Gaza Strip residents flee Jabalia as Israel’s military launches new offensive

The northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalia had already come under fierce attacks from the Israeli military earlier in the war, killing many civilians and demolishing large parts of the suburb. So, as Israeli ground forces moved to other parts of Gaza and military strikes focused elsewhere, residents thought they had experienced their worst days.

But last week, the Israeli military dropped leaflets again over Jabalia, where tens of thousands of people are living, ordering them to leave as it prepared to launch a renewed offensive.


“When the Israelis dropped the leaflets, people were terrified, especially given what they experienced previously,” said Iman Abu Jalhum, 23, who graduated from medical school two months before the war began and has been volunteering in hospitals treating the wounded. “We thought given that we have already been attacked that we were safe; the Israelis have already been here.”

Soon after the leaflets dropped, so did the bombs, she said. Abu Jalhum, her 16-year-old sister and her parents fled their home under bombardment. She only had time to throw a few items of clothing into a bag and put on her prayer shawl.

Her father, who has back issues, struggled to walk along the road. Eventually, they found a donkey cart to take him the rest of the way, a few miles south.

Israel said it had renewed the offensive in Jabalia on May 11 because the terrorist group Hamas was trying to reassemble its infrastructure and operatives in the area. Hamas accused Israel of “escalating its aggression against civilians all across Gaza” and vowed to continue fighting.

At least 15 civilians were killed in Israeli airstrikes Saturday in Jabalia and 30 others wounded, according to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency. Ambulance and emergency crews have been unable to reach the area to rescue the injured and retrieve the bodies, it reported.

The Israeli military on Saturday said it had “engaged and eliminated” Hamas fighters in Jabalia in a number of battles and located several tunnel shafts. Hamas said its fighters destroyed an Israeli tank south of Jabalia.

Abu Jalhum and her family are among at least 64,000 people who were displaced from Jabalia and a neighboring town in the past week, according to UNRWA, the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians.

They are now sheltering a few miles south in a bombed-out building, where the smell of dead bodies that have not yet been recovered hangs in the air. Strikes still hit nearby, she says, but there are fewer explosions and no clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters.

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