May 20, 2024


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Middle East Crisis: Israel intensifies its attacks on Rafah as Hamas changes its position on the ceasefire

Middle East Crisis: Israel intensifies its attacks on Rafah as Hamas changes its position on the ceasefire

A sense of panic gripped the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday after Israel issued an evacuation order for parts of the city that has become home to more than a million Palestinians who have taken refuge after seven months of war.

People dismantled their tents in the pouring rain. Fuel and food prices have risen dramatically. Some compared the potential risks of survival to the risks of traveling through a war zone.

Nidal Kahil, 29, a resident of Gaza City who took refuge in Rafah with his family, said: “If we have to leave, we will enter the unknown.” “Will we have somewhere to go? Will we be able to find a place to set up a tent?”

His tent is in an uncovered part of Rafah Evacuation orderBut his family is still anxious and divided over what to do next.

“Some say, ‘Let’s get out of here early,’ and others say, ‘Let’s wait a little,’” says Mr. Kahil, who worked as a manager at a Thai restaurant in Gaza City before the war.

Field workers at UNRWA, the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees, estimated Monday that about 200 people every hour are fleeing the evacuation zone via main exit routes, said Sam Rose, the agency’s planning director, who has spent the past two years. Weeks in Gaza.

Mr. Rose said the atmosphere in Rafah was full of hope over the weekend, when reports emerged of progress in ceasefire talks. But that optimism turned to fear and anxiety everywhere after Israel issued an evacuation order for the eastern parts of the city, indicating that it may go ahead with a planned ground invasion while trying to dismantle Hamas in Gaza.

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Many in Rafah said they knew they had to leave, but they didn’t know how to deal with it.

Musa Ramadan Al-Bahbasa, 55 years old, was taking shelter with his eleven children inside a tent that he had set up in a United Nations school near Najma Square in Rafah. He added that they had moved three times since the beginning of the war in October.

He added that after the evacuation order was issued, people living in the school looked at each other in shock. Then many started packing their belongings. But he didn’t have enough money to leave.

“All the people around me are being evacuated,” said Mr. Al-Bahbasa, who said the war had left him penniless. “I don’t know where to go or who to ask for help.”

Palestinians interviewed on Monday said leaving Rafah was costly. Although the Israeli military asks people to move to an area less than 10 miles away, taking a taxi outside the city will cost more than $260, and leaving on a smaller rickshaw will cost half that amount. A donkey cart costs about $13, but even that is too expensive for many people.

Palestinians in Rafah said that the matter also led to higher prices. They added that the cost of fuel jumped to $12 per liter from $8, as well as the cost of basic foodstuffs such as sugar, which rose to $10 per kilogram from $3.

“I don’t even have one shekel,” Al-Bahbasa said, referring to the currency used in Israel and Gaza. “I’ve already lost my home, but I don’t want to lose any of my children.”

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On the other side of town, Malak Barbakh, 38, was trying to gather her eight children while her husband was packing their belongings. But her eldest son fled somewhere, she said, after telling them that he did not want to leave Rafah after taking refuge there for a long time.

“What scares me most is the unknown,” Ms. Barbakh said. “I’m tired of this bad life.”

She added that to make things easier, the family planned to return to their home in the city of Khan Yunis, despite knowing that he had disappeared.

“I hope we can build our tent over the ruins of our house,” she said.

The evacuation order came as a shock to Mahmoud Muhammad al-Bardini, 26 years old. He said he believes Israel is only using the idea of ​​invading Rafah as a ruse to get a better deal from Hamas in the ceasefire talks.

This means that he was not planning to leave his home located in southeastern Rafah. But now he felt the danger was real, and he spent the morning watching the neighbors flee.

Al-Bardini, who worked as a taxi driver before the war, said: “I saw the long road on the beach full of trucks, minivans and cars.” He said the sight made him feel like he had “departure sickness like others.”

So Mr. Al-Bardini and his wife began packing their belongings and planning for the worst. They realized they could take the doors of their house with them to use as shelter. They can also dismantle their furniture to use as firewood.

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Otherwise, Al-Bardini fears, they will end up looted or buried under the rubble of the airstrike.

He said: “I do not want to see what happened to people in Gaza City and in the north happen again in Rafah.” “I’m really very worried about my whole family.”