© Reuters. Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike, amid Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza, May 20, 2021. Reuters / Ibrahim Abu Mustafa
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) – The Al-Mashharawi family has already fled their home to a relative’s apartment in the Gaza Strip and is ready to rush again at any time.
For more than a week, since the outbreak of the conflict with Israel, they have retreated every evening into a windowless corridor, with vital documents and other items packed and ready to be seized.
“Our life is full of fear. There is no safety at all,” said Muhammad al-Mashharawi, a father of five-year-old triplets and a one-year-old baby.
Diplomacy towards a ceasefire between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants in Gaza has not yet put an end to the relentless exchange of fire that continues day and night.
Israeli air strikes and artillery fire as well as rocket attacks by militants often intensify after sunset.
At the border in Israel, sirens sound at intervals of hours or even minutes in areas within the range of rocket fire, prompting people to go to shelters or “safe rooms.” When not available, some also use walkways and stairs https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/living-under-fire-israel-when-rocket-shelter-becomes-your-home-2021- 05- 18.
In densely populated Gaza, there are fewer places to flee. Many of the two million people crowded into this narrow strip of land are already refugees whose families have fled the towns and cities that are now in Israel.
Al-Mashharawi and his family left their home after heavy bombing.
“I have moved from my house to my uncle’s house and I keep all my personal belongings ready, so if there is a threat to our lives or those around us, we can immediately move to another house,” said Al-Mashharawi, 31, speaking at his uncle’s third house. Ground floor apartment in a seven-storey building in Gaza City.
They sleep on a mattress in the hall, which has no windows, to avoid the risk of flying glass from any explosion. The small bags by the door contain their birth certificates and other important documents, jewelry, phones, laptops, and some clothes.
The Ministry of Housing in Gaza says 16,800 housing units have been damaged, 1,000 of them destroyed and 1,800 uninhabitable.
Medics say 230 people, including 65 children, were killed in Gaza during the conflict that began on May 10. The UN humanitarian agency says six hospitals and nine primary health care centers have been bombed.
Israel estimates its death toll at 12, including two children, in a barrage that it says is among the deadliest shells the country has ever faced. Residential complexes, temples and other buildings were hit by rockets.
The Israeli military says it is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza and that it gives advance warning to evacuate residential buildings if they are targeted due to what Israel says is military activity taking place inside.
Hamas, the Islamist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, says such accusations are a pretext for collective punishment. It says it strives to secure the rights of Palestinians in the face of Israeli persecution. Israel, the United States and the European Union say the group is a terrorist organization.
Warnings can give Palestinians a few hours https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/taking-call-gaza-before-israel-takes-out-building-2021-05-14 or so to leave before a strike . Once emptied, subsequent explosions turned many of the multi-storey apartment buildings into piles of rubble.
Rana Mashharawi says that her one-year-old daughter was learning words like “mama” and “dada”, but now she added the word “blast” – “bum”.
At night, when her bangs sounded the scariest, she said their new bedroom in the hall seemed like the safest place. “If something happens, God forbid, we take our belongings and leave,” she said.