Photo by © UNICEF/UNI453254/El Baba
Photo by © UNICEF/UNI453254/El Baba

In Gaza, neither the north nor the south is safe

"My family is one of hundreds of thousands who fled Gaza city on 13 October after the Israeli military announced that we should move south for our own safety.

"Many of us feared that a ground invasion was about to take place, and we still do.

"When we got to Khan Younis, we found no shelter, electricity, food, water or medical care. Hygiene is non-existent. The south is being bombarded too; it’s not just in the north. We realised there that there really is no safe place to go in Gaza.

"Thousands actually stayed in Gaza city after the Israeli announcement. They had no fuel to drive to the south, nowhere to go once they go there, or they just wanted to stay in their homes. Others stayed because they feared they will never be able to return, or they would lose their livelihoods, or because they thought it might stop the Israelis from destroying their city.

"People moving to the south thought there would be aid but my family spent their first night in Khan Younis, in an UNRWA school with about 23,000 other people. The facility was not equipped to be a designated shelter, so it didn’t have enough water, food, space or mattresses.

"The next day, we moved to a private building organized as a shelter. There, we are sharing a space with 120 people in two apartments that are about 165 square metres each. Men and women are segregated between the 2 apartments, so families aren’t even together.

"Despite the severely cramped living conditions and rationing of food and water, we feel we are among the privileged because some water is still running through the tap, thanks to solar system that enables the water pump to operate a bit. The situation here is inhumane, our dignity is compromised. People forced to move to the south don’t have the basics. Not to mention the non-stop bombardment and death.

"Under these conditions, many people that I personally know have taken the difficult decision to return with their children back to Gaza city or northern Gaza. Staying south of Wadi Gaza did not provide them any safety.

"My sister needs medication that is not available in southern Gaza, so she decided to leave with her husband and kids and head back to Gaza city. Similarly, one of my friends, whose son has asthma and needs inhalers, decided to return to Daraj neighbourhood. 

"Every day we are tortured by this dilemma; do we stay here or go back home?  My wife wants to go, even though the entire block around our house has been flattened. Somehow our home was still standing until we left. She tells me ‘At least we can use the solar panel to access a little bit of electricity and sleep in our beds.’”

"If we go home, we will also be able to help and get help from our family and friends.  People know us there and we can share resources with them.

"I have come to the conclusion that with death looming everywhere, it may be better to die in our own home, together with those we love."

* By a Palestinian civilian in the Gaza Strip