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Gazans in Rafah watch Israeli bombs move closer with nowhere left to run


Standing in front of a breach where the windows of her family’s sixth-floor apartment were blown out, Sara Ashour watched the bombardment of Rafah draw closer and closer on Monday.

“We started wondering when the roof would fall on our heads,” said the 23-year-old marketing content writer. “We’re up high, so we could see everything in front of us like a live broadcast. …I wouldn’t wish such a night, even on Israelis.”

Israeli officials described the hour-long barrage in Rafah as a “diversion,” intended to allow a special forces team to mount a rescue operation for two hostages. At least 74 Palestinians were killed in the action, Gaza health authorities said.

Israeli soldiers are heading towards the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Tuesday. The army is fighting Palestinian militants across Gaza in the war sparked by Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.

(Ariel Schalit/Associated Press)

For the 1.4 million residents crammed into this city along the Egyptian border – nearly two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s besieged population – fears are spreading that an Israeli ground attack in Rafah could leave them without no place to escape.

“The sound of strikes we heard last night… you couldn’t imagine it,” said Jamalat al Kurd, a 52-year-old housewife from Rafah. “You’re too scared to move because you don’t know what’s coming from above, so we stayed inside.”

Israeli authorities had previously designated Rafah as a bomb-safe zone, causing the city’s population to soar to more than four times its original figure. Six other families found refuge in the Al Kurd building alone.

“If they attack Rafah, where can we go? The Egyptian border? The sea?” she asked. A single mother – her husband died during the 2009 Israeli campaign in Gaza – Al Kurd cares for her five children as well as the children of relatives and friends displaced from other areas of Gaza.

“If we leave, who should I choose to transport?” ” she asked. “The one-month-old infant or the 2-year-old? It’s not a choice. Better to be killed with my family than to be displaced. »

Palestinians sit in front of the destruction caused by Israeli bombings on the

Palestinians sit in front of the destruction caused by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on Monday.

(Hatem Ali/Associated Press)

Egypt has warned Israel that it will keep its border with Gaza sealed to prevent large-scale displacement of Palestinians into its territory, with no clear idea of ​​when they will be able to return to the enclave.

Monday’s barrage comes more than four months after the most devastating conflict the Gaza Strip has ever seen, sparked by the militant group Hamas’ blitz on October 7, which killed 1,139 people, two-thirds of them civilians. . Another 253 Israelis and foreigners were kidnapped and brought back to Gaza, according to Israel’s official count.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has so far killed 28,340 people, mostly women and children, according to health authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza. It destroyed buildings and infrastructure, razing neighborhoods across an area the size of Detroit.

Israeli officials say an attack in Rafah would end Hamas and free the remaining hostages.

After the nighttime raid that rescued two Israeli-Argentinian men – Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70 – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on social media that “only continued military pressure, until complete victory, will result in liberation.” of all our hostages.

Hostages Fernando Simon Marman, right, and Luis Har, second from left, embrace

Hostages Fernando Simon Marman, right, and Luis Har, second from left, hug their loved ones after being rescued from captivity in the Gaza Strip, at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Monday.

(Associated Press)

The prospect of such a move has sparked a wave of opprobrium from aid organizations and governments, including some staunch Israel allies.

After meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday, President Biden said an operation in Rafah should not take place without “a credible plan” to ensure the safety of those sheltering there.

“Many people have been repeatedly displaced, fleeing violence to the north and are now crowded in Rafah, exposed and vulnerable,” he said. “They must be protected. And we have also been clear from the beginning: we oppose any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.”

American, Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari officials met in Cairo on Tuesday to agree a new truce in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia, which has flirted with normalizing relations with Israel in recent years, has warned of “very serious repercussions”.

Some of the harshest criticism came from Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, who said countries like the United States should take concrete steps to soften Israel’s military response.

“If you think there are too many deaths, maybe you should provide fewer weapons to prevent so many being killed,” he said Monday during a press conference in Brussels.

Hamas, meanwhile, said an offensive on Rafah would derail any hostage negotiations.

A ground incursion would be “catastrophic” for humanitarian deliveries in the Gaza Strip, said an international humanitarian logistics worker who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

The area around Rafah, including the Gaza-Egypt crossing and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel, are the main aid delivery routes.

“An attack would put a definitive end to all of this, with no guidance on alternative entry points,” the aid worker said, adding that most entities were organizing their supply chains from Egypt, but those coming of Jordan would also be affected.

Gazans who sought to escape the violence in Rafah are now wondering whether they should flee again – and if so, where?

“I left my home in northern Gaza more than three and a half months ago and I have yet to find a single square centimeter in Gaza where I am safe,” said Ziyad al Najjar, 63. , who was taking down his tent and getting ready. to move the 16 members of his family to be closer to his loved ones in the Zawaydeh district.

Palestinian woman walks past destruction caused by Israeli bombing

A Palestinian woman walks past the destruction caused by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on Monday.

(Hatem Ali/Associated Press)

Nearby, Zuhair Khalaf, a retired civil servant from Rafah, was also considering leaving the city. He listened to Israeli military officials on various radio stations to determine the safest destination.

But neither option seemed good to him: He had heard military officials on Israeli radio say that north of Rafah was supposed to be safe. But it’s just south of Khan Yunis, he said, where massive fighting is currently taking place, so how was he able to get there?

The western part of Rafah, meanwhile, was populated by people coming from northern Gaza. Fleeing east was impossible; this would lead them to open fields near the border with Israel, where there would be no protection against air attacks.

Palestinians mourn child killed in Israeli bombardment of Gaza Strip

Palestinians mourn a child killed Monday in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the morgue of a hospital in Rafah.

(Hatem Ali/Associated Press)

After seeing Monday’s bombardment stop short of her family home, Ashour said all she could hope for was that the Israeli army would drop leaflets before the assault reached her, telling civilians how to keep away from fighting.

“We’re waiting for them to do it,” she said. “We just hope there won’t be a tank on our doorstep tomorrow morning.”

The Times’ special correspondent in Gaza cannot be named for security reasons. Bulos, a writer, contributed to this report from Beirut.



Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.latimes.com

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