ALEXANDRIA, Va – Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) has released the following statement:
People fleeing to southern Gaza after the Israeli order to leave the north are facing increasingly desperate conditions in overcrowded shelters without access to food or safe water.
Tens of thousands of people have fled south since Israel ordered civilians to leave northern Gaza yesterday. Many fear that fleeing south is still not safe – with reports of many people killed by bombs as they fled, and strikes continuing to hit central and southern Gaza – but feel they have no choice. We are also extremely worried that hospitals in the north have been ordered to evacuate, which will risk the lives of countless sick and wounded people including children. Calling for people to leave does not absolve Israel of its obligations under international humanitarian law to refrain from harming civilians who cannot or choose not to leave.
An Islamic Relief staff member who fled south with his family is now sheltering in a relative’s house with 30 other people in one single home, while others have taken refuge in schools or anywhere they can find. The staff member, whose name is withheld to protect his identity, says:
“There were hundreds of people walking and carrying their belongings. No one knew where to go or what to do, never mind what the hours ahead might bring. There were demolished buildings, rubble all over the roads, huge crater about 4 meters deep… it was like a horror film or a dystopian novel where the world had ended and only destruction remained.
“None of us has proper food and it’s not clear how we’ll find some. The population of the city where we are now (in the south) has doubled in number overnight while its resources have stayed the same. We are struggling to find proper water supply and electricity. A man in the neighborhood told me they’ve secured a generator to pump water from a nearby well, but can’t find any fuel.”
As more people arrived from the north, he desperately tried to find shelter for others.
“I started calling everyone I could to check if they have an empty flat, a garage or a storage unit that could be used as a shelter, but everyone was saying they didn’t have space. Others from the north had already arrived and claimed any available shelter. Finally, we found a kindergarten nearby to use as a shelter. It’s empty because it’s too dangerous for children to go to school right now.”
Israel has also announced it will shut down internet services in Gaza, making it even harder for civilians to receive and share vital information.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now displaced within Gaza and have nowhere safe to go. Islamic Relief continues to call for parties to respect international humanitarian law, protect civilians from harm and ensure humanitarian aid and essential supplies can reach civilians. At the moment Gaza remains under total siege, preventing more food, fuel and medical supplies from entering. Fuel is vital for providing clean water, healthcare and other essential services.
Syed M. Hassan
(571) 421-7032 (CELL)
Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization. Its mission is to provide relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world. Its programs benefit millions of people each year in more than 40 countries around the world, including in the United States.
Islamic Relief USA meets all of the Standards for Charity Accountability of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a national charity monitoring group affiliated with the Better Business Bureau system. Islamic Relief USA is on the U.S. government’s Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charity list, and it is also a signatory to the code of conduct of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.