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Israel shoots at displaced Palestinians trying to return home to north Gaza

November 24, 2023 at 3:40 pm

Palestinians hide behind a wall as Israeli army opens fire on them when they try to return to the Ez-Zeytun neighborhood after a humanitarian pause takes effect in Gaza City, Gaza on November 24, 2023 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Many joyful but wary Palestinians emerged from makeshift shelters at the start of the four-day Gaza ceasefire on Friday to begin the long journey back to their homes, Reuters reports.

In the southern town of Khan Yunis, which has been housing thousands of displaced families including from heavily bombarded northern Gaza, streets were packed with people on the move.

Hundreds were heading towards the north, despite Israel dropping leaflets warning them not to go back to an area it described as still being a dangerous war zone.

Men, women and children carried their belongings in plastic bags, shopping bags and rucksacks. One family sat on the back of a cart piled high with bags and pulled by a donkey.

Some people looked up to the sky as if to check they were not in danger of attack from Israeli warplanes.

“I am now very happy, I feel at ease,” said Ahmad Wael, trudging along with a large mattress on his head.

READ: Humanitarian pause in Gaza reveals humanitarian catastrophe, destruction

I am going back to my home, our hearts are rested, especially that there is a four-day official ceasefire, better than returning to live in tents. I am very tired from sitting there, without any food or water. There (at home) we can live, we drink tea, make bread using fire and the oven

However, video footage circulating on social media shows Israeli occupation forces shooting at Palestinians trying to make the journey back to their homes in northern Gaza.

The United Nations says around two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are homeless, including most of the population of Gaza City and the rest of the northern half of the enclave, reduced to a wasteland by Israel’s assault.

Khan Yunis, the main city in the south, has also not proved safe. Many of its buildings are now in rubble, destroyed by Israeli strikes in its campaign in response to the deadly Hamas attack in southern Israel on 7 October.

“Honestly it is a nice feeling for one to be able to go back home after all this time, to see their families and loved ones, but we are still hesitant and afraid,” said Souad Abou Nasirat, a Khan Yunis resident.

“A four-day truce is not enough; those (in the north) of Gaza, may God give them patience. We’re worried about them.”

UN agencies voiced hope that the truce would allow aid to flow to northern Gaza for the first time in weeks.

Some people stay 

Alaa Al Moubachar, sitting outside a Khan Yunis Medical Centre with her children, said the neighbourhood where she lived in Gaza City had been destroyed.

“I see people coming and going, coming and going, and I swear my soul is crying, my heart is crying,” she said. “I just want to go back, even if just for an hour to see my house and the neighbourhood, to see Gaza (City) and what happened to it.”

We went out with nothing; we only took some summer clothes. We are (housed) in schools, it is cold, windy and rainy and we don’t have any winter things or anything. We are mentally exhausted. We stand in queues for the bathroom; we stand in queues for the bakery. Our lives have become very, very hard

she said.

Some Palestinians in Khan Yunis say they will wait until the end of the war before returning home.

“Even if I went back home, I fear I (would) go and there would be another attack on the area and I (would) die. I will only go back there once the war is over,” said Ahmad Kabalan, 80, whose home is east of Khan Yunis.

“I don’t trust what Israel promises, I don’t have faith in them, not even for an hour. What if there would be artillery shelling? I don’t believe in this ceasefire. God knows what will happen, whether we will live or die.”

WATCH: Israeli forces open fire during civilian medical evacuation in Gaza