Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip: Mahmoud Shalabi did not evacuate his home in northern Gaza despite the frightful Israeli warnings of a looming, far more brutal assault to come as it presses ahead with its war against the Hamas militant group.
The Palestinian aid worker is among hundreds of thousands who have remained. Others who initially heeded the Israeli warnings to head south have returned to the territory’s north, where Israel says it considers all those who stay possible “accomplices” of Hamas.
Shalabi said leaving his home in Beit Lahia didn’t make sense considering the relentless bombardment of southern Gaza, where Israel has repeatedly urged the more than 1 million northern residents like him to seek refuge. The overcrowded shelters and shortages of water and food in the south played a part in their decisions, said Shalabi and others who remained.
Risk death at home, or elsewhere in Gaza, they said.
Leaving would be reasonable only if Israel stopped targeting the south, said Shalabi, who works for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-based charity providing health services. “It doesn’t make sense to me that I should leave my home to go and get killed in a tent in the south of Gaza,” he said.
Some 350,000 Palestinians are still in northern Gaza, according to Israeli estimates. Military officials have repeatedly exhorted Palestinians to move south.
International rights groups have sharply criticised the Israeli evacuation orders, saying they cannot be considered effective warning to civilians, under the rules of international law, because of a lack of realistic options for those fleeing.
Still, many Palestinians are choosing to return north, tired of moving from place-to-place under Israeli fire as shelters become overcrowded and unliveable. UN monitors estimate hundreds or even thousands have returned.