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War on Gaza: Israeli tanks and snipers encircle Khan Younis, shooting 'anyone who moves'

'Catastrophic' scenes in Gaza's south as wounded left unattended and displaced people ordered by Israel to move from one unsafe area to the next
This photograph taken on 22 January 2024 from Rafah, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP)
Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, 22 January 2024 (AFP)

With Israeli snipers and tanks positioned to fire on any signs of life, Palestinians across Khan Younis are under siege with nowhere to go.

"The situation in Khan Younis is catastrophic,” Said Wujdan, 24, told Middle East Eye on Tuesday from the encircled city in southern Gaza.

“Tanks are less than 500 metres from al-Amal neighbourhood, and snipers have taken over the roofs of the high residential buildings there, ready to shoot anyone who moves.” 

He described waking up to wounds, as the windows in his temporary residence shattered over him from intense overnight Israeli attacks.

Ambulances have been unable to reach the wounded across Khan Younis, after the headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent (PCRS) was surrounded by Israel's military. Israeli drones shot at anyone moving near al-Amal hospital, the PCRS said on Tuesday. 

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Wujdan said a child and his mother were killed by Israeli bombs a day earlier near al-Boraq neighbourhood. No one could recover the bodies due to the Israeli encirclement. 

"The situation in Khan Younis dramatically flipped yesterday," Mohammed, 37, who was displaced to the city's al-Masawi neighbourhood, told MEE.

"While we were expecting a gradual withdrawal of the Israeli tanks, we were surprised that the tanks had reached al-Mawasi, where we are seeking refuge now. This area was considered safe earlier."

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Mohammed said that some displaced people took tents to the beaches to escape. Others were "killed immediately", he added. 

'Please tell the Israelis the hospital is not a target'

For several days, Palestinians in Khan Younis have raised alarm bells about Israeli tanks closing in on Nasser Hospital - the largest functional medical facility in Gaza.

They fear it will suffer the same fate as al-Shifa hospital in the north, which effectively shut down after a sustained Israeli siege in mid-November last year. 

A doctor at Nasser Hospital described the chaotic scenes in the vicinity of the complex. 

"We have got news today from the Israeli army to evacuate block number 107. This block actually contains schools, hospitals and houses," Ahmed Mugrabi, head of the plastic reconstructive surgery department, told MEE.

'We are experiencing hunger, pain and cold, and the world is just watching'

- Dina, 36, Khan Younis

Israel has divided the besieged Gaza Strip into blocks, and frequently instructs Palestinians to move from one block to another. The measures, however, give civilians no measure of protection. 

"People actually were trying to evacuate this block but they couldn't. All above and around me, explosions and gunshot can be heard, and are being fired over our heads," said Mugrabi. 

He said that Nasser Hospital was trying to bring medical staff to the facility to treat the wounded, but was unable to. 

"I can't begin to explain to you what a real disaster the situation here is," he added. "Please tell the Israelis we are not a target. The hospital is not a target. Please!"

'Where should we go?'

Israeli forces issued alerts to residents in six so-called blocks in Khan Younis to leave their homes: 107, 108, 109, 110, 111 and 112. 

Dina, 36, was told to evacuate block 107 with 23 members of her family. 

"This area has been one of the safest zones we sought refuge in earlier during the war. I fled here on 17 October from Gaza City after my house was destroyed," she told MEE.

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"They lie to us. They just change the place where they intend to kill us," she added, explaining that she was encouraged to flee to areas that had come under attack over the past day.

"We are experiencing hunger, pain, and cold, and the world is just watching. Where should we go?" she said.

Israel’s military says it killed “dozens” of Palestinian fighters during fierce fighting in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, including in Khan Younis. The claim could not be independently verified by MEE.

“Over the past day, troops carried out an extensive operation during which they encircled Khan Younis and deepened the operation in the area. The area is a significant stronghold of Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade,” the military said.

“Ground troops engaged in close-quarters combat, directed [air] strikes, and used intelligence to coordinate fire, resulting in the elimination of dozens of terrorists,” it said.

The operation was accompanied by a “near-total telecommunications blackout” across the enclave, according to internet watchdog Netblocks.

Its data showed that the connectivity status for the Rafah governorate to the south was worst, with connectivity levels dropping to as low as five percent.

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