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'No place is safe' in Gaza, as 800,000 Palestinians flee Rafah

Heavy bombardment targets areas across Gaza and Israeli army issues new evacuation order in the north
Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in an Israeli strike, at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, 19 May 2024 (REUTERS/Ramadan Abed)

Nearly 800,000 Palestinians have fled the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the UN said, as Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across the besieged strip on Sunday.

The United Nations said there has been a massive movement of people since Israel launched its military operation in Rafah on 6 May.

Philippe Lazzarini of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Saturday that Palestinians were fleeing to areas without water supplies or adequate sanitation.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had sought Rafah as one of their few remaining places of refuge are now forced once again to relocate.

"The claim that people in Gaza can move to 'safe' or 'humanitarian' zones is false. Each time, it puts the lives of civilians at serious risk. Gaza does not have any safe zones.   No place is safe.   No one is safe," Lazzarini wrote on X.

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The Israeli invasion into Rafah has deepened an already perilous humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, with vital aid routes, through the Rafah and Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossings, blocked.

The UN's humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said the chokehold on aid reaching Gaza threatened "apocalyptic" consequences.

Attacks on central and northern Gaza

The Israeli military issued new evacuation orders late on Saturday for parts of northern Gaza, saying that Palestinian fighters in the area had fired rockets at Israel.

More than 10 days into what the army called a "limited" Rafah operation that sparked the exodus, fighting has also flared again in northern and central Gaza, with Israeli air strikes pounding Jabalia, Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis. 

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Israeli forces pushed deeper into the narrow alleyways of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza overnight and into Sunday, returning to an area that they said they had cleared earlier in the war.

At least 31 people were killed, most of them in a strike on a house, in Israeli dawn attacks on the Nuseirat refugee camp, near Deir al-Balah, according to Wafa news agency. Several others were wounded.

Two Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli shelling on homes in Khan Younis, while artillery fire also targeted eastern Rafah in the south.

Elsewhere, Israeli shelling targeted al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia, northern Gaza. 

Rescue teams said that over 300 homes had been destroyed by Israeli forces since the renewed ground offensive targeted Jabalia refugee camp earlier this week.

The Gaza Civil Emergency Service said that so far they have recovered the bodies of 150 Palestinians killed by the army in recent days. 

It added that many bodies and wounded people remain trapped under the rubble in the camp, due to an Israeli siege and non-stop attacks preventing emergency teams from reaching them. 

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and 79,476 wounded in Israeli attacks since the start of the war on Gaza.

Around 10,000 Palestinians are estimated to be buried under the rubble of flattened buildings, according to the Palestinian civil defence.

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