The Israel Defense Forces bombed several areas in central Gaza, including refugee camps and a city, where it had previously told residents to seek shelter from the fighting.
GAZA CITY – Israel on Sunday was broadening its military offensive in beleaguered Gaza, stepping up strikes in the enclave’s central region, and narrowing further the small amount of territory where it says Palestinians should seek safety from the fighting.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck at least three areas in central Gaza on Saturday and Sunday, including the Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps, as well as the city of Deir al-Balah, where on Friday it had urged residents to flee.
The IDF said that it targeted “terrorist infrastructure and operatives” in central Gaza, as part of its ongoing operation to stop the rocket fire from Hamas and other militant groups in the strip. The IDF also said that it warned civilians to evacuate the areas before the strikes, using phone calls, text messages, and leaflets.
Too Vague, Too Late
However, Palestinian health officials and witnesses said that the Israeli attacks killed at least 45 people and wounded more than 100, many of them women and children. They also said that the Israeli warnings were either too vague, too late, or too dangerous to follow, as many roads and bridges were destroyed or blocked by the Israeli forces.
“They told us to leave, but where do we go? There is no safe place in Gaza. Everywhere is a target,” said Ahmad Abu Khader, a 32-year-old father of four, who lives in the Bureij refugee camp. He said that he received a phone call from the IDF on Saturday night, telling him to evacuate his home within 10 minutes. He said that he grabbed his children and ran to a nearby school, where he hoped to find shelter. But as he was running, he said that he saw a missile hit his house, reducing it to rubble.
“I lost everything. My home, my belongings, my memories. I don’t know if I will ever be able to rebuild it,” he said.
Abu Khader said that he and his family spent the night at the school, along with hundreds of other displaced people, but they did not feel safe there either. He said that the school had no electricity, no water, no food, and no medical supplies. He also said that he heard explosions and gunfire throughout the night, and that he feared that the school could be attacked at any moment.
“We are living in a nightmare. We don’t know if we will survive the next day. We don’t know if we will ever see peace and justice,” he said.
The Israeli attacks on central Gaza have raised concerns and criticism from human rights groups and international organizations, who have accused Israel of violating the laws of war and endangering the lives of civilians.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 1.8 million Palestinians have been displaced by the Israeli offensive, which began on October 7, in response to a massive attack by Hamas that killed more than 1400 Israeli civilians. OCHA said that more than 80% of the displaced people are staying with host families, while the rest are sheltering in UN-run schools, mosques, churches, and other public buildings.