article with more on sheja’iya with anne’s pictures

article by ala qandil with anne’s pictures (pictures in the actual post)

Palestinians flee their homes – some barefoot – not knowing where to go following Israeli strikes against Shejaiya district in Gaza

Palestinians from Al Shejaiya area flee their homes and look for shelter in Gaza city following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City (MEE/Anne Paq)
Ala Qandil's picture

Thousands of people evacuated from Shejaiya, an eastern suburb of Gaza city, after a night of heaviest shelling since the beginning of Israeli offensive. Those, who escaped, talked about “massacre” and “streets full of martyrs”.

Walking barefoot, almost with nothing, many families wondered in the streets, not knowing where to go. “We went to UNRWA schools, but they are full, they closed the gate, so we went to Shifa [hospital], but there was no place for us neither” – a family of seven wandering in the streets of Gaza in a search of shelter told MEE. They did not know where they were going, like many others, usually carrying just a blanket, a few food items and baby clothes.

Those who left earlier found shelter, or rather a place to sit, behind Shifa hospital, in an adjacent garden. Sitting on the grass there, Hayat and Samar Abu Amar said despite the lack of roof over their heads and sounds of rockets, this is the first place children can catch a breath. They spent last few days sitting in one room, without electricity and running water, just listening to the sound of shelling. Hayat’s daughter, Farah reacted nervously to each sound of explosion. The two women escaped Shejaiya this morning, after a sleepless night. At seven, their neighbours told Hayat to leave immediately, since many houses in the area got hit. The family run out of the house. „There was glass everywhere, and children went out without their shoes, so scared” – she told MEE.

On their way, the family saw a girl’s body under a rubble, “Her uncle was trying to pull her out, her body was cut, her father was killed too, the uncle carried her body but there was no one around who could give her medical help. They were our neighbours” – Hayat told MEE.

Samar, a relative that left with Hayat said “streets were full of martyrs”. Samar’s husband stayed behind with two other men to watch over sick family members, who were not able to evacuate: a man in a wheelchair and a mentally ill woman. “All they did in Shejaiya was to target civilians and their homes. Hamas is even stronger now” – she told MEE.

The two mothers tried to make sure that their children will not walk into the hospital or the morgue, where at least 60 bodies have been placed since Saturday morning. Hundreds of injured people were brought this morning, filling up Shifa’s entire capacity. The main hospital was forced to organize emergency transfer of patients.

As the news arrived from Shejaiya some paramedics and firefighters tried to enter the area, despite the heavy shelling. At 9 am three firefighters were injured, when an Israeli missile or shell hit their truck. The two men: Muhammed Abu Naji, 28-year-old father of two and Ayman Asa’d el-Arabid, 27-year-old father of five were on their way to Shejaiya to put out the fire. They lied in Shifa emergency room, with tears in their eyes, unable to move. Muhammed was partially paralyzed due to a back injury; he lost consciousness and could not remember what happened. Around 10 am a body of a paramedic, Fuad Jabir was brought to the main hospital.

The dramatic situation and inability of ambulances to reach all the people in need, forced ICRC to approach both parties to agree on two-hour, humanitarian ceasefire. Despite the announcement of it at 1.30, there were sounds of heavy bombing in Shajaiya area on Tuesday afternoon. People in the area were in a state of panic, running away from the eastern border, as the noise of explosions convinced them the fighting did not stop. Nevertheless, at least dozen of ambulances made their way to the neighbourhood to evacuate injured and collect bodies of those killed. In a hectic scene, the fireman came too, trying to rescue people out of the rubble of bombed houses.

On the main street three boys and their father took turns pushing tuk-tuk with their mother and sisters. The machine broke down as the family of nine tried to escape Mugharaqa, a village close to the border. Al-Nazlis were going to their relative’s house in a beach refugee camp. “It’s not that we think it’s safe. But at least we will be with our family. We can support each other. And if we die – we die all together” – Said al-Nazli, the father told MEE. On their way, they had to take many reroutes, because the roads were destroyed by shelling and bombing. “We didn’t look around, we heard bombing and tried to get out as fast as possible” – he added.

The Gaza Strip remains under complete Israeli closure, which with Egyptian complicity makes “an open air prison”, as Palestinians explain. In this one of the most densely populated place on earth, there are not too many place to escape to, and almost no ways of evacuating the Strip.

As the number of the killed on Sunday climbed to 90 people, Palestinians talked about the new massacre; the unity government issued a statement condemning “heinous massacre committed by the Israeli occupation forces against innocent Palestinian civilians in the neighbourhood of Shejaiya”.

Since the beginning of an Israeli offensive that started two weeks ago, and after 10 days of air attacks, turned into a ground invasion, 434 people were killed, the majority of which were civilians and more than three thousand were injured.

Warning: Graphic content

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