No help to be seen at Israel’s ‘safe zone’ for Palestinians in Gaza

World

Iron dome interceptor missiles explode in the skies above us, halting the passage of Hamas rockets heading for southern Israel.    

Moments later the rocket attack is followed by the deafening booms of an Israeli artillery battery just a few metres from where we had pulled over next to a bomb shelter.

We are deep in the south of the country. We haven’t been able to get this close to the Gaza border since the war began. We’re just 400 meters or so away.

The south of Gaza, clearly visible, is meant to be a safe zone for the people on the other side of the border fence. It doesn’t feel safe at all.

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The roads to Israel’s south are eerily quiet, military vehicles pass us at high speed, among them lorries carrying cargos of neatly packed shells.

As we drive, we pass row after row of tanks and artillery pieces. In the north, Israel continues to hammer Hamas positions, engage its fighters, and track down their tunnels.

TANKS IN SOUTHERN ISRAEL. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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Tanks in southern Israel

The northern mission is far from finished. The southern mission has barely started but the air raids and artillery attacks are causing large numbers of casualties in Gaza.

Our teams on the ground in Gaza film, day in and day out, as the injured keep coming from across this huge battlefield.

CASUALITIES AT SHUHADA AL AQSA HOSPITAL IN GAZA 2. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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Casualties arrive at Shuhada Al Aqsa Hospital in Gaza

The air strikes might be targeted – but the shrapnel and the shards of glass and pieces of flying masonry are not. Every hospital and clinic is overwhelmed now and short of absolutely everything; all they can do is patch people up.

The seriously injured often can’t be saved in this environment.

CASUALTIES AT SHUHADA AL AQSA HOSPITAL IN GAZA. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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Inside Shuhada Al Aqsa Hospital

And so, the dead wrapped in white are placed together on the street, while the living pray for them. There are many constants in Gaza now – and mourning is just one of them.

Those who can are following Israeli military orders to move further south.

They leave with their families and whatever they can carry, many of them on foot. But few believe anywhere is safe.

STUART RAMSAY SOUTHERN ISRAEL NEAR GAZA. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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Sky’s Stuart Ramsay

The Israel Defence Forces have been telling people to go further south, and to the southwest. And Israel’s ambassador to the UK told Sky News there is a safe zone for Palestinians, which she identified as a place called “Mawasi“.

“Israel made sure there is a place for the people of Gaza to have their shelters,” ambassador Tzipi Hotovely said.

“There is a place in Gaza called the Mawasi. The Mawasi is the place where they can all have shelters. Together with the aid organisations we have created shelters for the Palestinian people, so you cannot say Israel is not facilitating that, together with humanitarian aid,” she added.

Three days ago, we asked the Sky News team in Gaza to go to Al Mawasi to see if any preparations had been made for the evacuees.

Map Al Mawasi
WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN AL MAWASI. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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A family in Al Mawasi

They sent back the pictures showing a desolate wasteland of sand dunes next to the Mediterranean Sea. Al Mawasi is an old Bedouin settlement and has little infrastructure, if any.

There is no aid, there are no agency tents, there are no food kitchens. Simply put, there is no help.

The team filmed as families set up tents, and young boys tried to light a fire in the sand next to their home – which is now a plastic-covered shack built by their father Mahmood Afghani.

BOYS TRY TO MAKE FIRE AL MAWASI. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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Boys try to start a fire in Al Mawasi

The Afghani family has six children.

“You see this small tent? See how we made it. I did this to protect my children from the winter and we haven’t even entered the winter season yet,” Mr Afghani said, pointing at the family’s shack.

“Imagine when we reach the middle of winter – what are we going to do? I want the whole world to hear what I am saying. I want the whole world to feel our pain so they can press Israel to stop this war.”

MAHMOOD AFGHANI. Pic from Stuart Ramsay report 03/12/2023
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Mahmood Afghani

When he was asked if he has received any aid, he reiterated what many have said, there isn’t any.

“No, not at all, nothing. I have to be honest; I have only received one bag of flour since October,” he answered.

We have since spoken to people who are there, and they have told us – as of Sunday 3 December – nothing has changed.

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