Gaza today: panic and displacement

Posted on November 20, 2012

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We’re finalizing today’s PCHR report on the rights violations taking place during this recent Israeli military offensive when one of our colleagues runs into the room in panic. He says we have to wrap up quickly: “they’ve dropped leaflets in our neighborhood telling us to move out of the area. I need to go to my family now and take them somewhere.”

Leaflet dropped over the northern Gaza Strip, Gaza City and the border areas. 20Nov12

Soon it becomes clear that his neighborhood wasn’t the only one showered in leaflets. Residents of the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as well as the border areas, and eastern and southern neighborhoods of Gaza City also found warning leaflets on their streets.

The translation of the leaflet dropped over Gaza City reads that the following areas of Gaza would be unsafe: Sheikh Ajleen, Tel al Hawa, South Rimal, Zeitoun, Shuja’iyah Turkmani, and New Shuja’iyah. People are told to evacuate their houses immediately and move towards certain other neighborhoods.

Panic broke out since; everyone has been on the phone non-stop to tell family and friends about the leaflets, and find other places to stay.

Cars were speeding through the city, carrying families on the move. Families brought what they could; suitcases, blankets, food, mattresses.

Families fleeing their homes after warning leaflets are dropped, Gaza City – 20Nov12

While fear for a ground invasion mounts, there are radio news reports of two new airstrikes in Gaza city and one in Deir el Balah, killing 8 people of whom two children.

“Psychological warfare” is what I heard several friends and colleagues around me say in the past days. While a so-called ‘truce’ is being brokered, attacks on houses and cars continue and people are made to leave their neighborhoods, spreading fear for a full ground offensive. Today approximately 6000 people have fled into 10 different UNRWA schools.

While I write this an Egyptian ceasefire is being brokered; it is supposed to start at midnight. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Egyptian government have said that under the conditions of the ceasefire: assassinations of Palestinians by Israel have to stop; rocket firing from Gaza has to stop; and Israel has to ease the border crossings (not totally open them). Egypt is the guarantor of this agreement.

Should the truce hold, it is only a temporary bandaid on a festering wound; the occupation still exists, there is still an illegal closure of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip remain seperated from each other. Without a just solution to end this violence, this will be ‘just another escalation’ of violence in the Gaza Strip that took the lives of an X-number of Palestinians, and that will be followed by other ones.

Whether this ‘truce’ will hold is hard to predict. A few minutes ago an Israeli drone strike hit a car of the Al Quds channel, killing two media personnel. I just spoke to a friend of mine who lives in Beit Hanoun; during the 5 minutes we were on the phone, 3 tank shells hit close to his home. All the windows of his house are scattered and some shrapnell pierced the walls. His entire family (dozens of people) are huddled together in one room in the centre of the house.

The dark has set in and people are waiting. Tonight seems to be the most decisive night so far.

With drones buzzing overhead, we wait…

Posted in: Palestine