More than 120,000 people who have fled their homes in Gaza due to violence face a precarious future, with the exit through Israel barred under the long-term blockade, and a closed border with Egypt preventing escape, international aid agency Oxfam said today.
The past few days have been the deadliest yet in Gaza, with civilians including women and children making up the vast majority of casualties, and a child being killed every hour on average. Rockets continue to be fired from Gaza into Israel.
Head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, Nishant Pandey, said the toll on the walled-in civilian population was extreme, with hospital and water supplies under strain and needs increasing every day.
“People are terrified. Normally in crises like this we would see an exodus of people escaping the violence, but in a tiny territory like Gaza there is no safe place for them to go,” Mr Pandey said.
People have been warned to leave nearly half of Gaza’s small territory as airstrikes intensify. However, with bombing and fighting taking place across all of Gaza there is simply nowhere safe for people to go to. Thousands of displaced families are sheltering in school buildings, but these evacuation centres provide little security. At least 85 schools have also been damaged in the past two weeks.
“Conditions in the schools are becoming increasingly desperate, with clean water, food and shelter running perilously low.”
Um Mohammed Al Azazma, a mother of eight, told Oxfam of the horror of realising her family had nowhere to run.
“Everyone was running and scared while carrying their children and the tank shells falling around us. I had to jump over dead bodies in the streets. The schools were full and we ended up in a church. My children are scared and we try to convince ourselves that we are in a safe place, but there is no safe place in Gaza right now. The only thing we need is to be safe in our homes.”
According to the United Nations 1.2 million people, two thirds of the population of Gaza, have limited or no access to water or basic sanitation services.
Oxfam is trucking vital supplies of safe water to 19,000 people sheltering in schools, a church and a mosque. Oxfam is also delivering water to Al Shifa hospital, which has seen a massive influx of civilian casualties in the past few days, including many women and children. Hospitals and health facilities have themselves been hit and seriously damaged.
“Oxfam condemns violence against civilians by all sides, including Israeli military actions and Palestinian rocket fire. We urge the international community to do much more to push for a lasting ceasefire that ends the blockade and addresses the root causes of the conflict,” Mr Pandey said.
The ongoing violence and intensive airstrikes makes it extremely difficult and dangerous to deliver aid to people, despite the growing needs. Many Oxfam staff and partners have themselves been affected by the violence and have had to leave their homes.
For interviews with Nishant Pandey or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428367318 or firstname.lastname@example.org