Dec 26 (The Street Press) – Numerous people in Gaza responded to evacuation orders from the Israeli army, aiming for safety in assigned areas. However, a UN humanitarian team leader revealed on Monday that the densely populated region has limited available space, posing a challenge for those seeking refuge.
Gemma Connell, who has been in Gaza for weeks, described a situation she labeled a “human chess board.” Thousands of people, already displaced multiple times, are once again seeking safety, and there’s no assurance that their destination will be secure.
The United States, a strong supporter of Israel in its conflict with Hamas, has been urging Israel to take additional measures to minimize harm to civilians. This includes identifying safe areas and creating humanitarian routes for people to escape. Gemma Connell observed people heading south with their belongings, such as mattresses, in an attempt to find a safe place, recounting her visit to the Deir al-Balah neighborhood in central Gaza on Monday.
“I’ve spoken to many people. There’s so little space left here in Rafah that people just don’t know where they will go and it really feels like people being moved around a human chessboard because there’s an evacuation order somewhere.
“People flee that area into another area. But they’re not safe there,” said Connell, team leader for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In response, the army spokesperson stated that efforts have been made to evacuate civilians from conflict zones, but Hamas consistently obstructs these attempts. The spokesperson further accused the Palestinian militant group of using civilians as human shields, a claim that Hamas denies.
NO SAFE PLACE IN GAZA
Connell recounted the tragic death of a 9-year-old boy named Ahmed at al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah. This facility received many of the wounded from Israeli airstrikes overnight, and Connell spent approximately 1-1/2 hours there.
“He was not in an area under an evacuation order, he was in an area that was supposed to be safe. There is no safe place in Gaza,” she emphasized. Connell also mentioned that new airstrikes occurred while she was at the hospital, witnessing more wounded being brought in. She shared a notification from the Israeli military urging residents of at least half-a-dozen central Gazan neighborhoods to evacuate on Friday.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) notified residents that they would operate in their neighborhood, advising them to evacuate temporarily to shelters in Deir al-Balah. The IDF spokesperson stated they would act against Hamas while adhering to international law, distinguishing between terrorists and civilians and minimizing harm to civilians. U.S. officials have expressed expectations for Israel to transition to a more targeted and surgical phase, but Israeli operations have, in fact, intensified.
Christmas Eve marked one of the deadliest nights in the 11-week-old conflict between Israel and Hamas. Palestinian health officials reported over 100 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes in central and southern Gaza, bringing the death toll to nearly 20,700. While Palestinians mourned, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to continue the fight against Hamas, citing their earlier cross-border attack on Oct. 7, which, according to Israeli records, resulted in 1,200 deaths and 240 abductions.