‘More than half a million people’ have fled fighting in Rafah and northern Gaza

14 May 2024, 14:24

Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip
Israel Palestinians Nakba Day. Picture: PA

Around 450,000 Palestinians were driven out of Rafah in Gaza’s south over the past week, the United Nations says.

More than half a million Palestinians have been displaced in recent days by escalating Israeli military operations in southern and northern Gaza, the United Nations says.

Around 450,000 Palestinians were driven out of Rafah in Gaza’s south over the past week, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday.

There were roughly 1.3 million people sheltering in Rafah before Israel began pushing into the city, which Israel says is the last Hamas stronghold.

A man watches smoke rising to the sky after an explosion in the Gaza Strip
A man watches smoke rising to the sky after an explosion in the Gaza Strip (Leo Correa/AP)

Israeli forces are also battling Hamas militants in northern Gaza, where the army had launched major operations earlier in the war.

The army’s evacuation orders issued on Saturday have displaced around 100,000 people so far, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters on Monday.

Palestinian officials say Israeli strikes in central Gaza killed at least 12 people overnight and into Tuesday.

No food has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza for the past week.

Some 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza face catastrophic levels of hunger, on the brink of starvation, and a “full-blown famine” is taking place in the north, according to the UN.

Seven months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 people, most of them women and children, according to local health officials.

Backdropped by smoke rising to the sky after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli tank stands near the Israel-Gaza border as seen from southern Israel
Backdropped by smoke rising to the sky after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli tank stands near the Israel-Gaza border as seen from southern Israel (Leo Correa/AP)

Meanwhile, thousands of people marched in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Tuesday calling for the country to reoccupy Gaza once the war is over.

Far right Israelis are calling for the reestablishment of settlements in Gaza, saying they’re needed to protect the country.

Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza in 2005, uprooting some 9,000 settlers in a move that bitterly divided Israel.

“We want to tell everybody in Israel and everybody in the world that Gaza is very very important to us and it has to be again in Israeli hands,” said Smadar Dei, one of the marchers.

“Because if it won’t be in Israeli hands we won’t finish the things that we started doing in this war.”

Sderot, which is a few kilometres from Gaza, was one of the first towns impacted when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 and the war is still very much felt in the area.

Thousands of Israelis march with national flags in the southern city of Sderot calling for Israel to reoccupy the Gaza Strip once the war is over
Thousands of Israelis march with national flags in the southern city of Sderot calling for Israel to reoccupy the Gaza Strip once the war is over (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

On Tuesday, which is Israel’s independence day, supporters snaked through the city, waving Israeli flags and dancing and singing Hebrew songs against the backdrop of outgoing Israeli shelling into Gaza followed by plumes of smoke.

Rockets were also fired into Sderot from Gaza on Tuesday as people ducked for cover.

Associated Press reporters saw what appeared to be the interception of rockets in the sky.

Supporters of reoccupying Gaza said the only way to secure Israel is by expanding Jewish settlements across the territory.

“Instead of this smoke we want to see Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip,” said Daniella Weiss, one of the organisers who is known as the “godmother” of the settler movement.

“No more smoke or bombs, no more shelling on Sderot,” she said.

The war began on October 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others.

Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

By Press Association

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