Palestinians desperate to flee Rafah as Israelis bear down

By Thomson Reuters May 13, 2024 | 8:47 AM

By Mohammed Salem

RAFAH (Reuters) – The Anseir family loaded their meagre belongings on a beat up car hoping to escape before an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah — where more than a million Gazans who had thought they would be safe are now struggling to find the means to flee again.

Mai Anseir and her extended family of 25 — who already had to move three times in the face of Israeli bombardment — say they have run out of options as Israeli troops get closer to the last sanctuary on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.

“We are here, we do not know how to leave. Our financial capabilities do not allow us to get transportation so that we can leave,” said the mother of five at an abandoned U.N. school where the family had taken shelter.

“And we cannot stay in (this) place because it is ‘zero’. The place is miserable. There are no services, no water, no electricity. There is no life in the place that we were at.”

Israel ordered residents out of the east of Rafah last week, and extended that order to central areas of the city in recent days, sending hundreds of thousands of people, most already displaced, fleeing for new shelters. Israeli tanks have now cut off the main Salahuddin Road separating Rafah’s eastern and central districts.

With the evacuation order and arrival of fighting, hospitals swiftly shut and meagre aid supplies vanished. Residents say they have no idea where they will go now, or how they will get there.

Anseir said she needs milk and medical treatment for a child with a heart condition. She can no longer obtain it here.

“Life and death are now the same. We hope to God that soon there will be relief, because relief is only in God’s hands. It will not come from anyone. We only appeal to those with compassionate hearts; humanitarian organisations,” she said.

Her sister-in-law Abeer, who has eight children, said the charity food the family used to receive is now gone.

“The whole area, which they say is safe, is no longer safe,” she said as rain fell on the empty grounds of the school.

“We saw death, we saw people without heads. We were barely here for two months, and then they said to leave. They threw flyers at us,” she said. “As you can see, we don’t know where to go or come. It is like we are escaping death to death.”

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)