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“Life has stopped” in Rafah since the Israeli incursion

Photo: Agence France-Presse/Satellite image 2024 Maxar Technologies An aerial view of a burning building in the gradually evacuated town of Rafah, where the Israeli army has been carrying out incursions and bombings since May 6, 2024.

Ahlam Afana – Agence France-Presse and Louis Baudoin-Laarman – Agence France-Presse in Jerusalem

Published yesterday at 6:46 p.m. Updated yesterday at 6:57 p.m.

  • Middle East

“Life has stopped in Rafah,” explains a Palestinian from this town in the south of the Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops have been carrying out incursions since Tuesday and whose residents are fleeing towards Deir al-Balah, coastal town now bristling with thousands of tents.

More than 1.4 million people are crowded into Rafah, backed by the Egyptian border, including more than a million displaced people pushed there by seven months of fighting and bombardment which reduced the north and then the center of the Gaza Strip.

Since Monday, the Israeli army has been massively bombing and carrying out incursions into the eastern neighborhoods of the city, which it has ordered its residents to to be evacuated to the center of the Gaza Strip, as part of plans to wipe out Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007 and which carried out a bloody attack in southern Israel on October 7 that sparked the war.

“Life has completely stopped in the city center of Rafah” where “the streets are empty, the markets at a standstill”, described to AFP on Wednesday Marwan al-Masri, a 35-year-old Palestinian who found refuge in Rafah after being driven out of the northern Gaza Strip.

“Life has stopped” in Rafah since the Israeli incursion

Photo: Agence France-Presse Civilians and first responders carry a victim who survived a site destroyed by an Israeli bombardment.

“We all fear an advance” by Israeli troops, “like in the eastern neighborhoods” of Rafah, “now empty of their inhabitants,” he said, recounting that he and his relatives are now “all anxious and frightened” by the incessant bombardments whose tremors they feel approaching.

Ibtihal al-Arouqi, who fled the al-Bureij camp in the center of Gaza to take refuge in Rafah, finds himself once again homeless, after leaving the east of the city.

“We emerged from the rubble of our house in Al-Bureij, and now, because of the intense bombing in Rafah, my children and I are on the streets,” she laments. “We don't know where to go, there is no safe place,” the 39-year-old woman who gave birth by cesarean two weeks ago told AFP.

“Chaotic” situation

“The situation in Rafah is chaotic,” said Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, medical coordinator of Médecins without borders in Rafah, itself displaced from Gaza City at the start of the war.

People are leaving the neighborhoods and “carrying their belongings, mattresses, blankets, kitchen utensils in trucks,” he says, but “there is no more room in western Rafah.”

“Life has stopped” in Rafah since the Israeli incursion

Photo: Agence France-Presse Palestinian civilians and children flee as Israeli forces enter the east of the city.

Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah is “closed, evacuated by the medical team who want to avoid what happened to al-Chifa and Nasser”, the two main ones in the Gaza Strip, targeted and reduced to ruins by operations by the Israeli army, which claims that Hamas used them for military purposes.

Most of those who leave Rafah flee towards the north, towards the towns of Khan Younes and Deir Al-Balah.

Originally from Gaza City in the north, Ahmed Fadel, 22, was first moved to the Nuseirat camp in the central Palestinian territory, where he left again when Israeli troops entered the neighboring one of al-Bureij.

Then, he explains to AFP, “we left for Rafah, but they shelled and threatened the city , so we came to Deir al-Balah which is already overcrowded.”

AFP journalists saw long lines of displaced Palestinians fleeing Rafah on board cars, trucks, donkey carts, tuk-tuks or on foot, carrying what they can.

AFP images show Thousands of tents and shelters piled up Wednesday along the coastal area of ​​Deir al-Balah, whose streets are crowded with people unloading goods or selling goods.

“Life has stopped” in Rafah since the Israeli incursion

Photo: Agence France-Presse A Palestinian boy sitting in the middle of a camp erected in the town of Deir al-Balah, where thousands of Palestinians fleeing eastern Rafah are crowded together.

Deir al-Balah is “a very small town that is now extremely overcrowded,” says Abdelmajid al-Kurd, a local trader, “there is no space or infrastructure to accommodate these people. »

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116