.

“My children started crying and asking ‘Mother what is this loud bang’? I kept telling them these are just firecrackers and nothing to be worried about,” Salma told TRT World.

But kids are kids and the prodding did not stop there.

“Mother, are we going to die? My youngest one asked and I just hugged him and said no.”

The Israeli tanks surrounded the entire Tel al-Hawa area, including the hospital, until after Wadi Gaza, a strip of wetlands bisecting the enclave.

Everyone seeking refuge in the hospital was asked to evacuate by the Israeli army, which threatened to bomb the hospital.

“I grabbed whatever I could find and what was important like our documents and just took my children, who were still terrified and crying, and mother ready to leave the hospital,” Salma said.

“We went out with a number of people, including injured patients and made our way towards the south via Salah al-Din Road.”

Salma recalled that some panicked people forgot to wear their shoes or slippers, while elderly people struggled to get out quickly.

The children, the old, the women - everyone then started on a 14-kilometre-long journey on foot.

As Israeli ground, air and sea assault continues across Gaza, Palestinians in the southern city of Rafah, say they have been trapped in their homes for “endless” hours.

They were caught off guard when Israeli tanks, which had taken control along the border with Egypt, advanced towards the west and centre of the city, residents said.

Tanks were also stationed in the al-Izba district near the Mediterranean coast, while snipers had positions on rooftops.

Hilmi Hirez, 19, and his family fled Gaza City on November 11, 2023, to Rafah, 35 kilometeres away. They made the painful journey hoping to find safety.

Some members of his extended family were left behind. A week later their home in Gaza City was destroyed in an Israeli raid. Hirez lost 14 relatives in the attack.

There was no peace in Rafah either. After three months, one night the building next to where they were staying was hit by Israeli missiles.

“It was 2 am and I was in bed trying to sleep when I heard the huge blast and the building next to ours collapsed,” Hirez told TRT World.

“Then the second rocket hit and our building started shaking and my room was filled with smoke and dust, I could not see anything but got up and made my way to the next room where my parents and sisters were.”

Even at that moment, Hirez tried to get his family out of the building describing the situation as ‘catastrophic’.

And then a third rocket hit, razing their building into the ground. Hirez and his family were buried under the rubble. His mother was killed.

Hirez is now in Khan Younis where residents are sheltering in dire conditions.

“With Khan Younis witnessing a new wave of displaced people from Deir al-Balah and Nuseirat, the place is becoming almost uninhabitable. There are long lines to buy only one gallon of drinkable water,” Hirez told TRT World.

“Besides the living conditions, people are in constant fear of the Israeli army entering the city with tanks, bombardments and artillery shells.”

Last week, two Palestinians were killed and several wounded in western Rafah from tank shelling, Gaza health officials said.

In April, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documented incidents of the Israeli army repeatedly killing Palestinian civilians by deliberately running them over with military vehicles.

One incident involved the killing of Jamal Hamdi Hassan Ashour, 62, in Gaza City’s Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood on February 29.

Ashour, a father of five, was arrested and subjected to harsh interrogation. Israeli soldiers bound his hands with plastic zip-tie handcuffs before running him over with a military vehicle.

His body was crushed from the legs up. They then placed him on asphalt rather than a nearby sandy area to guarantee thorough crushing, the report said.

The victim’s mutilated body and the scene bore clear signs of a military bulldozer or tank being used to trample his body, according to the report.

Witnesses said Ashour was stripped to his underpants at the time of his death.

“Israeli army will attack an area with no regard for civilians or humanitarian aid workers. We are all equally caught in the crossfire. There is no safe zone,” Abdalwahab Hamad from the Palestinian NGO Juhoud for Community and Rural Development, told TRT World.

“Children in Rafah are currently enduring unimaginable hardship. Their lives are characterised by fear, displacement and constant struggle for basic survival, a constant struggle for safety and security.”

Hamad described the mental toll the Israeli ground raids and bombardments are taking on the youth will take years to recover from.

“Seeing their parents die in front of them, children witnessing dead bodies of their siblings and parents is not normal. It will take years for them to recover, maybe they will never recover.”

Israel continues to launch air, ground and sea assault in Gaza, as a new push for US President Joe Biden’s ceasefire and hostage release plan is underway.

The ceasefire would initially last six weeks, with the possibility of extension as negotiators work towards a permanent resolution to the conflict.

“You can hear the shelling and the bombing and also the destruction caused by it in Rafah the entire day and night,” Hirez told TRT World.

“They can come here (Khan Younis) again too. It is just a matter of time.”


Source: TRT