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Gaza war: Jabalia residents describe ‘horrifying’ destruction

Legend, Palestinians who have returned to Jabalia refugee camp since Israeli withdrawal say their homes and infrastructure have been destroyed

  • Author, David Gritten
  • Role, BBC News

Palestinians who returned to the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza in recent days expressed shock at the level of destruction following a three-week Israeli military operation against Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups .

A displaced man who was among more than 60,000 people who fled intense fighting and shelling in and around the camp last month said he witnessed “horrific scenes”.

“Even the sand beneath our feet is burned; it’s unbearable to walk on,” he told BBC Arabic. “The streets are littered with rubble and demolished buildings. Words fail to describe the devastation.

The man – who asked to remain anonymous – also said he saw injured and dead people “lying on the ground” and that essential services and goods were unavailable.

“There is no electricity or water. There are no clinics or medicines,” he added. “Wells have been destroyed, shops and supermarkets demolished and there is a shortage of food. »

Legend, UN agency for Palestinian refugees says it has received ‘horrifying reports’ from Jabalia camp

The town of Jabalia and its decades-old urban refugee camp – the largest in Gaza, with more than 110,000 registered residents – witnessed weeks of devastating bombardment and fighting after the start of the war between Israel and the Hamas in October.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its troops took control of the camp in late December after a series of operations in which “many terrorists” were killed.

He then reduced combat operations in northern Gaza, declaring that local Hamas battalions had been dismantled. But that left a power vacuum in which the group could rebuild.

On May 12, the IDF announced that its troops were returning to Jabalia for an operation “based on intelligence information regarding Hamas’ attempts to amass its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area.”

Over the next three weeks, fighting raged as tanks and troops advanced into the refugee camp under cover of intense air and artillery strikes. A military official described the fighting as “perhaps the most violent” they had seen in the past seven months.

On Friday, the IDF announced that its troops had accomplished their mission, having “eliminated hundreds of terrorists during intense fighting and close quarters” and destroyed dozens of “terrorist infrastructure and combat complexes.”

Troops also located and destroyed more than 10 kilometers of a network of underground tunnels and recovered the bodies of seven Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in October, he added.

Legend, Camp residents searched through the rubble of their destroyed homes

Displaced families were soon seen returning to the camp on foot along streets lined with destroyed buildings, carrying what remained of their belongings.

A Hamas civil defense spokesman in Gaza, Mahmoud Bassal, said Friday that his rescue teams had found dozens of bodies in the Jabalia camp, mainly women and children, including 30 members of the same group. family.

On Sunday, the director of Kamal Adwan Hospital in the neighboring town of Beit Lahia, Dr. Husam Abu Safiyeh, told Al Araby television that 120 bodies had been found in and around Jabalia, and many more would be buried under rubble.

The identity of the dead was not yet clear. But the IDF’s Arab spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, downplayed the reports Friday, insisting they were members of Hamas and other armed groups.

Bassal also said Israeli forces had destroyed most of the camp’s homes, as well as its central market and almost all of its infrastructure.

He added that the fifth floor of al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia was destroyed along with Kamal Adwan’s main power generators.

The head of the municipal emergency committee for northern Gaza, Naji Sarhan, on Sunday declared the town of Jabalia, Jabalia camp, Beit Lahia and nearby Beit Hanoun as “disaster areas”, estimating that 50,000 homes there were been destroyed, according to a UN report. report.

He called on the international community to provide immediate shelter assistance and support to repair water wells and other critical infrastructure.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, said it had received “horrific reports” from the Jabalia camp, where it provides services.

Among them were displaced people, including children, who were allegedly killed and injured while sheltering in a UNRWA-run school besieged by Israeli tanks, according to an article published on X, formerly Twitter. There were also reports of UNRWA offices being destroyed by airstrikes and bulldozed by Israeli forces, the statement added.

Unrwa chief Philippe Lazzarini said thousands of people in the camp now had “no choice but to live among the rubble and in the destroyed Unrwa facilities.”

Legend, Some displaced families have returned to damaged UN-run schools.

One of the returnees told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Lifeline program that he and his seven-year-old son saw “the bodies of the martyrs scattered all over the streets” on Saturday.

“Jabalia East has been subjected to unprecedented devastation,” Diab Abu Salama said. “All the shops in Jabalia have been destroyed, as well as the houses around them. »

“There is no doubt that the aim of the occupation (Israel), by displacing people and destroying their homes and shops, is to force them to leave this country,” he said, before add: “But we will remain firm.”

Musaed Zaqzouq, meanwhile, described how he found only rubble where his house stood three weeks ago.

“The scene was truly horrible,” he said. “The family home was completely destroyed, as was the neighborhood in which I lived. »

“The water pipes were destroyed…the sewage canals were damaged,” he added. “There is no longer a single suitable place to live. »

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said the level of devastation was such that “we walk the streets as if we are seeing them for the first time”.

She also urged the international community to take steps to help Palestinians in Jabalia and elsewhere in Gaza.

“What is the reason for all this massive destruction? she asked. “Please hurry up and come to us to see how tormented we are.”

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which around 1,200 people were killed and another 251 taken hostage.

Since then, at least 36,470 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

News Source : www.bbc.com
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