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Thousands flee northern Gaza in fear of Israeli attack
Published Sunday 13/07/2014 (updated) 14/07/2014 14:25
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Palestinian families travel to a UN school in Gaza City to seek
shelter after evacuating their homes on July 13, 2014
(AFP/Thomas Coex)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Thousands of Palestinians fled the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday and sought refuge in UNRWA facilities after Israeli forces instructed them to leave their homes.

Israeli forces dropped leaflets warning residents to leave their homes before midday on Sunday "for their own safety."

Residents said they also received phone calls from Israel's military instructing them to evacuate their homes and several tank shells were fired to scare residents, witnesses said.

During the night, Samari al-Atar, who lives in the Atatra neighborhood -- one of the areas Israel said it would hit hard -- fled to an UNRWA school in Gaza City.

"It was the middle of the night, and I gathered the children, they were so afraid," said Samari al-Atar, breaking down in tears as she described how her family had left everything and fled barefoot with shooting all around.

"Last night there was so much shelling that no one could sleep, it was terrifying," said one man, who gave his name only as Farid.

He was fleeing with six family members, riding alongside them on a motorbike piled high with blankets.

"I'm going to try to go to a school, anywhere that is safe," he told AFP.

Mohammed Sultan packed his family's belongings onto a horse-drawn cart, with five children sitting among the hastily assembled items.

He walked alongside the cart, with other adult relatives, heading for a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees.

Inside the school compound, the displaced children draw on a blackboard, sketching images of war in pink and yellow chalk -- Israeli helicopters and tanks firing, and Palestinian rockets.

One boy seemed almost catatonic as he spoke in a long, monotone about fleeing his home, his eyes downcast and fixed on the floor.

Maani al-Ataar described the terror of fleeing by night, as Israeli planes circled overhead.

"People were screaming and there were old men who couldn't walk properly, the younger men had to support them," she said.

"There was no electricity, so the road was pitch black."

Robert Turner, director of UNRWA operations said thousands of displaced people were already sheltering in its schools across Gaza.

"UNRWA now has eight schools sheltering about 4,000 displaced Gazans," he told reporters.

"More are arriving by the minute. They are mostly fleeing areas in the north," he said. A spokesman said UNRWA facilities had the capacity to shelter some 35,000 people.

In 2008, dozens were killed when Israel attacked a UN facility housing Palestinians who had fled Beit Lahiya.

Meanwhile, director of the UNRWA operations in Gaza Robert Turner said Sunday that UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and coordinator of humanitarian affairs James Rawley were denied entry to Gaza.

AFP contributed to this report
1 ) shirley cedillo / Usa
13/07/2014 18:39
I am mad as hell that my country is funding this genocide. Americans need too wake up,

2 ) ABE / USA
13/07/2014 20:30
America like the world does not care for HAMAS!

3 ) Shona / Canada
13/07/2014 20:31
I am as mad as hell that militant Hamas has forced this violence, on the proud Palestinian people.

4 ) Robby / USA
13/07/2014 21:06
1 ) shirley cedillo / Usa - How mad are you about American aid being use to help fund the "unity government" which includes HAMAS?

5 ) Paul / Kenya
13/07/2014 21:25
64 Iraqis killed today in a bombing, and you mad...Thousands murdered by American carpet bombing of Iraq and Afganistan and you mad...Thousands murdered in Syrian civil war and you mad... thousands murdered in Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and you mad....

13/07/2014 21:52

7 ) Steve / Uk
13/07/2014 22:57
Stop firing rockets indiscriminitely and israel wil stop it's precision bombing.

8 ) shirley it is time / to say
13/07/2014 22:58
fortunately or not - halas to hamas ...

9 ) Brian I / Israel
13/07/2014 23:05
Every rocket fired at israel, is a crime and is illegal, weather it hits or not is a crime, because it targets civilians in israel. Period

10 ) @ Shirley-1 / Truth
14/07/2014 00:13
I am "mad as hell" too, but the problem is bigger than America !! The Whole Damn World "need too wake up," to the difference, between Israel and Hamas, where: - Israel uses defensive systems against missiles, and soldiers against militants, to protect the residents of Israel, while - Hamas uses the residents of Gaza, to protect their missiles & militants !! - Truthfully, Iran bears responsibility for "funding this genocide."

11 ) Tibi / Tubas
14/07/2014 00:15
Hamas could end this at any time.

12 ) Outlier / USA
14/07/2014 00:19
Hamas and Gaza will stop this by declaring a ceasefire. When is the only question - the longer they wait, the more they will suffer.

13 ) Arnold / Canada
14/07/2014 00:47
Shirly # 1. This is not genocide . Stop throwing around words you know not the meaning of.

14 ) Fahad / USA
14/07/2014 01:53
To Shirley, Israel has a right to self-defence, the same as any country does. Rockets have been fired daily into Israel. How would you feel if Mexico began shooting rockets into Texas or California? Would you call it a genocide if we defended ourselves? You are the one that needs to wake up! Fahad

15 ) Neil / NZ
14/07/2014 06:58
If Gazans need to leave the war zone in the North of Gaza, they should be allowed to cross the border into Israel to avoid the bombing. It would then be up to Israel to house and feed them until the bombing stops.

16 ) gEORGE / usa
14/07/2014 10:27
Israel has been ethnically cleansing Palestinians Since I was born 67 years ago today. Zionism is no different than any other racist movement. A psychopath is a is psychopath regardless of what religion is mentioned.

17 ) JoeFattal / USA
14/07/2014 15:23
Yes leave if you can, but I don't think that's going to save any lives. When they leave what Israel going to shoot at, not an empty house. The case of that family that was warned to leave, their house was ready to get blown up. They left, some of the family waited outside under a tree thinking the house would blow up, it didn't instead they were hit with a missile and they died, and the house was still standing. That's a good example that Israel is targeting civilians.

18 ) Tom / USA
14/07/2014 20:17
How many times have zionists ordered Palestinians to leave their homes? This looks like 1948, 1967 all over again. It's disgusting! And the Great White World just says "Israel has a right to defend itself." Makes you feel like puking.

19 ) stickler / US
14/07/2014 21:45
@14) 'Fahad' - If the US, due to a threat of gangs/illegal immigration, occupied Mex, confiscated its land, evicted homeowners, built cities/roads for Americans only, enclosed Mex towns in barbed wire, didn’t allow travel, development, construction of water collection tanks/electric facilities/ bathrooms/schools/ playgrounds, or even working in their own fields, would Mexs have a right to defend themselves? But then the US could bomb Mexico and claim its bombing is just for self-defense!

20 ) Shabeer / Rep of South Africa
21/07/2014 23:32
Israel is illegally occupied territory taken by force from Palestinians. Hamas has the right to claim it back forcefully. Hamas is not transgressing, they're just trying to get back what lawfully belongs to them. Israel refuses to hand back Palestinian property. It's only obvious that the use of force be applied. Since when does Israel have the right to hold the people of Gaza like prisoners in a secluded area with no contact with the outside world. This is the biggest violation of human rights.
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