As Israeli troops make their way through Gaza City, even from a bird’s eye view it’s clear the metropolis has already been irreversibly changed, with satellite images released by Maxar Technologies on Tuesday showing fires raging across the city amid shelling from Israel.
Still, there are those who will not, or cannot, leave.
“We will not go to the south or the north. Screw Netanyahu and America. We will remain steadfast in our land, and we will not leave,” Mahasen Al-Khateeb, who was sheltering in place at Rantisi Specialist Hospital, a pediatric facility, told NBC News.
Shahal Ibrahim, also at the hospital, worried that if Palestinians keep moving south the forced displacement could become permanent. He feared they would eventually be pushed to the Sinai Desert, echoing the trauma of the “Nakba” — Arabic for catastrophe, the 1948 displacement of roughly 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their land in what would become Israel.
The Israeli military has ordered the evacuation of the hospital, claiming armed groups were using its premises and surroundings. But health officials in Gaza have said the facility’s evacuation could jeopardize the lives of dozens of children on life support, undergoing kidney dialysis and relying on artificial respiratory devices.
Fares Abu Fares, a 53-year-old volunteer with the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, said he won’t be leaving Gaza City, even as Israeli troops advance toward the area he’s taking shelter in.
Fares, who is Palestinian American and lives in the U.S. with his wife and children, said he was visiting family in Gaza when the war broke out and has remained there with his mother and brothers. Much of his neighborhood had been destroyed, but for now his house still stands.
With food and water scarce, he said he fears his family is “on the verge of starving,” but he’s also afraid that if they try to move south, they could be killed.
“I can’t trust those people,” he said of the Israeli army. For now, he said: “I am not leaving. I’m going to stay with my family.”
“It’s not safe,” he said.