• Khan Younis

  • Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at 1:53:36 PM
    Last Update : Monday, March 11, 2024 at 2:10 PM

Large-Scale Displacement to Rafah Amid Renewed Israeli Bombing in Northern Khan Yunis

(AWP) - Intense Israeli bombardment of Hamad City, a large residential complex in northern Khan Yunis, has prompted a new wave of Palestinian displacement towards the city of Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip.

Hamad City residents say they were forced to leave their homes following heavy shelling despite the Israeli army’s classification of the town as a safe area.

Mohammed al-Beik, a displaced Palestinian from the area, says that although the Israeli army told residents that they were safe to return to their homes in Hamad City, what happened after their return contradicted the army’s claims.

He said, “On Thursday, we came from Rafah, from Tal al-Sultan. They said that [Hamad City] was safe and had communications and water and that there were no problems or bombing of any sort. Accordingly, we came to inspect our apartment and spent Thursday there, but on Friday night we were shocked when the bombing began, and fire belts and flare bombs lit up the entirety of Hamad City.”

Abu Jihad al-Jammal, another Palestinian displaced from Hamad City, expressed his frustration while describing how its residents were forced to evacuate multiple times on the Israeli army’s orders.

He said, “What happened was that we were displaced in Rafah, and they told us that Hamad had become a safe area and was classified as a green zone. Of course, we were displaced in the streets of Rafah in tents. We were exposed to the frost and cold of winter and all my children fell ill. We were psychologically tired and destroyed, and we had no choice but to return to our homes.”

“According to what [the Israeli army] said, Hamad City had become a safe area. Two nights ago we were stunned when the insane bombing began… bombing everywhere from all directions, so we came down from the house to find a safe place to stay until the morning in the hope that things would calm down. Then we heard the sound of tanks and knew that the [Israelis] were present; in Hamad City and its surroundings.”

Al-Jammal continued, “The next day, the Israelis said that whoever wanted to leave could do so. They created a safe passage and we left. When we reached the Israeli checkpoints, they stopped us from 9 am to 4 pm. Eventually, a tank headed towards us and they said: ‘Go back to Hamad City’ so we returned according to their demand.”

He recounted that as soon as they arrived back at Hamad City “bombing began from all directions with tanks deployed throughout the city and Israeli soldiers storming the buildings.”

Al-Jammal concluded, “I have children and women in my family who were extremely afraid. The next morning, the Israelis once again said ‘Get out,’ So we, the people of the city, gathered and walked toward the safe corridor they talked about. They stopped us for about two hours at the checkpoint. We would enter, five people at a time, after going through a camera check, and they were arresting whoever they suspected. They took people in front of us and behind us. They took whoever they wanted to take and ordered the rest to continue on their way towards al-Mawasi. This is exactly what happened to us.”

The Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), said that Israeli army forces had begun a military operation in the town of Hamad, north of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, after encircling it with tanks and bombing its surroundings for several hours by air and land, in what is known as “belts of fire.”

The agency quoted residents as saying that “the Israeli army issued threats through loudspeakers carried by drones, to force the people of Hamad City to leave towards areas it claims are safe, such as al-Mawasi and Deir al-Balah, while its tanks were positioned on the hills opposite the residential buildings, with defensive earthen barriers set up in the area.”

WAFA said on Tuesday, that Israeli army aircraft and artillery intensified their aerial and artillery bombardment of the city of Khan Yunis and its surrounding areas, especially Hamad City in the north.