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World News

In Gaza, Palestinians return to war-scarred shelter

By Mahmoud Issa

JABALIA, Gaza Strip (Reuters) – Palestinian Umm Mohammed Khrouat says she prefers to live in a tent rather than the school where she is forced to shelter with her five children in northern Gaza, such conditions are bad after almost eight months of war.

“There is no hygiene, no water,” said Umm Mohammed, baking bread in a makeshift oven at the school in the Jabalia refugee camp, the recent scene of Israeli military operations in the war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

His family, who fled their home in nearby Beit Hanoun at the start of the war, have been forced to flee the school several times, most recently last month when Israeli forces resumed operations in the area, a said Umm Mohammed.

She said they fled in accordance with Israeli orders.

“We have no other choice. They say it’s a safe zone, but no zone is safe,” she said. “The situation is difficult, I wish they (let us) return to Beit Hanoun. We would return to Beit Hanoun and live in tents.”

Israel has ravaged much of the Gaza Strip since Hamas attacked southern Israeli communities on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping about 250 others, according to Israeli counts.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli reprisals, according to Gaza health officials.

Israel announced the end of its most recent operation in Jabalia on May 31, saying the army had destroyed 10 km (6.2 miles) of tunnels and several weapons production sites during several days of fighting that included more than of 200 airstrikes.

During the operation, troops also located the bodies of seven hostages, Israel said.

Philippe Lazzarini, director of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), described Jabalia’s images as horrific. Thousands of displaced people have no choice but to live amid rubble and destroyed UNRWA facilities, he said in a June 1 article on X.

Umm Mohammed’s family returned to find a scene of destruction at the school, its walls blackened by fire.

“The children’s clothes were burned. There is nothing. Everything was burned. The cement… melted,” her husband, Bilal Khrouat, said at the school, where he said 15 families lived in one room.

He desperately needs clean water.

“I have a kidney. What should we do?” he said. “There is not enough water for drinking, eating (cooking) or bathing.”

“There is nothing left. We could not stay in Beit Hanoun, we could not stay in Jabalia camp and we could not stay in Gaza (city). There is no shelter. There is no shelter. ‘There’s nothing, where should we go?’ he said.

(Writing by Tom Perry, editing by Timothy Heritage)

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