Homeless and without prospects thousands of Palestinians from Gaza crowd

Homeless and without prospects, thousands of Palestinians from Gaza crowd the border with Egypt Correio do Povo

It took 70yearold Um Imad three days to reach Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on foot. She sleeps outside in a maze of stalls and products at exorbitant prices, like thousands of Palestinians fleeing the fighting. “I haven’t found a place to stay, I haven’t found a tent, I haven’t found anything,” says the elderly woman in this coastal town on the border with Egypt.

Behind her is a row of tents. Some have been placed along a hill of sandy earth, with fences and barbed wire next to them.

Most Palestinians trying to survive in the region have fled Khan Yunis, about 20 km further north and the current epicenter of Israeli military operations against the Islamist Hamas movement.

“I spend the night on the street, in the pouring rain, without finding shelter or anything like that, and I have orphaned children with no father or mother with me,” says a desperate Um Imad. Nearby, 24yearold Abdallah Halas lives in the same situation. “I don’t know where we’re going to sleep,” he says with tears in his eyes.

According to the United Nations, 1.3 million people live in “desperate conditions” in Rafah. In this city, sewage flows into streets full of trash.

Even though more than three months have passed since the war began, people are still arriving by the dozens on foot, in carts or crammed into the backs of pickup trucks. Due to the shortage of gasoline, vehicles are powered by diesel.

Residents of the Gaza Strip are fleeing from one area to another in this small area of ​​365 km² and 2.4 million inhabitants. The fighting began in the north but then spread south.

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The war broke out on October 7 with the invasion of southern Israel by Islamist commandos, killing about 1,140 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapping about 250, according to an AFP report based on official Israeli data .

In response, Israel launched an air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip that has so far killed 26,257 people, most of them women, children and teenagers, according to the territory's health ministry.

In Rafah, the streets are so crowded that vehicles move at a snail's pace. Dozens of street vendors try to get through the crowd with their goods under their arms.

They sell the few basic necessities that have reached Gaza at double the price, mainly canned goods, mattresses, blankets and tents. A pack of chips costs eight shekels (about R$10), eight times more than before the war.

Next to her three children, Hind Ahmed waits for a taxi or cart to stop. She wants to go to the tent her husband has set up.

“We stayed in a school with more than 50 people for more than a month, but the situation became catastrophic,” he says. “That’s why we decided to go into the tent despite the cold,” explains the 29yearold mother.

“What’s happening doesn’t make any sense. Leave the border crossings open so we can leave! There is nothing left in Gaza: there are no schools, no education and no basic needs,” she says desperately.

Then a man crosses the street and angrily interrupts: “We are not leaving Gaza, the Jews who came here, and they are the ones who should leave.”