Residents of Gaza: Hunger leads to social collapse…Fear of displacement to Egypt
Public order is breaking down in the Gaza Strip as hunger spreads, prompting fears of a mass exodus to Egypt, Palestinians and international aid agencies have said.
Israel has imposed an extensive blockade on the coastal area since the conflict began more than two months ago, and the only exit for Gaza residents is the border with Egypt.
Most of the Strip’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced from their homes, and residents say they cannot find shelter or food in the Strip, where 18,000 people have been killed so far.
Gazans said people repeatedly forced to leave were dying of hunger, cold and shelling, and they spoke of desperate attacks on aid trucks and rising prices, Reuters reported.
Rula Khanem, one of many who expressed their astonishment on social media, said, “Did any of us expect that we would starve to death? Has this thought crossed anyone’s mind before?”
Karl Schau, deputy executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, said that if they slow down at intersections, aid trucks risk being stopped by desperate residents.
He told Reuters on Saturday: “Half of the population is starving, nine out of ten don’t eat every day.”
One Palestinian, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, told Reuters by mobile phone that he had not eaten for three days and had to beg for bread for his children. She added, “I pretend to be strong, but I’m afraid I’ll collapse in front of them at any moment.”
After a cease-fire broke down on December 1, Israel launched a ground offensive in the south last week and has since advanced from the east into the heart of the city of Khan Younis, and warplanes are striking an area in the west.
Israel said militants and residents blocked Israeli tanks from advancing westward through the city on Monday and clashed with Israeli forces in northern Gaza.
Israel said dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered and urged others to join them. Hamas’s military wing said it fired rockets at Tel Aviv, where Israelis fled to shelters.
United Nations officials describe 1.9 million people, or 85 percent of Gaza’s population, as displaced, and their living conditions in the southern regions are intolerable.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday: “I expect that public order will soon collapse completely, and a worst-case scenario could emerge, including epidemics and pressure towards a mass exodus to Egypt.”
Israel has denied seeking to evacuate the Gaza Strip
Philip Lazzarini, the United Nations Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, wrote on Saturday that pushing Gazans closer and closer to the border represented “attempts to relocate Palestinians to Egypt.”
The border with Egypt remains heavily fortified, but Hamas militants made holes in the wall in 2008 to break the tight siege. The Gazans crossed the border to buy food and other supplies, but quickly returned, and none of them left permanently.
Egypt has long warned that it will not allow the Gazans to enter their territory this time, fearing that they will not be able to return.
Jordan, which has absorbed most of the Palestinians since Israel’s founding in 1948, accused Israel on Sunday of trying to “empty Gaza of its people.”
Israeli government spokesman Elon Levy described the accusation as “flagrant and false”, saying his country was defending itself “against the monsters who committed the October 7 massacres and brought them to justice”.
On October 7, Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. According to Israeli statistics. About 100 hostages were released in the ceasefire.
Sharon Aloni Cuneo, who was freed with her two young daughters, told Reuters of her husband, who is still detained: “I’m afraid I’ll get the bad news that he’s no longer alive.”
Israel has pledged to eliminate Hamas, which has been operating in the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Since October 7, at least 18,205 Palestinians have been killed and 49,645 injured in Gaza, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. These numbers do not include northern Gaza, and residents there and elsewhere trapped in the rubble.
Israel says the evacuation measures are part of measures to protect the population, and Hamas accuses militants of using civilians as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid, which the movement denies.
The Israeli military accused Hamas of hiding weapons in UNRWA facilities in Jabaliya, and released a video showing Hamas gunmen beating people and taking aid in the Shujaya neighborhood of Gaza City.
During the days of the bombing, Israel blocked most aid from reaching Gaza, which it said it feared would lead to an escalation of Hamas attacks.
Government spokesman Elon Levy said Israel was working to open the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which most of the aid was delivered before the war, and held international agencies responsible for blocking it through the designated crossing point for individuals to cross from Egypt.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank and neighboring Jordan, most shops and businesses closed their doors in response to the Palestinian strike, but the impact in Israel was unclear.
The Gaza Health Ministry reported that 32 Palestinians were killed in Khan Yunis last night. Hamas’ military wing said it hit two Israeli tanks with missiles and fired mortar shells at Israeli forces.
Militants and residents said fighting was also violent in the Shujaya, Sheikh Ratwan and Jabaliya camp areas.
In central Gaza, Israel asked residents to head “towards known shelters in the Deir al-Balah area” today, and health officials said Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital said 40 people had died.
Doctors said four people were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah, one of two areas near Egypt where Israel says Palestinians must go.
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