Israel expels thousands of Gazan workers to occupied West Bank

Palestinian authorities have scrambled to welcome thousands of Gazans following Israel’s declaration of war

Akram Jundiye, 30, said Israel forces beat him before expelling him to the West Bank. Willy Lowry / The National
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Akram Jundiye limps across the courtyard of the Ramallah Recreational Complex in the occupied West Bank as cold October rain cascades down on the hundreds of Gazan workers seeking shelter in the West Bank’s administrative capital.

In the days following Hamas’s brazen attack that left 1,300 Israelis dead, hundreds of Gazan labourers with Israeli work permits were either expelled or voluntarily left Israel for the West Bank.

Mr Jundiye, a 30-year-old farmhand who had been working in Israel legally, said in the days following Hamas’ shocking attack, Israeli authorities rounded him up and others and forced them into the West Bank, an area far from their native Gaza.

Mr Jundiye said Israeli forces beat and humiliated him, handcuffing him for more than 12 hours before he was told to cross into the West Bank.

“They made me strip down until there was nothing left on my body, then they arrested me and when they realised I'm from Gaza, they began to beat me onto the ground and they told me ‘Gaza is over,’ Mr Jundiye told The National as he touched his bruised cheek.

“They rubbed their boots on my face and put my face on the ground and put me on my knees. Then they pulled my legs and kept beating me – my body is [covered in] bruises.”

Influx of Gazans

Authorities in the West Bank have been scrambling to accommodate the influx of Gazans, many of whom have no relatives or connections in the territory.

“We are helping them, bringing them food, mattresses for them to sleep on,” said one volunteer who asked to only be referred to by his first name Aboud.

Inside the centre, volunteers have set up hundreds of flimsy foam mattresses, which cover the gymnasium floor. The workers' few possessions fill the remaining space.

It is packed and authorities say they are unsure when the crisis will subside.

The Municipality of Ramallah is trying to help transfer some of the displaced people to other cities, including Jericho and Bethlehem.

“Finding places (has been the biggest challenge) because there are many people and now the weather is very bad and we need to find another suitable place because people have been sleeping outside,” Aboud told The National.

As workers struggle to find more permanent housing options for themselves, their minds and hearts remain fixated on the tiny strip of land they call home, which has been wrecked by Israel’s formidable military.

“Gaza is devastated and all of those in it,” said Mr Jundiye. “It will take a miracle from God for those who survive.”

It was a sentiment echoed by several at the centre.

“I want to tell the world to look at us,” said Zohri Jad, 57, from Zeitoun in Gaza. “We are unable to do anything.”

Updated: October 16, 2023, 7:14 AM