For Many in Rafah, Displacement is a Recurring Nightmare

By John Mercury February 12, 2024

Less than two weeks after bombs began raining down on the Gaza Strip, Ghada al-Kurd arrived in the southern city of Khan Younis. She had already been displaced three times, and hoped it would be her final journey to safety.

But three months later, Israeli forces advanced south. Ms. al-Kurd, 37, speaking by telephone, said she, her sister, brother-in-law, and four nieces and nephews abandoned the tent they had been sharing “without taking anything with us,” and headed to Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

Many of the roughly 1.7 million Gazans that U.N. agencies say have been displaced by Israel’s relentless bombardment and ground invasion have fled repeatedly over the course of a war that had now entered its fifth month. And Ms. al-Kurd’s family members number among more than a million people who have crowded into Rafah, only to hear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military on Friday to draw up plans to evacuate “combat zones” in the city in advance of an expected ground offensive.

The order, which set off international alarm, is forcing the displaced people sheltering there, along with more than 200,000 of Rafah’s citizens, to weigh their next move.

“I regret leaving Gaza City,” said Ms. al-Kurd, whose two daughters stayed behind in the north with their father. “If I stayed home it would have been better than all the suffering and humiliation of displacement, because every time you flee to a new place you have to start all over again.”

If Israel allows it and the roads open, she said, she will immediately go back to Gaza City, “and that will be my final time fleeing.”


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