‘Carry your son and run’: Gaza families describe fleeing Rafah under Israeli fire

The people fleeing Rafah are some of the last holdouts in a city that was once filled with displaced Palestinians.
Palestinians arrive in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in the nearby city of Rafah on Friday, June 28, 2024.
Palestinians arrive in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in the nearby city of Rafah on Friday, June 28, 2024.Photo | AP

RAFAH: Displaced Palestinian families in Gaza's south have fled what they said was intensifying Israeli fire in northern areas of Rafah to seek shelter elsewhere, describing a chaotic night as the sounds of fighting drew closer and prompted the difficult decision to evacuate.

“Just carry your son and run, we don’t have anything with us,” said one man, Mohammad al-Hadad. Some who fled overnight were able to return Friday, throwing their belongings atop vehicles or wagons pulled by donkeys and setting off.

“We do not know where we can go,” said a woman, Ghada Qudeh. “Since yesterday, we have not found food or drink." She said her family fled after Israeli forces fired missiles at a house where they were sheltering Thursday.

Palestinians arrive in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in the nearby city of Rafah on Friday, June 28, 2024.
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The Israeli military said its forces were continuing to operate in Rafah but did not immediately comment on specific strikes. The military said one soldier had been killed during combat overnight in Rafah.

The people fleeing Rafah are some of the last holdouts in a city that was once filled with displaced Palestinians. However, Israel's ground invasion since early May has driven nearly everyone who sought shelter there to leave.

The United Nations estimates 1.3 million people have been displaced out of Rafah, more than half of Gaza’s entire population, and only 65,000 remain.

International criticism is growing over the nearly nine-month Israel-Hamas war as Palestinians face severe and widespread hunger. The war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and basic goods to Gaza, and people there are now totally dependent on aid. The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

Palestinians arrive in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in the nearby city of Rafah on Friday, June 28, 2024.
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Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,700 people in Gaza, according to the territory's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Palestinians arrive in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis after fleeing an Israeli ground and air offensive in the nearby city of Rafah on Friday, June 28, 2024.
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