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Death Preferable To Abandoning Rafah, Say Gazans As Israeli Attacks Press On

13.02.2024 12:27

'Should we go to Sinai and abandon our land? I would rather die in Gaza than even consider leaving here,' Gaza resident says as planned Israeli offensive has triggered concerns of humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah.

Despite international warnings, Palestinians taking refuge in Rafah refuse to leave the southern Gaza Strip city despite concerns of an impending Israeli ground invasion and ongoing bombardment.

More than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured in attacks launched by the Israeli army on Rafah this week.

Local sources report that Israeli warplanes carried out around 40 simultaneous strikes with intense fire from artillery and warships targeting homes and mosques sheltering displaced people.

Rafah, located at Gaza's border with Egypt, is now home to nearly half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million due to the influx of thousands displaced by Israeli attacks.

Visiting Israeli troops in the Khan Yunis area of the Gaza Strip early this month, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had announced plans to launch a ground offensive on Rafah.

'We prefer to die in Gaza rather than migrate'

Palestinians taking refuge in Rafah have expressed concern about the possible ground invasion that could lead to the mass killing of civilians and crimes against them.

Speaking to Anadolu, many, like Raid al-Shurafa, flatly rejected any attempt to evacuate them across the border to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

"We prefer to die in Gaza rather than migrate to Sinai," said al-Shurafa, 62, whose son was killed in an Israeli bombing of a school in Khan Younis, just north of Rafah.

"They forced us out of our homes by bombing. Otherwise, we would not have left. They bombed the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq School, and my son was martyred there."

Al-Shurafa said Israeli forces had detained his other son, he added that he had to come from Gaza City to Rafah to care for his grandchildren.

"Even if they kill me, I will not leave Rafah. Impossible. This isn't just my position, it's the belief of our entire community. How can we do this? Should we go to Sinai and abandon our land? I would rather die in Gaza than even consider leaving," he declared.

Like, al-Shurafa, Ezhar Hamdi also refuses to consider being resettled in Sinai. "I would rather die on the proud lands of the Gaza Strip. I would never consider leaving Rafah," he said.

"Wasn't it enough for them to displace us from our lands? We do not accept, and will not accept, being resettled in Sinai. Wherever we are, wherever we go, they commit crimes against us, and nobody cares," he said.

Risk of massacre, genocide in Rafah

Hajji Ibrahim Awad, another Palestinian taking refuge in Rafah, said they had heard of threats that Israel would launch a ground attack on the city after driving people from the north of Gaza to the south.

"If the Israeli army enters Rafah, they will commit a massacre and genocide against innocent civilians," said the 63-year-old Palestinian.

"Where will we go? How much longer do I have to live? It is better for us to die here in our country," he added.

Vefa Ahmed, a Palestinian woman who had to migrate from the center of the Gaza Strip to Rafah, expressed concern that the Israeli army would commit massacres and genocide against the displaced people filling the streets of Rafah.

Ahmed said that the situation in Rafah had become very difficult due to the intensified attacks and bombings by the Israeli army in recent days. Nevertheless, she also emphasized that she would not consider being displaced to Sinai or anywhere outside the Palestinian territories.

No safe place in Gaza Strip

Kusay Abdullatif, a 19-year-old from Gaza, pointed out that Rafah is currently filled with displaced people who would be particularly at risk in the event of an Israeli ground attack.

"Everywhere is crowded. There is no safe place left in the Gaza Strip," said Abdullatif, while squarely rejecting the idea of leaving Rafah.

The young Gazan expressed astonishment at the silence of the international community in the face of Israel's massacres and forced displacement policy against Palestinians.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah as Israel pounded the rest of the enclave since a cross-border incursion by the Palestinian group Hamas on Oct. 7. The ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 28,000 people and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which said in an interim ruling that South Africa's claims in a case filed in December were plausible.

*Writing by Dilara Hamit and Ahmed Asmar -

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