Monday, June 24, 2024

UN says 800k ‘forced to flee’ Gaza’s Rafah

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees announced that 800,000 people had been "forced to flee" Gaza's far-southern city of Rafah since Israel intensified bombing the city this month.

“Nearly half of the population of Rafah or 800,000 people are on the road having been forced to flee since the Israeli forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May”, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said in a post on social media site X.

“Every time, they are forced to leave behind the few belongings they have: mattresses, tents, cooking utensils and basic supplies that they cannot carry or pay to transport. Every time, they have to start from scratch, all over again,” he continued in a lengthy thread.

“The claim that people in Gaza can move to ‘safe’ or ‘humanitarian’ zones is false. Each time, it puts the lives of civilians at serious risk. Gaza does not have any safe zones,” he added.

“No place is safe. No one is safe.”

Saturday saw intense fighting across Gaza – not just in Rafah – with Israeli attacks killing dozens of Palestinians.

Israel has faced international warnings, including by its top ally the United States, against invading Rafah. But the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be ignoring those calls and proceeding with the assault.

Last week, Israeli forces seized the Rafah crossing that links Gaza to Egypt. The gate, which had served as a major artery for life-saving aid and an entry and exit point for humanitarian workers, has been closed since May 7.

The closure of the Rafah crossing has trapped thousands of sick and injured Palestinians who may have had a chance to leave Gaza to receive treatment abroad.

Before the assault began, Rafah was home to 1.5 million people, most of whom had been displaced from other parts of Gaza.

Throughout the war, Israel has ordered Palestinian civilians in Gaza to move south as it invaded the territory from the north.

Many residents were first displaced to the middle part of the enclave and then moved to the southern city of Khan Younis. They were ultimately forced to flee again to Rafah. Now people from Rafah are fleeing northward.

Netanyahu has portrayed Rafah as the last Hamas stronghold in the territory. But as the Israeli army invades the city, fighting is raging in Jabalia and the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City in the north of the enclave.

Israel claimed in January that it had dismantled Hamas’s “military framework” in the north.

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