Over one million children – or the entire child population – in Gaza have been left with nowhere safe to go as ground military operations began in Khan Younis on Sunday, says Save the Children. Khan Younis is a city in the south of Gaza where the civilian population had previously been told to relocate for safety by Israeli forces, but is now also under attack.
On Friday 1 December, a seven-day pause of hostilities in Gaza expired, and the bombardment resumed, killing over 700 people in one day, including children. Since then, Israeli forces have issued further relocation orders to civilians in the Khan Younis area, directing them west towards the coast, or south to the city of Rafah, while continuing to bombard both areas. Airstrikes have previously damaged residential buildings not only in the north but also in southern cities like Rafah and Khan Younis.
In northern Gaza, hundreds of thousands of families remain stranded and unsafe, and with critical infrastructure and services like hospitals and sanitation decimated, are at risk of starvation, disease, injury and death.
Jason Lee, Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said:
“I’m in the south of Gaza where children and their families are scrambling for safety. But there is nowhere safe in Gaza. There is nowhere to go. Families are being warned by Is raeli authorities to move, once again, forcibly displacing them into smaller and smaller areas with no guarantee of safety or return, and without the necessary infrastructure and access to services to support life.
“Rather than the sham pretence that these orders ensure the safety and survival of families, they instead present families with the inconceivable “choice” of one death sentence over another.
“It is not possible to concentrate large numbers of civilians into such tiny slivers of land without exacerbating an already dire humanitarian catastrophe. Families who survive the bombs are not able to squeeze into the already severely overcrowded shelters, forcing them to set up makeshift tents, with no access to clean water and crumbling sanitation services – putting them at risk of a public health emergency.
“With homes, schools, hospitals, shelters from the north to the south repeatedly attacked, and all crossings in and out of Gaza closed, relocation orders cannot offer safety – only a smokescreen. World leaders must secure a ceasefire now. Every hour without one, more children will pay the price for broken politics with their lives and futures. There will be no safe place in Gaza until then.”