The United Nations has reported that over 423,000 individuals have been compelled to evacuate their residences in the Gaza Strip. This displacement has resulted from intense Israeli airstrikes carried out in response to attacks by Hamas.
As of late Thursday, the number of displaced in Gaza rose by 84,444 people to reach 423,378, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said in a statement sent on Friday.
The announcement came as Israel pounded the Gaza Strip in response to Saturday’s surprise attack, the deadliest since the country’s creation in 1948.
Hamas gunmen swept into small towns, kibbutzim and a music festival in the desert, indiscriminately killing more than 1,200 people and taking about 150 hostages into Gaza.
Israel has retaliated by raining air and artillery strikes on Gaza — — a densely populated enclave of 2.3 million people, flattening buildings and killing more than 1,400 people.
Israel has also prepared for a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian territory.
“Heavy Israeli bombardments, from the air, sea and land, have continued almost uninterrupted,” OCHA said in its update.
“Multiple residential buildings in densely populated areas have been targeted and destroyed during the past 24 hours.”
It said more than 270,000 people — two-thirds of the displaced — have sought shelter in schools run by the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
Another nearly 27,000 people had fled to schools run by the Palestinian Authority, while more than 153,000 people found shelter with relatives and neighbours and in other public facilities.
OCHA said that around 3,000 people had already been displaced within the enclave prior to Saturday’s attack.
The bombing campaign has destroyed 752 residential and non-residential buildings, comprising 2,835 housing units, OCHA said, citing numbers from the Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
Another nearly 1,800 housing units have been damaged beyond repair and rendered uninhabitable, it said.
The UN agency also voiced alarm at the significant destruction of civilian infrastructure damaged in the shelling.
At least 90 educational facilities, including 20 UNRWA schools and 70 schools run by the Palestinian Authority, have also been struck and damaged, with one of the schools completely destroyed.
“Eleven mosques were targeted and destroyed, while seven churches and mosques sustained damage,” OCHA said.
Water and sanitation facilities have been also hit, it said, adding that since the hostilities began, six water wells, three water pumping stations, one water reservoir, and one desalination plant serving more than 1,100,000 people were damaged by air strikes.