Palestinians in Rafah: “Our only refuge is the grave”

The situation in Gaza

Published 15 February 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Palestinians attest that there is nowhere left to flee to.

About 1.5 million Palestinians are crowded into Rafah in southern Gaza. Israel has previously declared the city a ‘safe zone’ and urged civilians to leave their homes and flee there instead – but now airstrikes and bombings against the city are increasing – and a new ground invasion is expected to be launched imminently.

– We have nowhere else to go but to the grave, if they carry out their threats to invade Rafah, Hassan explains.

After the increased bombardment on Rafah resulting in dozens of deaths, many Palestinians have started to flee north again – but even there the Israeli army is present.

At least 1.4 million people are displaced and the UN Commissioner-General for UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, is clear that there is no longer any place where the civilian population is safe.

– There is absolutely no safe place in Rafah anymore, he says.

“Israelis are everywhere”

Qatar’s Al Jazeera has spoken to some of the Palestinians who have been displaced from their homes and forced to flee to Rafah – and who now face yet another threat of displacement, or being killed in Israeli bombings.

Umm al-Abed Fayyad says she and her family have been displaced four times so far.

– We are in a different area every month. The last place we were in was Khan Younis, and now we are in Rafah, she explains, adding that ”there is nowhere else to go”.

– The Israelis are everywhere. Where are we going to go?… No matter how much they threaten, we will not move again, and God willing, we will be victorious. We will persevere and remain patient.

”Anyone who moves is killed”

Asaad Hassan, who was displaced from Gaza City to Rafah, is ill and says his only wish is to return to his home.

– We have nowhere else to go but to the grave, if they carry out their threats to invade Rafah.

Following Hamas attacks on 7 October, Israel responded by bombing and invading Gaza, killing nearly 30,000 Palestinians and injuring almost 70,000 – mostly women and children. A large majority of the Palestinian population has also been forced to flee and infrastructure has collapsed.

– We came to Rafah, and now they are telling us to leave. There will be massacres. There is no other place to go. Rafah is our last refuge. This war must stop. says Umm Badr Abu Salme, who was ordered by the Israeli army to flee to Rafah.

– Anyone who moves is killed. We have no safe place to go.

”They burned down every everything”

The medic Madi agrees, pointing out that “the rest of Gaza is destroyed”.

– I will die here before I leave … We call on the Arab countries … to make a decision and end this genocidal war against Gaza.

Journalists on the ground testify that the Israeli army has carried out numerous massacres in the Gaza Strip, and that the same crimes can be expected if Rafah is invaded.

– We left on October 14. We did not want to leave Gaza City or our homes, but the Israeli occupation told us that we would be safe if we did, says Haifaa Mohammad Abdelhamid Saleh.

– They burned down everything in Gaza, they want to take their revenge on the resistance in Gaza, he continues with resignation.

More and more voices from the international community have been raised to denounce the Israeli crimes, but so far without clear results. There are also fears that the Palestinian refugees will be driven into the Egyptian desert and then denied return – a permanent expulsion similar to the one that occurred in 1948 when 750 000 Palestinians were expelled and never allowed to return.