As Israel prepares to expand its ground offensive in Gaza, Palestinians like Mahrous Nasrallah, 80, wonder whether there is still a place to take refuge in the tiny enclave where entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble.
Nasrallah was five years old when he and his family were forced to move from their hometown of Beersheba to Gaza during the “Nakba,” an Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which refers to the mass dispossession of Palestinians after Israel was founded in 1948.
He still dreams of returning to his childhood home in the Negev desert.
“Let them send us to the Negev. The Negev could accommodate millions of people and they could stop causing trouble every two years. It’s a sad life,” he said.
Any hope of being able to find protection on Israeli territory is currently unrealistic.
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, after the militant group sent its troops into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli data.
Since then, the Ministry of Health in Gaza says as many as 12,300 Palestinians, including 5,000 children, have been killed in Israeli military operations.
Israeli bombardment has leveled much of northern Gaza, while around two-thirds of the enclave’s 2.3 million residents have fled south.
Changes in weather in the form of rain pouring on fragile shelters and tents further add to the suffering.
Traumatized residents have been displaced since the start of the war, taking refuge in hospitals or moving from northern Gaza to the south, and, in some cases, back again to the north.
An expected Israeli offensive in the south could force hundreds of thousands of people who fled Gaza City to flee again along with residents of Khan Younis, a city of more than 400,000 people, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis.
Many people, like Laila Abu Nemer who moved from Gaza City to the south, wonder how their families will survive the Israeli offensive now in its seventh week.
“No bread. If we get bread, we share it with the children. “There are vegetables, they give us vegetables, but we can’t cook them, so it’s impossible for the children to eat them,” he said.
“It feels hard, every day when we sleep with the children, they wake up scared because of the sound (of explosions). There is no security at all.”
An Israeli attack on southern Gaza could be more complicated and deadly than on northern Gaza, given that Hamas militants are fortifying the Khan Younis area, the power base of Gaza political leader Yahya Sinwar, a senior source and two former top Israeli officials said.
Gaza City resident Nourhan Saqallah fled to Deir Al-Balah after Israel urged residents to move south. Now, he and his family are sheltering in a tent.
“They are threatening… they want to clear the area for a ground attack,” he said. “What happens to us?” (rd/lt)