Hamas fired rockets into central Israel for the first time in months

The people of Gaza have been uprooted again and again over seven months of Israeli invasion and bombardment. Faced with the threat of having to pack up and flee again, some people in Rafah are delaying leaving, at least for now.

According to the United Nations, more than 800,000 Palestinians have fled the southern city of Rafah and surrounding areas in the past three weeks as Israel has launched a military offensive there. But many are holding on in what was once considered the safest place in the Gaza Strip, where more than a million people have sought shelter.

They were exhausted, hungry, and knew that the next place they fled to might not be safe. Israel continues to bombard Gaza, even in areas previously considered safe.

Israeli forces dropped leaflets ordering residents to evacuate and launched a military offensive this month in the eastern part of Rafah, and they are advancing meter by meter deeper into the city. The United Nations Supreme Court appeared to order Israel to stop the offensive, but Israel has so far signaled that it will continue.

Some people in western Rafah are waiting to see what happens before leaving. Others have even fled and returned because they could not find safety or the necessities of life elsewhere.

“The most despicable word I don’t want to say or hear is ‘displacement,’” Randa Naser Samoud, 30, a math teacher in northern Gaza, said Thursday as the Israeli military pushed forward. towards the city center. “Evacuation means losing the value of life, so much suffering and pain.”

Along with her husband – a dentist – and their three children, Mrs Samoud has been displaced four times. They are now living in a tent near a UN warehouse, and although their area has not received an evacuation order, about three-quarters of the people around have fled.

As Ms. Samoud walked with one of her young sons on Thursday, she saw trucks on the road filled with the belongings of families preparing to flee.

“The topic of evacuation is not an easy thing to talk about or decide on,” she said. “I always talk to my husband about plans if necessary, but it’s still difficult to decide.”

Her father suggested they move to a school in one of the cities where many people had fled for shelter. But Ms. Samoud said shelters converted into schools are not a good choice because of lack of hygiene and garbage piled up everywhere. She worried her child would get sick.

With each relocation, Gazans have to start over, as they often cannot take much with them. Shipping costs can run into hundreds of dollars.

“The most terrible thought in my head was the moment I had to escape my tent and leave everything I had collected or bought behind,” she said, pointing to their clothes, dishes and food. is in the tent.

Ahlam Saeed Abu Riyala, 40, said concerns about water access had forced her and her family of eight in western Rafah to relocate four times.

For months, they lived in a tent a few steps from the Egyptian border – close enough to talk to Egyptian soldiers on the other side. As Ms. Abu Riyala stood outside her tent talking to her neighbor, a nearby water truck pumped clean drinking water to the displaced people in the camp.

“Now we have two minds; I said we should evacuate Rafah before it’s too late, but my husband said ‘no’,” she said. “But we cannot leave for many reasons and water is the top priority.”

The sounds of Israel’s air and ground invasion keep them on edge. They could hear tanks and sometimes Israeli armed drones broadcasting “security” messages in Arabic or dogs barking, she said.

Even if they choose to leave, the cost of such a trip may be beyond their means.

“Mentally, physically and financially, I was exhausted and sick of the word ‘evacuation,’” she said. “I hate my life and all this suffering.”

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