Life and death in Gaza’s ‘safe zone’ bombarded by Israel

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An Israeli airstrike has devastated a residential building adjacent to the main medical center in Khan Younis, a southern city in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of at least seven individuals, as confirmed by hospital officials and eyewitnesses.

As the dust settled from Wednesday’s attack, chaos engulfed the vicinity near Nasser Hospital, with people scrambling in all directions—some rushing toward the wreckage in search of survivors, while others fled in fear. Civil defense teams, alongside volunteers and onlookers, navigated through debris of cement and twisted metal, desperately attempting to locate any buried victims.

Nasser Hospital, situated in the western part of Khan Younis, has been repeatedly targeted despite its designation as a humanitarian “safe zone” by Israel. The recent Israeli military directive to evacuate Khan Younis has affected approximately 250,000 residents, according to the United Nations, leading to a desperate struggle for displaced families to find shelter in overcrowded areas in the city’s western regions.

Wednesday’s airstrike struck an area housing a school-turned-shelter, where displaced people reside in makeshift tents, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation. Jalal Lafi, who was displaced from Rafah, described the sudden attack: “We were sitting in this tent, three people, and we were surprised by the rubble and dust. The house was bombed without any warning, hit by two missiles in a row, one after another.” He stood amidst the rubble, his appearance marred by grey soot.

Andrea De Domenico, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, expressed dismay over the escalating violence: “Gaza is the only place in the world where people cannot find a safe refuge and can’t leave the front line. Even in so-called safe areas, bombings continue unabated.”

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached critical levels, with essential services severely disrupted. The European Hospital in Khan Younis has been rendered inoperative after sustained Israeli bombardment, forcing medical staff to evacuate patients and salvage what equipment remains. According to the Palestinian Wafa news agency, the ongoing conflict has left only 15 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals partially operational.

De Domenico highlighted the staggering scale of displacement: “At present, we estimate that nine out of every ten people in Gaza have been internally displaced at least once, if not multiple times, since October.” He added that nearly 1.9 million individuals have experienced repeated displacement, exacerbating their plight amid dwindling supplies and escalating hunger.

The flow of essential goods into Gaza has sharply declined since Israel intensified its military campaign in Rafah two months ago, exacerbating food shortages and prompting fears of famine among the population. Anwar Salman, a displaced Palestinian, summed up the prevailing desperation: “It’s an unbearable existence. If they want to end our lives, let them do it. Drop a nuclear bomb and finish us off. We are exhausted. We are dying every day.”

The cycle of violence and humanitarian suffering in Gaza continues unabated, with no immediate resolution in sight amid international calls for de-escalation and humanitarian relief efforts struggling to cope with the enormity of the crisis.

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