Displaced Palestinians walking south in central Gaza Strip. Photo by OCHA, 6 November 2023
Displaced Palestinians walking south in central Gaza Strip. Photo by OCHA, 6 November 2023

"Every step of the way there is something destroyed"

Palestinians fleeing south recount their experiences

Nowhere in Gaza is safe. With many fleeing to southern areas, and others staying in the north, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has dispatched a daily field observation mission to the Middle Area, to gather information on people’s needs and concerns across the Gaza Strip. Following are excerpts from the testimonies of Palestinians with whom we spoke as they were moving south on 18 November 2023.

  • Az Zaitoun area is being severely bombarded. When we were leaving, we saw several killed and injured people… We passed through the containers [structures set up by Israeli forces to inspect people moving south] and showed our IDs. About six people from my group were arrested by the Israeli soldiers. I don’t know where my family is.”
  • Nothing is left in Az Zaitoun or Ash Shuja’iyeh. Destruction is everywhere!
  • Tonight was the toughest in Beit Lahia! We didn’t want to leave. We were hoping for a ceasefire to be implemented soon. But after the bombing intensified tonight, we couldn’t stay. The Israeli soldiers have arrested a few men and three women [on the way south]. We just arrived here but we still don’t know where to go [in the south].”
  • Israeli forces bombed Jabalia intensively, and they bombed our house while we were inside. Our whole neighbourhood had fled. In Jabalia, there’s no water and no gas. The Israeli soldiers near Netzarim shot around us to speed up while walking and they arrested few men and women.”
  • We’re coming from Jabalia Al Balad. Israeli tanks have destroyed it. It’s been a tough night. The bombing hasn’t stopped since 21:00. The day before yesterday, Israeli forces threw leaflets calling on people to evacuate. I left yesterday but was sent back by the Israeli soldiers due to the large number of people moving. I had to return to Jabalia on foot for five hours. It was hard and tiring. There are three elderly women with me, including one who uses wheelchair.”
  • I came from Beit Lahia with my family. I just gave birth to this little baby a week ago. Tonight was the toughest. Our home sustained damage. A shell hit the roof and the glass broke. The kids were scared. We don’t sleep. Bombing is 24/7. I’m looking for my sister. I’m sure she has arrived [to the south]. She was in an UNRWA school that was bombed this morning along with a nearby school. Many people were killed. We were terrified all the way. On our way through Gaza, damage is everywhere, every step of the way there is something destroyed.”
  • The Israeli forces stopped us for a while, and one woman fainted there. They even arrested a woman and asked her to leave her children unaccompanied.