Al-Fukhari, Gaza Strip – Palestinians in Gaza who have spoken to Al Jazeera are weary and heartbroken from having to leave their homes and move repeatedly, seeking safety.
Many pray for an end to the displacement and suffering that has torn Gaza apart for more than 60 days.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
In al-Fukhari south of the city of Khan Younis, the European Hospital and schools are filled beyond capacity with thousands of displaced people from Khan Younis itself and areas farther north.
They keep moving south because they are told by the Israeli army to do so, leaving areas they either lived in or were already displaced in, heading for so-called “safe zones” that the Israeli army has bombed anyway.
Dr Youssef Al-Akkad, director of the European Hospital, told Al Jazeera that his teams were overwhelmed with the sheer number of people and they are not trained or capable of providing them with aid.
“The displaced are in the hospital corridors, departments and garden. The lack of water will lead to infections, and cases of cholera have already started to appear. This is such a difficult and disastrous situation.”
The displaced people around the European Hospital, who were forced to camp in the streets due to the overcrowding, each has a story of suffering to tell. They hope that at al-Fukhari they have finally reached a safe area. Sadly, however, most of them no longer believe in the idea of a safe area.
Rula Musmah, 40, says: “I’ve never been through this before. We’ve been displaced four times until we got to the European Hospital, where there wasn’t even a single spot for us. I looked for a cafe where me and my three daughters can sleep at night, and during the day, we just sit in the street.”
Musmah and her daughters, who are aged 15 to 18, left Gaza City on October 14 when the army asked people to leave.
“We have a beautiful house in the industrial area, which we left because of the danger that our daughters would get hurt. We went to the Deir el-Balah camp, where we stayed with friends for more than a month. But the house there got so crowded as more displaced people came and the bombing intensified, so we decided to look for another safe place.
“We had been in Khan Younis for two weeks when the truce began. We were happy that we would have a short rest from the sound of the bombing even though nothing had changed. There was suffering in obtaining water and food, but we felt a little safe at the beginning. But then news began circulating that the Israeli government was threatening to move its operation to Khan Younis.
“I felt like my heart would just stop, I was so afraid. The [Israeli military] leaflets [to evacuate] began falling on the city again. We went looking for another place and didn’t find anything other than al-Fukhari. We were among hundreds of people, there was no room in the European Hospital or the schools. The schools can’t take any more people.”
Musmah’s eyes filled with tears, and her voice was choked with grief over ending up on the street.
No space left
With nowhere else to go, people started setting up tents on an empty lot near the entrance to the hospital. The lot itself had already been hit twice by Israel, but with no other options, hundreds of displaced people took shelter there.
Salem Awaida, 55, said he had managed to stay in his home in Khan Younis until recently. “I had displaced people from Shujayea in my house. I was taking care of them, and it was so busy I didn’t know how my day began or ended. Imagine my shock when they asked the people in the Sheikh Nasser neighbourhood to leave.
“I didn’t believe it at first and waited another day, but then there was a really bad night of bombing two days ago, a ‘belt of fire’ wrapped tight around the area, and this morning they said tanks had entered Khan Younis not very far from my neighbourhood. So me and my family of 10 and the displaced people staying with us all walked east to al-Fukhari.
“It wasn’t safe at all. It was a really rough night I went through at the European Hospital with bombing until the late hours and me sitting in the hospital garden. There was no space for me inside. Eventually, I went out to walk a little, trying to breathe, to think, and I found people setting up here in this empty lot, so I put up a tent for me and my family.
“We see missiles lighting up the sky at night, but I’m not afraid. After this long assault, death seems more merciful than anything.”
Al-Fukhari is not a well-serviced area. It has few supplies and little water, having relied in the past on getting supplies from Khan Younis, from which it is cut off right now by Israeli incursions.
This means it cannot support such a large number of displaced people, a fact that is spreading fear among them as they also worry about the spread of disease due to the lack of water and hygiene.
There are few shopowners, and they have very limited supplies.
“There are no shops here that sell vegetables, and there are no supplies we can buy. We rely only on the tiny amounts of UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees] aid,” Khaled Muammar, 32, said.
“There will be a famine because the city is besieged and we are deprived of access to the market to buy what our children need.”