Displaced Gazans cram into Rafah despite fears of attack

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Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have crammed into the Rafah area on Gaza’s border with Egypt to escape Israeli bombardments, the United Nations said on Wednesday, despite their fears that they will also not be safe there.

The UN humanitarian office said in a report that most of the displaced people in Rafah were sleeping rough because of a lack of tents although the UN had managed to distribute a few hundred.

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Civilians have been arriving following evacuation orders by the Israeli military that covered areas in and around the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had already fled from northern Gaza to the south during the two-month-old conflict between Israel and the Hamas militants it is trying to eliminate.

The latest exodus leaves many displaced Palestinians increasingly cornered near the Egyptian border, in an area deemed safe by Israel’s military.

“The Israelis are lying. No place in Gaza is safe and tomorrow they are going to come after us in Rafah,” Samir Abu Ali, a 45-year-old father of five, told Reuters by telephone from Rafah.

“They want another Nakba but I will not leave. Rafah is the ‘end-of’ destination for me,” he said.

He was referring to the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” when many Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation.

Other Gazans echoed his concerns.

“Israel is now pushing us towards Rafah and then they will invade there,” another displaced person who gave her name as Zinaib said by telephone from Khan Younis.

Aid distribution hampered

Israel’s military, which wants to wipe out Hamas after the militant group’s killing spree in southern Israel on Oct. 7, says it has been telling civilians in advance to evacuate areas where it plans to operate, using phone messages, online statements and leaflets.

The UN says about 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes during the war, and that many of them have moved repeatedly, and under aerial bombardment.

Rafah city is about 13 km (8 miles) from Khan Younis, which is under fierce attack. It sits on the border with Egypt, and the Rafah Crossing is the sole crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

The UN report issued on Wednesday said that although some aid had entered Gaza from Egypt through the crossing, its distribution by the UN had been hampered by a shortage of trucks and because staff could not report to Rafah because of the surge in hostilities since a truce collapsed last week.

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