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ConflictsMiddle East

Civilians flee as combat rages in Gaza's biggest cities

Staci Bivens
December 8, 2023

Palestinians fleeing heavy fighting have been heading to areas declared by Israel to be relatively safe. But with more than 80% of Gaza's population internally displaced, there are few places left where people can take shelter.


Physical and emotional trauma continue to rain down on the Palestinian people of Gaza. 
And despite Israel declaring some areas to be safe zones, airstrikes are a constant threat.

(Gaza resident) 
"We are with children, old people and women. I beg you not to bomb us."

She and her family are among the 1.8 million people who are internally displaced. That’s 80% of the population. Places to seek shelter are ever shrinking. Those who are able to escape bombings with their lives are barely living at all. Food, water and other basics are scarce.

(Saada Hothut, displaced mother)
"We came here and as you see there is no shelter, no tent, nothing, not even water. There are no toilets. Look at our children, how they look. There is no place to shower them. Today there were fights with people because of a small place. We cannot set up tents, nor can we cover our children."

This is the Mawasi camp in southern Gaza. The Israeli military has designated it as a safe zone.
But there is no aid. It's undeveloped land where already desperate people are living in squalid conditions. 
And strikes in Rafah near the Egyptian border have sown fear in those who have fled their homes to seek safety in the city’s camp. Despite international calls for a ceasefire, heavy urban combat intensifies. 

(Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari, Israeli army spokesperson) 
"We're in the midst of persistent fighting along the entire strip. We're advancing in stages of combat, eliminating terrorists, including senior commanders hiding in underground tunnels, and also destroying terrorist infrastructure."

The UN has warned that Gaza is teetering on a humanitarian catastrophe, with hospitals unable to care for the injured and the growing threat of disease sweeping through refugee camps.