Creating new perspectives since 2009

Back to a war zone: stranded Palestinians head home to Gaza during truce

November 30, 2023 at 6:02 pm

Displaced Palestinians, taking shelter in hospitals and schools, walk amid destruction as a result of Israeli attacks to check on their homes and collect their items remain intact as the 4-day humanitarian pause begins for prisoner exchange and aid in Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 24, 2023 [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

About 1,000 Palestinians who were stranded outside the Gaza Strip when war broke out between Israel and Hamas have returned home during the seven-day truce, braving the prospect of renewed bombardment, a Palestinian border official said on Thursday.

At the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza, yellow taxis with suitcases and cardboard boxes piled high on their roofs and trunks so full of luggage they could not be closed, were carrying Palestinians back into their ravaged homeland.

One of them was Abu Nader, who said he had travelled to Turkiye on 4 October to accompany one of his daughters who was starting her studies there. The war began three days later, when Hamas attacked southern Israel.

Abu Nader flew to Egypt on 24 October, but could not return to Gaza as the Rafah Crossing was closed. He found himself stuck in Egypt until the truce.

He said his house in the Al-Nasser neighbourhood in Gaza City had been destroyed by an Israeli strike and he had lost relatives, but was nevertheless desperate to get home to be with his other children and the rest of his family.

VIEW: Gaza war: Traumatising a whole new generation

No one leaves their children or their country, even if they lose their house. All Palestine is my home, not just Gaza or the house in Al-Nasser, the whole nation is my home

he said.

Egypt had announced, via the Palestinian embassy in Cairo on 23 November, the day before the truce came into effect, that Palestinians wishing to return to Gaza would be allowed, though not compelled, to do so.

The border official who spoke to Reuters on Thursday said crossings had begun on 24 November, and had carried on since then.


The returnees will find a very different Gaza from the one they left behind.

Much of the northern half of the Strip, including Gaza City, has been blasted into a moonscape by seven weeks of Israeli bombardment while, in the south, hundreds of thousands of displaced people are sheltering in tents and schools.

Hospitals have stopped functioning, food, water and fuel are scarce and diseases are spreading in what the United Nations has called a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite all that, Intisar Barakat said she still wanted to return.

You can’t leave your country, your children, your home, your husband. God willing, may everyone come back and peace prevail

she said.

The truce was initially agreed for four days but has repeatedly been renewed, for 24 to 48 hours at a time. Mediators were pressing on with attempts on Thursday to extend it further.

The war was triggered by Hamas, who rampaged through southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people including babies and children and taking 240 hostages of all ages, according to Israeli numbers.

Vowing to destroy Hamas in response, Israel launched an air, sea and ground assault on the densely populated Gaza Strip that has killed more than 15,000 people, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health officials.

READ: The will of the international community has always matched the will of Israel