Gazans fear 'point of no return' as Israel suffocates Rafah

Gazans fear 'point of no return' as Israel suffocates Rafah
3 min read
16 February, 2024

1.4 million Gazans, more than half of Gaza's total population, are cramped in the southern city of Rafah amid the looming Israeli threat to invade the city.

Netanyahu's aim for a "complete victory" could, according to UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffith, "lead to a slaughter in Gaza." 

Meanwhile, humanitarian assistance has come to a standstill and aid has been "choked off", the UN announced on Tuesday.

"1.7 million Gazans, 75% of the total population, have been displaced throughout the Gaza Strip"

Mustafa Ashqar (35), who evacuated his home in Gaza City to Rafah before the Israeli army demolished it, said that the situation in Rafah is "catastrophic".

"We are running out of money, everything is so expensive. We rely on humanitarian aid to eat. We even sell some of it to get money," Mustafa told The New Arab

Khan Younis and Rafah under siege

Early on Thursday 15 February, Israeli forces stormed Nasser Hospital, the primary medical facility in Khan Younis. Eyewitnesses told The New Arab that Israel has since arrested patients who tried to flee their hospital beds.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, more than 28,660 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7 and 68,395 more have been injured.

Over the past three weeks, intense Israeli attacks in and around the Khan Younis area in the southwest of Gaza — previously designated a "safe zone" — have resulted in heavy casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Evacuees told The New Arab that Israeli airstrikes have intensified over the last two weeks. Now, having fled again, they fear an imminent ground invasion of Rafah.

On Wednesday 14 February UNWRA reported that 1.7 million Gazans, 75% of the total population, have been displaced throughout the Gaza Strip. 

There are growing fears that Rafah will become a mass graveyard [Getty Images]
There are growing fears Rafah will become a mass graveyard [Getty Images]

As Israel's ground invasion looms, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that Israel has secured conditional approval from both the United States and Egypt for the attack.

According to Israel's plan, tent cities would be built in a coastal strip between Al-Mawasi in southwest Gaza and Al-Sheikh Ejlin in southern Gaza City, without allowing Palestinians in Gaza to go further north.

According to Al-Akhbar, Egypt stated that it would not allow any Palestinian refugees inside its territory. 

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Before Israel's most recent assault on Gaza, Rafah was home to approximately 250,000 residents. Now Israel has designated an area smaller than the size of Heathrow Airport as the last "safe zone" for Gazans to shelter. 

Speaking to The New Arab, Um Ramadan, originally from Gaza City, left Al-Nusairat for Rafah a month ago. However, she has since had to return after hearing about the possible ground invasion. 

"I couldn't stay in Rafah anymore. It's very crowded, very dirty, and there is barely any food left," she told The New Arab in a phone interview. 

However, at this moment, it feels like a point of no return. "It's dangerous everywhere," Um Ramadan sighed.

Abeer Ayyoub is a freelance journalist based in Amman

Follow her on X/Twitter: @abeerayyoub