Hundreds of families flocked to Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals Tuesday seeking refuge from the seemingly endless Israeli army shelling as it builds up for a ground offensive.
Gaza residents, who have been warned to get out of the north of the Palestinian territory, have packed courtyards and corridors in the hospitals that have been relatively unscathed from the Israeli assault that followed the October 7 attacks by Hamas.
Amira, 44, and her children have moved to the courtyard of the Nasser hospital in the southern district of Khan Yunis.
“Our bodies itch all over. It has been a week since we could take a shower,” she told AFP as she prepared sandwiches for her children with some loaves she had been given.
“Death might be more merciful,” she added.
About one million people from northern Gaza have moved to Khan Yunis and other southern districts to avoid the looming Israeli ground offensive.
More than 2,750 people have died in Israeli bombardments since the Hamas attacks which left 1,400 dead in Israel.
About 100,000 people are left in the northern district around Gaza City that Israel says is a Hamas stronghold and has warned will be the target of its assault.
Conditions across the tiny territory are worsening every day for the 2.4 million population, according to aid agencies.
UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, has said that unless water and fuel are sent “immediately”, Gaza inhabitants are in “imminent danger” of epidemics and death.
The only crossing to the rest of the world at Rafah is closed.
Egypt has refused to open Rafah even though trucks loaded with aid are waiting on the Egyptian side of the border.
Some shells have fallen on the Gaza side and Egypt, Israel and the United States have failed to agree a mechanism to allow the border gates to open to let aid in and some foreign nationals out.
Israel has also cut power and water supplies to Gaza as part of its action.
Israel has partially eased the water ban, but only a tiny fraction of the amount needed for hospitals and shops has passed through.
Gaza’s hospitals say they will struggle to keep operating and the human toll grows every hour.
Hundreds of children are already among the dead and there are 10,000 injured, many packed into the six remaining hospitals.
Shortages of medicines have added to the crisis caused by the lack of water and fuel to keep medical establishments running.