GAZA: Streets in Gaza City lay in ruins as residents were forced to flee Friday, with gunfights between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants raging and basic supplies severely depleted.
Heavy gunfire, explosions and the buzz of Israeli military drones could be heard as night fell over Gaza City, where the only glow of light comes from Al-Shifa hospital, which is overwhelmed with casualties.
“I wasn’t optimistic that any of my children or I would come out unharmed, given the intensity of the bombing and gunfire,” said resident Jawad Haruda.
He described his journey fleeing the coastal Shati refugee camp as a “tragedy.”
The Israeli military said its troops have reached the heart of the city, which before the war bustled with shoppers and drivers navigating dense traffic.
“The situation is very difficult in Gaza. Bombing is hitting all areas, and there are many clashes, with the Israeli incursions,” veteran Al-Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh told AFP after leaving the city.
After five weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment which has killed people in school shelters, hospitals and scores of homes, thousands of residents walked south for miles (kilometers) to escape the intensifying ground assault.
Almost 1.6 million people have been internally displaced since October 7, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said — nearly two thirds of Gaza’s population.
Another resident of the Shati camp, Munir Al-Raii, said the area had been empty following “indiscriminate” Israeli strikes.
“Houses collapse on their inhabitants, without sparing children or women, leaving nothing but human remains,” he said, a small child on his shoulders.
Israel said it is routing out militants in densely populated Gaza, after Hamas attacks in southern Israel on October 7 killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Their military campaign has killed more than 11,000 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Those who have survived the war so far are now facing severe shortages of basic supplies.
Mohammad al-Talbani, clutching a baby and wearing a small rucksack as he fled, said “nothing is available at all” in Gaza City.
“There is a shortage of food and water. We go to the shops to buy diapers and milk, things like that for the child, there’s none,” he said.
“There is even a shortage of food items, such as beans and canned goods,” added Talbani.
There are no bakeries functioning across north Gaza, the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) said Thursday.
After Israeli strikes on rooftop solar panels put Gaza City’s largest bakery out of order, desperate residents took all the flour from its stores on Tuesday.
“We don’t have food, should we die of hunger?” said one of them, Daoud.
OCHA said the agency had heard reports of people eating raw onions to survive.
Global calls for a pause in the fighting to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe gripping Gaza — as well as allowing for some of around 240 hostages snatched from Israel to be freed — have gone unheeded.
Gaza City residents who left have escaped the ground warfare, but risk more aerial bombardment and extreme overcrowding in the south.
Those who cannot leave their city behind face soaring violence on their streets.
Standing beside multiple bodies in the courtyard of Al-Shifa hospital, a young Palestinian man held his hands to the sky.
“Please, that’s enough, we can’t bear it anymore!” he cried.