International relief agencies have said that public order is disintegrating as hunger spreads in Gaza, fuelling fears of a mass exodus to Egypt, Reuters reports.
The narrow coastal strip has been under a full Israeli blockade since the start of Israel’s genocidal bombing campaign on 7 October, with Palestinians being forced further and further south by the occupation state’s brutal attacks.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge, or increasingly food, in the densely populated enclave, with around 18,000 people already killed and the bombing intensifying.
Gazans said people forced to flee repeatedly were dying of hunger and cold as well as bombardment, describing desperate attacks on aid trucks and sky high prices.
“Had any of us expected that our people may die of hunger, had it crossed anyone’s mind before?” said Rola Ghanim, among many expressing bewilderment on social media.
Aid trucks risked being stopped by desperate residents if they even slowed down at an intersection, Carl Skau, said deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme.
“Half of the population are starving, nine out of 10 are not eating every day,” he told Reuters on Saturday.
One Palestinian said he had not eaten for three days and had to beg for bread for his children.
“I pretend to be strong but I am afraid I will collapse in front of them at any moment,” he said by telephone, declining to be named for fear of reprisals.
After the collapse of a week-long ceasefire on 1 December, Israel began a ground offensive in the south last week and has since pushed from the east into the heart of the city of Khan Yunis, with warplanes attacking an area to the west. Its bombing campaign intensified following the temporary truce.
UN officials say 1.9 million people – 85 per cent of Gaza’s population – are displaced and describe the conditions in the southern areas where they have concentrated as hellish.
“I expect public order to completely break down soon and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday.
Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, wrote on Saturday that pushing Gazans closer and closer to the border pointed to “attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt”.
Egypt has long warned it would not allow Gazans into its territory this time, fearing they would not be able to return.
Jordan, which absorbed the bulk of Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948, yesterday accused Israel of seeking “to empty Gaza of its people”.
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy called the accusation “outrageous and false,” saying his country was defending itself “from the monsters who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre” and bringing them to justice.
Israel says the instructions to move are among measures to protect the population but has also prevented most aid from moving into Gaza.