The Abu Marasa family is making their way back to Gaza City after leaving on Friday after Israel ordered all residents to go south or face bombardment. After an airstrike struck the house next to where they were taking cover, the family declared they would rather die at home.
Numerous people were murdered overnight by bombing in the southern part of the small, populated Gaza Strip, according to local authorities, and the Abu Marasa family is one of many Reuters spoke to who have decided it would be best to return to their homes in the north.
On the outskirts of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, more than a dozen family members were crammed into a car with their possessions tied to the roof for the risky trip back up north through the barrage.
Why must we die a martyr’s death at Khan Younis? Better for us to die in our homes as martyrs. Saleem Abu Marasa was getting in his car to head back when he said, “Let the whole building fall on our heads.”
Israel began its most intensive ever bombardment of the Gaza Strip, a 45km-long (25 mile) enclave home to 2.3 million people, after the militant Palestinian group Hamas rampaged through Israeli towns killing 1,300 people on Oct. 7.
The Israeli military said last week all civilians should leave the northern half of the enclave, including the main Gaza City, as it prepares a ground assault to wipe out Hamas. Israeli bombing has killed 2,800 Palestinians in 11 days.
Even without the bombardment, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding across the enclave as Israel blocks off all power, water, medicine, food and fuel.
The evacuation order has stirred fears in Gaza, where many inhabitants are refugees, that they will never be able to return home. The United Nations human rights office warned on Tuesday that the demand could breach international law.
The United Nations said heavy bombardment was taking place across the enclave, with strikes hitting Khan Younis and other parts of the south where Israel had told people to go.
“Those who managed to comply with the Israeli authorities’ order to evacuate are now trapped in the south of the Gaza Strip, with scant shelter, fast-depleting food supplies, little or no access to clean water, sanitation, medicine and other basic needs,” said U.N. rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.