gaza flee to the southgaza flee to the south

Terrified, Humiliated, and in Desperation: Gazans Journeying South Confront Horrific Realities.

The ceasefire since Friday has brought temporary relief, but an uncertain future looms with the possibility of renewed bombardment.

The Israeli military initiated a deadly bombing campaign in response to an attack by Hamas on October 7, resulting in significant casualties.

The ongoing conflict has led to more than 13,000 Palestinians being killed as of November 21, according to Gazan health authorities.

Israel has been urging Gazans in northern towns to evacuate along Salah al-Din Street, the main north-south highway in the strip.

Some residents left early, while others faced challenges due to a lack of connections in the south, concerns for older family members, or limited resources.

Many initially sought refuge in schools or hospitals in the north but eventually made the tough choice to leave.

However, the decision was complicated by Israel’s bombings in the southern part of Gaza, causing uncertainty about finding shelter in the south.

The United Nations reports that 1.7 million out of the 2.3 million residents in the Hamas-controlled enclave have been displaced during the conflict.

Gazans interviewed by The Times expressed feelings of shame, loss of dignity, and anger as they found themselves in a struggle for survival amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The journey to the south, taking hours depending on the starting point in the north, is often undertaken on foot or using donkey carts.

Aya Habboub, 23, who was heavily pregnant with her third child, remained in northern Gaza earlier in the month. She gave birth in a hospital during intense bombardment but had to evacuate when her four-day-old baby, named Tia, was born.

Despite being barely able to walk, Habboub, along with her family, faced challenges on the journey, including encounters with Israeli soldiers who stopped her mother-in-law.

The family recounted moments of running amid gunfire. Aya Habboub shared her experience in a hospital in Deir al-Balah, a city in central Gaza, where many displaced individuals are seeking shelter.

She mentioned, “I dropped my baby,” and recounted crying and screaming during the chaotic escape. Multiple Gazans interviewed by The Times shared similar accounts of soldiers firing in the vicinity of those fleeing, though independent verification of such claims was not possible.

The Israel Defense Forces did not provide specific comments on the allegations but issued a statement emphasizing significant precautions to reduce civilian harm.

They claimed to issue advance warnings of airstrikes and instruct civilians on the use of “safe corridors” for evacuation.

Since the temporary truce, some Gazans have continued moving south, while others attempted to return north to check on their homes and loved ones.

However, Israeli troops have prevented such returns. Mohammed El-Sabti, who started a journey from Gaza City, described witnessing distressing scenes, including an older woman pleading for help.

El-Sabti, currently sheltering in Khan Younis, rejected Israeli assertions about the safety of the humanitarian corridor for Gazans fleeing from the north.


He asserted, “The corridor is not humanitarian, and it’s unsafe,” characterizing it as an area of horror.

After enduring weeks of intense airstrikes, experiencing the smell of corpses, and losing their homes and relatives, these individuals speak with emotional detachment about the horrors witnessed in their hometowns and on the journey south.

Malak El-Najjar, 52, who used to reside in the Mukhabarat area in Gaza City and is currently sheltering in Khan Younis, shared the heartbreaking loss of two of her daughters, aged 18 and 20, who were killed in an airstrike before they could leave.

Iman Abu Halima, 33, fled from Beit Lahiya in the north, temporarily sought refuge in Jabaliya, and continued south due to escalating danger.

She recounted witnessing distressing scenes, including bloated bodies with flies on them and scattered body parts.

Mazen Abu Habil, a 52-year-old father of eight, described witnessing numerous dead bodies as he eventually reached Khan Younis, now a crowded refuge for displaced people.

In this teeming environment, Gazans are crammed into hospitals and U.N. shelters, enduring substandard living conditions—struggling for a single daily meal, sleeping with minimal blankets, and wearing the clothes they fled with.

Formerly residing in Jabaliya, a neighborhood north of Gaza City targeted by Israeli airstrikes, Mr. Abu Habil sought refuge first in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and later, when safety was compromised, in Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

Israel claims that Jabaliya is a Hamas stronghold and has presented videos and photos alleging that Al-Shifa Hospital conceals an underground Hamas military base. Despite these claims, Hamas denies operating from beneath the hospital.

While at Al-Shifa Hospital, Mr. Abu Habil recounted an emotional incident where he tried to cover a deceased little girl with a small cloth. He noted that Israeli soldiers patrolling nearby started shooting as he performed this somber act, emphasizing the perilous circumstances faced by those seeking safety.

He recounted how Israeli soldiers, many of whom spoke Arabic, instructed him to undress and held him in detention for approximately 90 minutes. Eventually, they released him. However, the same did not apply to everyone. Zahwa Al-Sammouni, 58, shared that while fleeing south with her family, Israeli soldiers detained her three sons, all young men.

Ms. Al-Sammouni expressed fear and uncertainty, emphasizing that they just wanted to know the whereabouts of their children. She clarified that their family, engaged in farming, had no connection to weapons, Hamas, or Fatah. Instead, they were merely seeking food for their children. Currently, she is residing with over a dozen extended family members at the hospital in Deir El-Balah.

Ms. Al-Sammouni and those with her shared a continuous stream of consciousness, recounting the challenging details of their journey.

They spoke about Israeli soldiers using profanities, the survival-of-the-fittest atmosphere in Gaza where humanity extended only to immediate families, and the desperate search for even salty water to drink.

Some Gazans, like Hamada Abu Shaaban, experienced multiple false starts in their journey. Abu Shaaban, a 33-year-old foreign exchange trader, fled on foot with his mother and aunt after Israeli strikes near his Gaza City home.

With a suitcase of cash, they initially set out but had to hide in a nearby garage for 16 hours due to clashes. Undeterred, they tried again the next day, facing numerous challenges in Al Maghazi, a community developed from a decades-old refugee camp in central Gaza.

Imad Ziyadeh, who fled to Khan Younis from near Beit Lahia, described his journey as one of suffering, torture, and terrifying fear.

People could only take the barest essentials: clothes, identification cards, and rags used as white flags. Israeli soldiers constantly yelled at them, and the road was filled with horrific scenes, including bodies and body parts.

Ziyadeh noted the resonance with the Nakba, the displacement of Palestinians during the wars surrounding Israel’s founding in 1948, expressing uncertainty about what returning to north Gaza would entail in the current forced displacement.

In summary, Gazans like Ms. Al-Sammouni, Abu Shaaban, and Ziyadeh shared harrowing details of their journeys, including encounters with Israeli soldiers, desperate conditions, and the grim scenes along the way. The comparison to historical displacements, particularly the Nakba, was a prevalent theme, highlighting the enduring challenges faced by Palestinians.



Peter Ritdung Wakkias is a Nigerian blogger and programmer, known for being the CEO of and He holds a Higher National Diploma in Computer Science from Isa Mustapha Agwai 1 Polytechnic Lafia. Based in Lafia, Nasarawa State.

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