Israel-Hamas war: Tens of thousands of Palestinians flee Rafah

Rafah, Gaza Strip (AP) — Tens of thousands of Palestinians are fleeing into an already crowded city on Gaza's southern tip, the United Nations says. Israel's bombing In the center of the strip, hospital officials said dozens were killed on Friday.

Israel's unprecedented air and ground offensive against Hamas has displaced about 85% of the Gaza Strip's 2.3 million residents. This has left the Palestinians with the painful feeling that nowhere is safe Small accommodation.

People came to Rafah in trucks, carts and on foot. Those unable to find a place in the already overflowing shelters pitch their tents on roadsides muddied by winter rains. With the new arrivals, the city and its surroundings are now packed with about 850,000 people, three times the normal population, according to UN figures.

UN for Palestinian refugees “People are using any empty space to build huts,” said Juliet Douma, director of communications for the agency UNRWA. “Some sleep in their cars, others sleep in the open.”

Israel's vast propaganda, it already is leveled much of the northNow the focus is on the urban refugee camps of Bureij, Nuseirat and Maghazi in central Gaza, where Israeli warplanes and artillery have leveled buildings.

But there is a fight Not reduced in the north, and the southern city of Khan Yunis, where Israel believes Hamas leaders are holed up, is also a smoldering battlefield. The militants have continued to fire rockets, mostly in southern Israel.

The war has already taken its toll 21,500 PalestiniansMost of them were women and children, and sparked a humanitarian crisis that has since petered out A quarter of Gaza's population Starving. The death toll released by the Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled territory did not distinguish between civilians and militants.

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Israeli officials have rejected international calls for a ceasefire, saying it would be a victory for Hamas, which the army has vowed to dismantle. It has also promised to bring back more than 100 hostages held by militants Their October 7 attack on southern Israel It provoked war. The attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

The army said 168 soldiers were killed Ground attack started

Wounded Palestinians react after an Israeli attack in Al Jawedah, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Azad)

A stream of displaced people

As of late Thursday, the UN said about 100,000 people had arrived in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, in recent days. The city and its surrounding area had a pre-war population of around 280,000 and already more than 470,000 people had been displaced from their homes by the war.

New arrivals enter a landscape of misery: most of the available water is polluted. The sanitation system is in disrepair and working toilets are rare. Diseases spread among the many families squeezed together in shelters, houses or on the streets – rashes, respiratory problems, diarrhea and other intestinal ailments.

“Everyone here is infected with a disease,” Dalia Abu Samhadana said of her family, who fled fighting in Khan Yunis earlier this month and are now staying in a house with 49 others in Rafah's Shaboura district. Due to limited availability of food, his daily diet consisted mainly of bread and tea.

Israel has told residents of central Gaza to move south, but although displaced people have entered, Rafah has not been spared.

A strike on Thursday evening destroyed a residential building and killed at least 23 people, according to the media office of the nearby al-Quaid hospital.

At the hospital, residents dusted off a child's face and cried as doctors tore open a Mickey Mouse to check for injuries.

Shorouk Abu Aoun fled the fighting in northern Gaza a month ago and sought refuge in his sister's house, located near Thursday's strike.

“We migrated from the north and came here because they (the Israeli army) said it was safe,” Abu On said, speaking at the hospital where the dead and wounded were taken. “I wish we had not come here as martyrs there (in northern Gaza).”

The entire population of Gaza is dependent on international aid, including food, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Friday. Despite a UN resolution last week calling for an immediate and unimpeded increase in aid, no increase has been seen, he said.

Lazzarini said the aid operation faces “severe restrictions” from Israeli authorities. Trucks entering Egypt's Rafah crossing and the newly opened Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel face long delays, he said. He said supplies inside Gaza were further hampered by constant shelling and fighting, Israeli military checkpoints and repeated cuts in telecommunications, as well as frequent aid trucks and desperate crowds carrying supplies.

Lazzarini called on Israel to reduce bureaucratic delays in aid entry, avoid attacks around crossing points and aid supplies, and open safe routes to northern Gaza, where aid rarely reaches.

In the latest distribution in the north, thousands of Palestinians arrived as aid trucks arrived outside a distribution center in Gaza City. The scene showed people jumping onto the trucks and clinging to their sides, with some throwing food packets and cans on the ground.

Israeli soldiers opened fire on an aid convoy returning from the north along a military-designated route, damaging one vehicle, UNRWA's Gaza chief, Thomas White, said in a post on X.

Strikes in central Gaza

Residents said on Friday that several houses were attacked overnight in Nuseirat and Maghazi, and heavy fighting broke out in Bureij. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Bala said it had received the bodies of 40 people, including 28 women, killed in the strikes.

“They are attacking everywhere,” said Saeed Mustafa, a resident of Nusirat. “Families are being killed in their homes and on the streets. They are killed everywhere.

Israel said this week Expands ground offensive in central GazaIt targeted a belt of crowded neighborhoods built to house some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

Israel blames the high death toll on Hamas, which it accuses of infiltrating civilians, saying its forces have found weapons and ammunition. Underground tunnel Poles in residential buildings, schools and mosques.

Israel Criticisms of Refugee Camps

Civilians are suffering huge losses in this fight. Sunday, a Israeli attack on Makazi camp It killed at least 106 people, according to hospital records, one of the deadliest of the war.

In an initial review of the strike, the Israeli military said buildings near the target were also hit and “may have caused unintended harm to additional uninvolved civilians.” In a statement on Thursday, the army said it regrets the impact on civilians and will learn from the mistake.

Government spokesman Eylon Levy told Britain's Sky News that the wrong ammunition was used in the strike, leading to a “regrettable mistake”.

“This shouldn't have happened,” he said.

Israel rarely comments on specific strikes and rarely admits any wrongdoing, even when civilians are killed.

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Magdy reported from Cairo and Jeffrey from London. Associated Press writer Thea Goldenberg contributed to this report from Tel Aviv, Israel.

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Find out more about AP's coverage https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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