Gazans flee fresh fighting in north

GAZA CITY: Thousands fled northern Gaza yesterday as renewed shelling pounded areas where Israel says Hamas militants have regrouped, despite having announced them cleared months ago.

“The army dropped leaflets and sent a message on mobile phones warning everyone to leave Jabalia,” said Umm Odai Nassar, after reaching Gaza City from nearby Jabalia refugee camp in the far north of the Gaza Strip.

She is one among many Palestinians who had remained in northern Gaza despite the vast devastation to civilian infrastructure inflicted during the early months of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in the territory.

Israel said on Saturday it was operating again in the Jabalia camp to counter Hamas attempts to reestablish its military capabilities in the area.

Since then, AFP correspondents have reported battles there and in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighbourhood. Hamas has said it engaged in clashes with Israel near Gaza City.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said its estimate until this week showed about 250,000 people living in north Gaza.

“This is not the first time we have been displaced. Every time we try to return and settle, there is an invasion operation, and the army with its airplanes and tanks bombards the houses and kills people,” Nassar said.

‘From place to place’

The return to intense fighting in the north comes at the same time as Israel presses its military campaign in the south, in the eastern section of Rafah city.

Mahmud al-Barsh, a 33-year-old from Jabalia, said he feels the lives of Gazans “have become like that of cat and mouse.”

“We move from place to place, and the shelling is ongoing,” he said from Gaza City.

War broke out on October 7, when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel resulting in the deaths of at least 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory onslaught on the Palestinian territory has killed at least 35,091 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said late on Monday that since the evacuation orders were issued on Saturday for northern Gaza, around 100,000 people have been displaced from there.

Dark smoke from Israeli bombardments hung over the area as some families moved their belongings on horse-drawn carts.

Some were heading to UNRWA shelters in north Gaza even as several of these structures had been hit by Israeli forces, UNRWA told AFP.

Gaza’s civil defence agency said that Israeli warplanes were carrying out “successive air strikes” on Zeitun, hitting several houses and causing numerous casualties.

One aim: ‘survive the bombardment’

Abed Ayad, 40, said his father was injured by tank shell shrapnel while they attempted to flee Zeitun.

“Shrapnel entered from his back and exited from his abdomen,” he said, adding that he had to transport his father to the hospital himself, with ambulances unable to reach the area.

“We didn’t take any clothes or food. Our only concern was to survive the bombardment,” he said.

The United Nations has repeatedly cited “access constraints” as hindering its ability to reach the needy, particularly in northern Gaza where it has reported imminent famine.

On Sunday, Israel’s military announced the opening of a new border crossing, called “Western Erez”, near the Erez crossing to transport humanitarian aid directly into north Gaza.

It said dozens of World Food Programme trucks carrying flour entered northern Gaza through the new crossing on Sunday.

“Displacement is enough of a tragedy,” said 35-year-old Iman al-Ramlawi, whose uncle was also wounded by shrapnel while fleeing Zeitun.

“We are living in dire conditions in every sense of the word. We leave the house not knowing if we will return and find it standing or destroyed from the bombardment.”

Z24 News

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