Residents of Khan Younis describe how they escaped death and face an uncertain future
As the Israeli forces expanded their military operations in Khan Younis city, in Gaza's south, dozens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the territory, fleeing to the cities of Rafah and Deir al-Balah to escape certain death.
Speaking to The New Arab, residents from Khan Younis say that the Israeli army deliberately killed tens of Palestinians while they were trying to evacuate their houses, some of whom were killed inside their temporary tents established in the western parts of Khan Younis.
"Because of the unprecedented Israeli ground invasion in the western of Khan Younis, we live under a state of fear and panic, mainly as our areas here resided dozens of thousands of displaced people who fled from the Israeli attacks in Gaza and northern parts of the coastal enclave," Abdul Latif Abu Sharar, from Khan Younis-based, remarked to TNA.
"They [the Israeli forces] do not distinguish between innocent people and the militants on the ground. They killed everyone without committing any fault. They only want to destroy all Palestinian properties and kill all of us," the 55-year-old father of six remarked.
Officially, the Israeli army claims that its forces are encircling the city of Khan Younis under the pretext of conducting military operations against Hamas, the Islamist group ruling Gaza since 2007.
Based on Israel's claims, Khan Younis city is the centre of Hamas' power in the besieged coastal enclave that includes four brigades of Hamas as well as the leaders of the Islamist movement.
Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society announced in a statement that at least three displaced people were killed and two others were injured as a result of an Israeli bombing that targeted the northern gate of the society's headquarters in the city of Khan Younis.
Palestinian medical sources in the Nasser Hospital, the only hospital operating in Khan Younis, told TNA that ambulances are facing significant difficulties in transporting the dead and wounded from the western areas of Khan Younis as a result of being directly targetted.
"There are appeals from families in the areas west of Khan Younis demanding their evacuation and that there are casualties among them," the medical sources said.
Sawsan Abu Hamada, a Khan Younis-based Palestinian woman, described the situation as if "it were doomsday". She does not know what her fate will be, but for now she's been forcibly displaced with her 20-member family to Rafah city in the southern of Gaza.
"For over three months, I thought my five-floor house was safe for us. I hosted more than 120 members in my house, but now all of us must leave it and start a new journey of homelessness," the 45-year-old mother of six told TNA.
"It was the worst moment for me when I told my guests that they had to find another safe place alone as I had to do the same for my family and children. I cried a lot with my parents, sisters and even guests, who hardly found some tents to live in in Rafah city," the woman said, explaining that she finally found a temporary tent in Rafah city.
In Rafah, Abu Hamada said she "met all her neighbours who spoke of how that they cannot deal with the new situation as they lack all human requirements, including food, water, electricity and even security."
Ashraf al-Alraj, another Palestinian man in Khan Younis, was forced to flee to Deir al-Balah in the middle of Gaza, seeking a safe place for his ten-member family, but he did not find it.
"For three days, I was forced to sleep in the streets with my family. I thought about going back to Khan Younis, but the situation there is very dangerous, and we will be killed for sure," he said to TNA.
This is why he was forced to buy a tent for US$1,000 to let his children sleep inside it. However, he says, the situation was not better in Deir al-Balah "as the Israeli army intensified its attacks in the centre of Gaza, which means that I could have to go to Rafah."
Since 7 October 2023, Israel has launched a large-scale military war at the besieged coastal enclave right after Hamas launched its unprecedented attack at the Israeli military bases and settlements within the Gaza envelope, killing about 1,140 Israelis and capturing about 200 who were brought to Gaza.
Since then, the Israeli army has killed more than 25,500 Palestinians, and more than 62,000 have been wounded in the coastal enclave, according to the latest statistics issued by the health ministry in Gaza.