The United Nations is running out of terms to describe the scale of the destruction and death in Gaza. The UN has gone from warning, in recent days, of the human "catastrophe" suffered by the 2.3 million inhabitants of the Palestinian territory to assuring on Tuesday that this situation is now heading for an "even more hellish" scenario for civilians, after the new Israeli orders to evict the population to the south of the enclave. The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings, said in a statement on Tuesday. A large number of the 1.8 million displaced people are already crammed into an area of less than a third of the Strip — about 100 square kilometers around the city of Rafah — according to the United Nations. In that city, "there is not even room left in a single school, hospital or building. People are sleeping on the street," Doaa Ulyan, a displaced Gazan, told this newspaper via WhatsApp.
Israel-Gaza war, live
On Tuesday, Avichay Adraee, the Israeli army's Arabic-language spokesman, again urged the population of several areas of the city of Khan Younis, the second largest in the territory, to head towards the border area with Egypt. The day before, Israel had already ordered the evacuation of several neighborhoods of that city, in the direction of Rafah, at the southern end of the enclave. The U.N. has criticized the new evacuation orders, which it estimates affect 600,000 people, warning that the already crowded Rafah "will not be able to cope with its population doubling," said Thomas White, the Gaza director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Despite urging Gazans to move to the town last night, Israel intensified its bombardment there as well, said Ulyan, 33, who has been sheltering in the city since October with her husband and two children, aged eight and 10. This family fled their home in Gaza City – destroyed days later by a bombardment – following an initial Israeli order to the inhabitants of the north of the territory to move south. The night in Rafah "was terrifying, the ring of fire [the shelling] was constant," she said.
"Many people from the north, west and Khan Younis are now crammed into Rafah," Ulyan said. "Can you imagine that a million people are now taking refuge in this city?" asks the displaced Gazan.
Israel's new eviction orders and the advance of the ground offensive by its troops have also caused UNRWA's overcrowded shelters to be more overwhelmed than ever in the eight-week war, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the U.N. agency, said on Monday. At least 60,000 more displaced people have joined those trying to find unlikely protection. Many of those Gazans "have already been displaced several times" during the conflict, the U.N. official said. The Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed 15,900 people, almost half of them children, according to the latest figures released by the Palestinian territory's Ministry of Health.
"In Gaza, the situation is getting worse every day," Richard Peeperkorn of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Gaza said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday. Israel is "intensifying shelling everywhere, including here in the southern areas, in Khan Younis and Rafah," the U.N. agency official said. In the north, the Israeli army has announced that it has completed the siege of the Jabalia refugee camp, the largest in the Palestinian territory, which the military describes as "a Hamas stronghold."
In parallel with the intensifying bombardment in the south, Israel is continuing its ground offensive in the south. On Tuesday, residents of Khan Younis quoted by Reuters said Israeli tanks had entered the eastern neighborhoods of the city, after breaking through the border fence with Gaza and heading west. Some of them have taken up positions in Beni Suhaila, on the eastern outskirts of the city. Others have been located in Hamad City, a neighborhood of apartment blocks built by Qatar to house Gazans who were left homeless by another Israeli war on the Strip in 2014. In recent days, Israeli jets have bombed the neighborhood, which now looks ghostly, according to images posted on social media. Before the war, Khan Younis had a population of approximately 200,000, which is estimated to have at least doubled due to displaced people arriving from the north following Israel's first eviction order in October.
From Rafah, Ulyan sends an audio in which an intense humming sound can be heard. It's the sound of what Gazans call "zananah," drones. "These are different. They are armed," the woman explains. "That sound stays with us day and night," he says.
This Gazan suffers from irritable bowel disease and takes a medication that ran out three days ago. With drones buzzing over the shelter he lives in, he can't even try to go outside to find those drugs he depends on to keep him from getting sick. The precariousness, which was already enormous before the new evacuation order to the south, has been increased by the new displaced people who are arriving in Rafah.
"We don't have clean drinking water. We took it out of a well and boiled it. We only eat beans and some rice distributed by the UN, but there are a lot of people and the aid is insufficient. Israel only allows some help to come in to pretend to the media, but that help doesn't include anything that people need here. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there are people who are starving," Ulyan said.
"We only eat once a day and a very small amount. A lot of times, I don't eat to give it to my kids. There is no more food to buy either," she replies when asked if her family, who live in Spain, can help her financially. Money in Gaza is no longer of any use, he explains. "There's nothing left. There are no cleaning products, no toilet paper, no diapers," she said. This Gazan has a valid visa to travel to Spain, but her children and husband do not. The Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem responded to his request for help to leave the Gaza Strip by telling him that it could only assist Spaniards.
What is happening in Gaza is "unprecedented," Ulyan said. "What I'm telling you doesn't convey even a fraction of the real suffering we're going through," she says.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, denounced on Monday the "intolerable" suffering of the population during a visit to Gaza: "What struck me the most were the children who have atrocious injuries and who have also lost their parents, so they have no one to take care of them," Said.
These children were referred to on Tuesday by the leader of one of the mediators who sponsored the now-defunct truce between Israel and Hamas: Qatar. The emir of that Arab country, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, has criticized the international community for "abandoning the children of Palestine," and called for an international investigation into Israel's "brutal crimes" in the Strip, according to Efe.
Al Thani made these remarks in Doha at the opening of the summit of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an organization that also includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Two of the main items on the agenda of this meeting are "stopping the war in Gaza" and restoring the truce, said Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al Thani, prime minister of the small Gulf emirate.
Follow all the international news on Facebook and X, or in our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber