Gaza city residents torn between staying put or fleeing south

Many are unconvinced by claims of safe passage as bombs continue to fall

Gazans flee north on foot as Israeli attacks continue

Gazans flee north on foot as Israeli attacks continue
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Growing numbers of civilians are fleeing Gaza city as Israeli troops storm neighbourhoods searching for Hamas fighters.

But many residents told The National they fear leaving their homes because of the threat of air strikes on the roads to the south of the enclave.

“We don't know where the Israelis will be striking next, so this is why we are in despair,” northern Gaza resident Khlood Nasser told The National.

Israel's military incursion has split the Gaza Strip in two, with tanks and troops surrounding Gaza city as fighting against Hamas militants intensifies in the dense urban neighbourhoods in the north.

We are seeing families on the streets holding just their backpacks and white flags - just walking with nowhere to go
Khlood Nasser, Gaza city resident

Israel has repeatedly dropped leaflets in the north urging civilians to move south during three-hour “evacuation windows”, but has continued to hit targets in the region with strikes, leaving civilians unsure of the safest course of action.

“My father is refusing to leave our home so I will stay with him in the north and find a safe area for my brother and sister to move to,” said Ms Nasser, 30.

“We are seeing families on the streets holding just their backpacks and white flags, just walking with nowhere to go."

Ms Nasser's father, an elderly man, has decided to stay in his home due to his “dignity”, she said.

On Thursday, civilians wandered the streets of Gaza city, carrying few possessions. Many have left their homes on foot, with no access to vehicles, and are moving south to flee the fighting.

The UN said 2,000 people moved south on Sunday, rising to 15,000 on Tuesday. The Israeli government said 50,000 Gazans travelled via the evacuation corridor on Wednesday, but that number has not been verified.

There are a total of 2.3 million people in Gaza, with around 1.1 million of them living in the northern half of the strip at the outbreak of the war on October 7.

Islam Ibrahim, 37, said she has decided to take her two-year-old daughter and go to the south without her immediate family.

“Despite the dangers, I want to go by foot. The situation in the north is very worrying,” she told The National.

Mrs Ibrahim has seen streams of people walk past her house and decided to follow their move south, despite not knowing where she might end up.

“I wouldn't think twice even if I won't see my family again. There is no life left in Gaza city,” she said.

Many families in the north have been sheltering at home or with their relatives, but heavy air strikes are forcing them to leave.

The air strikes and street clashes are continuing throughout the day, Ms Nasser said, leaving civilians with no option but to seek shelter elsewhere.

Civilians were also staying away from the Al Shifaa Hospital complex, Gaza's biggest hospital, as Israeli troops reached positions 3km away on Thursday, according to the hospital director.

Israel has been vague on troop movements, but officials say Gaza city is the focus of its campaign to crush Hamas following its attack on Israel that killed about 1,400 people.

The UN and aid agencies have condemned Israel's orders for civilians to move south as “impossible” and “dangerous.”

International pressure for an immediate ceasefire has continued to grow as Israeli forces press into the Gaza Strip. More than 10,500 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, Palestinian authorities have said.

Updated: November 09, 2023, 3:22 PM