Feature: Hope dims, hunger gnaws in Rafah amid looming Israeli offensive -Xinhua

Feature: Hope dims, hunger gnaws in Rafah amid looming Israeli offensive

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-08 16:22:00

GAZA, April 8 (Xinhua) -- "I am from Palestine and Gaza is my home ..." In a makeshift tent classroom at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian children have not given up learning to read and write every day.

They have no idea how long their temporary education will last. The Israeli military announced Sunday that it is withdrawing from the battle-scarred city of Khan Younis to prepare for the internationally criticized offensive into Rafah, a 55-square-km area where over half of 2.3 million Gazan civilians are taking refuge.

Since the eruption of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Oct. 7, 2023, the Israeli military has been compressing the survival space of Palestinians with bombardments, power cuts, and obstruction of aid. Over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed over the past six months.

"Where else can we flee? Are we to live in the sea?" a Gaza resident asked. Many Palestinian families are forced to live in tents meters away from the border fence with Egypt, without access to drinking water, food, electricity, or medical care.

Bombings, displacement, and the ever-looming specter of death have become daily realities for Gazans. Nowhere is safe, and fear permeates.

"You can smell death everywhere. The Israeli army has turned the hospital into a hell that has no feature of life," Rahaf al-Halabi, a 62-year-old Palestinian woman in Gaza, said with teary eyes. "The army killed dozens of young people before our eyes," she said, recalling the two-week siege on the Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza.

Schools are not safe, either. A March 27 UNICEF report reveals that since the onset of the conflict, Israeli bombardments have directly hit 212 schools, and over 13,000 children have been killed.

Hunger is killing those who survived bombs. In February, the United Nations warned that at least a quarter of Gaza's population is one step away from famine and virtually the entire population desperately needs food.

Abu Hussam, a recent arrival at Rafah from the Northern city of Beit Lahia, northern Gaza, somberly recalls how his family once led a decent life but now faces hunger.

Cooking a can of beans on fire for a meal, the father of two said the family used to cook the most delicious dishes in Ramadan, but conditions have completely changed this year as the conflict has deprived locals of their houses, jobs, and even their beloved ones.

At the Rafah market, hopeful food-seekers ended up empty-handed. The ongoing conflict stripped away reliable income sources and exacerbated scarcity, driving prices beyond reach for many.

On March 25, the UN Security Council's resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire has not brought much hope. Right after the resolution, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in Washington that military operations wouldn't cease until all Israelis detained in Gaza were released, and only with "absolute victory" would the conflict end.

On the same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a high-level delegation to meet U.S. President Joe Biden for a discussion on alternatives to Israel's planned ground attack in Rafah.

Senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, said on Thursday that despite Hamas showing flexibility, there has been no progress in Gaza ceasefire talks, with the Israeli government placing obstacles hindering both parties from reaching an agreement.

On Sunday, both Israel and Hamas sent teams to Egypt for a new round of talks on a potential ceasefire in the six-month conflict.

For Palestinians trapped in Rafah, the yearning for peace has been dampened only by the bitter taste of disappointment. Yet, they cling to hope for the eventual arrival of peace.