‘After fleeing Gaza City, we’re sheltering in a flat with 50 people and no water or electricity’

“There are air strikes at every moment,” said Wassem Mushtaha, forced to raise his voice over the crash of a nearby explosion.

“We have no water, no electricity and limited access to food. It is a very bad situation.”

Four days ago, the 41-year-old Palestinian aid worker and more than 100 of his family members were forced to flee their homes in Gaza City.

They were told by the Israeli military that they should move south towards Khan Yunis ahead of an anticipated ground invasion of northern Gaza.

The queues outside a bakery in Khan Yunis (Photo: Wassem Mushtaha/Oxfam)
The queues outside a bakery in Khan Yunis (Photo: Wassem Mushtaha/Oxfam)

“An air strike landed very close to our home in the city,” Wassem told i.

“We received a message from the Israelis telling us to leave. So we came here, to Khan Yunis.

“But here there are airstrikes at every moment. It is horrible. Last night there was one that killed more than 70 people.”

Israel has carried out a series of air strikes on Gaza since the surprise Hamas attack on 7 October.

The order for around 1.1 million civilians in the north of Gaza to head south has pushed the population of Khan Yunis from 400,000 to more than a million.

“There are more than 100 of us packed into two flats measuring around 200 square metres each,” said Wassem, who works as a Saving Lives programme manager at Oxfam.

“We have no water or electricity and have limited access to food and the internet.

“For the sake of my children, we have had to get water from a private supplier who has a desalination plant and is distributing water across the community.

“People are running out of food and the queues outside the bakery are so long that it is starting to run low on bread.

“We are also unable to draw out any money from ATM machines because the electricity has been cut off.”

Wassem Mushtaha is living with more than 100 of his family members in Khan Yunis (Photo: Suhaib Jarrar/Oxfam)
Wassem Mushtaha is living with more than 100 relatives in Khan Yunis (Photo: Suhaib Jarrar/Oxfam)

Israel’s military said the attack by Hamas militants and continuing rocket attacks from Gaza has killed more than 1,400 people and left at least 3,200 wounded.

Retaliatory air strikes on Gaza are believed to have killed more than 3,000 civilians and wounded more than 12,000.

Human Rights Watch has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the enclave, arguing “one war crime doesn’t excuse another”.

The crisis seen leading figures across the international community urge Israel to protect noncombatants as it prepares for a full-scale ground invasion.

“From a humanitarian perspective, no laws are being followed,” Wassem said.

“I don’t know anything about Hamas. I am just here to provide humanitarian aid.

“Israel is punishing everyone in the Gaza Strip for things they had nothing to do with.”

Negotiations have continued to try to open the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza – one of two land routes out of the Gaza strip – but there is still yet to be a deal on the crossing.

“If it was just me, my wife and my children I would look to get out of Gaza,” said Wassem.

“But there are more than 100 of us, including my parents, uncles and brothers and sisters.

“I cannot leave them.”

“My daughter asked me, ‘Baba why did we leave my school bag in Gaza City? How will I go to school without it?’

“I was so sad when I heard this. I told her, ‘hope we will turn back to Gaza still alive. Then we can buy 10 bags for you.”

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