Gazans Flee Fighting to Al-Masawi, but Find Little Shelter There

Confronted with fierce preventing within the south of Gaza, large numbers of civilians have fled to a tiny seaside village the place Israel has mentioned they will discover security. Its identify is Al-Mawasi — and as soon as there, Gazans have discovered no shelter, no humanitarian support and little in the way in which even of primary infrastructure.

Yousef Hammash, an worker of the Norwegian Refugee Council, was amongst those that went to the village. He and his household had been in Khan Younis, the place intense city fight has raged in latest days. After they arrived, he mentioned, they discovered little greater than a barren open-air space the place individuals had been struggling to construct makeshift shelters.

“Tons of of 1000’s of individuals from Khan Younis have fled to Al-Mawasi and Rafah,” Mr. Hammash mentioned, referring to the close by city on the border of Egypt. “It turned from an empty land into a really, very crowded space.”

The precise quantity of people that have moved in latest days couldn’t be confirmed, however on Sunday, Israel known as for the evacuation of roughly 20 p.c of Khan Younis’s land space, residence to greater than 620,000 individuals, in line with the United Nations.

By the beginning of this week, the U.N. mentioned, almost 85 p.c of the inhabitants of Gaza, roughly 1.9 million individuals, had fled their houses through the struggle, which started on Oct. 7. Lots of them left the north earlier than Israel’s floor invasion there.

Mr. Hammash mentioned individuals in Al-Mawasi had been constructing shelters out of fabric like wooden and plastic that provided meager limitations in opposition to the weather.

“It doesn’t give any type of safety, however it provides them a way of security,” mentioned Mr. Hammash, who was constructing a shelter of his personal. “The problem is to cowl your head from the tough climate that’s coming, as a result of the winter is about to reach.”

One other Gazan, Mohamed Hamdan, mentioned he thought the circumstances had been particularly laborious for girls and kids, a lot of whom had been falling in poor health.

“There are such a lot of hardships right here,” Mr. Hamdan mentioned. “There isn’t a water, no meals, nothing to drink. Every thing is difficult right here.”

Al-Mawasi is roughly half a mile extensive and 9 miles lengthy, and was as soon as a Bedouin enclave in one of many Israeli settlements that Israel dismantled within the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Israel started urging Gazans to hunt security there early within the struggle, releasing movies in each Arabic and English, in addition to maps labeled with the identify of the village in each languages in mid-October.

“To the individuals of the Gaza Strip and Gaza Metropolis, I beseech you all and inform you all, go away your houses,” one video mentioned in Arabic, as a map of Al-Mawasi flashed on the display. “If needed, worldwide humanitarian support will likely be despatched there.”

Masa’advert Abu Jalhum, a Gaza Metropolis resident who was interviewed by Sky Information in Al-Mawasi on Wednesday, described a chaotic and crowded scene, with individuals touring on foot, by automotive and by horse-drawn cart with no matter belongings they may carry.

“We arrived right here and everyone was right here,” mentioned Ms. Abu Jalhum, who was interviewed with a toddler in her lap. “The place did all these individuals come from? It was just like the Day of Reckoning, when everybody has risen from the lifeless.”

Unilaterally declared “secure zones” in Gaza like Al-Mawasi have been opposed by the United Nations, which says that until all events comply with their creation, they’ve the potential to “create unacceptable hurt for civilians together with massive scale lack of life.”

In Washington, a senior administration official mentioned the Biden administration believed that Israel was not compelling individuals to maneuver to Al-Mawasi, and that it had been talked about as one space the place the Israeli army wouldn’t be working. The official mentioned there have been a number of potential evacuation websites along with Al-Mawasi.

However with massive areas of the Gaza Strip now underneath an evacuation order from the Israeli army, there are few locations for Gazans to go. And lots of locations they’ve been instructed to go to have themselves been bombed.

Ameera Harouda contributed reporting.

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