Gaza residents say evacuees are dying of hunger and cold – Israel denies seeking to evacuate Gaza
Hamas says it is striking back at Israeli forces along Gaza today, as Palestinian and international aid groups warn that public order is breaking down as hunger spreads, fueling fears of a mass exodus to Egypt.
The Gaza Strip is under a complete Israeli blockade since the start of the war more than two months ago and the border with Egypt is the only other way out.
Most of Gaza’s total population of 2.3 million have been displaced from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find shelter or food in the densely populated enclave, where more than 18,000 people have already been killed and fighting rages.
The residents of Gaza complain that those who were forced to leave their homes they die of hunger and cold, as well as the bombings, describing how they carry out desperate raids on trucks carrying aid.
“Did any of us expect our people to starve to death, had that thought crossed anyone’s mind before?” wrote Rola Ghanim, among many expressing despair in their messages on social media.
Aid trucks run the risk of being stopped by desperate residents or even forced to slow down at an intersection, said Carl Skau, the deputy executive director of the UN’s World Food Programme.
“50% of the population is starving, 9 out of 10 don’t eat every day”, he told Reuters on Saturday.
A Palestinian man told Reuters he had not eaten anything for the past few days and was forced to beg for bread for his children.
“I pretend I’m strong, but I’m afraid I’ll collapse in front of them at any moment,” he described in a phone call, declining to be named for fear of reprisals.
After a week-long truce collapsed on December 1, Israel last week launched a ground offensive in the south and has since pushed from the east into the heart of the city of Khan Younis, while its warplanes are attacking an area in the west.
Today, Hamas officials and some residents say militants are preventing Israeli tanks from moving further west into the city and clashing with Israeli forces in northern Gaza, where Israel has said its mission is largely accomplished.
For its part, Israel says dozens of Hamas fighters have surrendered and is urging others to follow them. The armed wing of Hamas announced that it fired rockets towards Tel Aviv, where Israelis rushed to shelters for safety.
At the same time, United Nations officials announced that 1.9 million people, 85% of the population of Gaza, have been displaced and described as “hell” the conditions in the southern areas of the enclave, where they have gathered.
“I expect public order to completely collapse soon and an even worse situation to unfold, including epidemics and an increasing pressure for mass movements to Egypt,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned yesterday.
Israel denies it is seeking to vacate Gaza
Meanwhile, Philippe Lazzarini, the director-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), wrote on Saturday that pushing Gazans ever closer to the border shows “attempts to move Palestinians to Egypt ».
The border with Egypt is protected, but members of Hamas blasted holes in the walls in 2008 in order to break the blockade. Gazans cross them to buy food and other goods, but quickly return, with no one permanently displaced.
Egypt has long warned that it will not allow Gazans to enter its territory at this time, expressing fears that they will not be able to return.
In this climate, Jordan also accused Israel yesterday of seeking to “empty Gaza of its citizens”.
Israeli government spokesman Eilon Levi called the accusations “unacceptable and false”, pointing out that his country is defending itself “from the monsters who committed the massacre of October 7” in order to bring them to justice.
Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages on October 7, according to reports released by Israelis. About 100 hostages were released during the ceasefire and relatives of some of them remain captive.
“I’m terrified (at the thought) that I’m going to get bad news that he’s no longer alive,” Sharon Aloni Cunio, who was released with her two little girls but her husband is still being held, told Reuters.
Since October 7, at least 18,205 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 49,645 injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
The Israeli military accused Hamas of hiding weapons at UNRWA facilities in Jabalia and distributed videos purportedly showing Hamas gunmen beating people and transporting aid to the Sejaia neighborhood of Gaza City.
Israel has prevented most aid from being flown into Gaza, fearing it would simply fuel Hamas attacks.
For his part, government spokesman Eilon Levi says Israel is working to open the Kerem Shalom crossing, where most aid passed before the war, and blamed international organizations for delays at the crossing point from Egypt. which is designed for pedestrians.
Meanwhile, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and neighboring Jordan, most shops and businesses closed in response to a Palestinian call for a strike, but the impact on Israel is unclear.
According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 32 Palestinians were killed in Khan Younis during the night. Hamas’ armed wing said it hit two Israeli tanks with rockets and fired mortars at Israeli forces.
Fighters and residents say fighting is also raging in Sejaia, east of central Gaza City, in the northwestern neighborhood of Sheikh Radwan and further north in Jabalia.
In central Gaza, where Israel today issued an order to the world to move to “known safe havens in the Deir al-Bala area”, Health officials said Suhada al-Aqsa Hospital received 40 bodies.
Medical sources also said an Israeli airstrike killed four people at a house in Rafah, one of two places near Egypt where Israel says Palestinians must flee.
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