Rafah, the Palestinian aid worker: “Fantastic night, if Israel enters there will be a massacre”

Sami Abu Omar: “No evacuation order from Israel, but where are we going? Egypt is building a wall on the border”

Was ”a very difficult, shocking night” that the Palestinians experienced in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. The Israelis ”bombed from ground, air, tanks everywhere, Israeli special forces went undercover in Rafah. They killed 105 people” and ”the sky was lit up like day by the bombs. There was a lot of fear.” But it is even more so considering the announced military operation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced against Rafah. ”If they enter it will be a massacre, the victims will never be counted”. He tells Adnkronos right from Rafah the Palestinian aid worker Sami Abu Omar who at the beginning of December, together with his family, had left Khan Yunis after Israeli snipers positioned themselves on the roof of his house.

He had walked 14 kilometers with his wife and children, the youngest aged 12, to reach Rafah and find refuge from the fighting. Part of ”a mass exodus” towards the city on the border with Egypt where he says he ”rented a room near the sea for 500 euros a month. Four meters by four where 40 people live, women with children. The men, me with my brothers, sleep in plastic tents nearby”.

At the moment ”an evacuation order has not arrived from Israel for the population of Rafah”, but ”someone is already dismantling the tents”. The real problem, says Abu Omar, is that ”people are desperate, they don’t know where to go. This morning I was walking around Rafah and I only heard swearing and crying”. “I myself – he confesses – don’t know what to do, like another million people I don’t know where to go and for now we wait. They told us to leave the north and we did, away from Khan Yunis and we did. Where are we going now, to the sea? They don’t even let us get closer. Where do they want to take us, to hell?”.

A one hypothesis could be to go to Egypt, but ”the Egyptians have increased security on the border, are building a wall and have allocated a greater number of soldiers” to avoid the exodus of Palestinians, he says. In reality, there would be a way to pass through the Rafah crossing, paying around five thousand euros per adult and three thousand euros per child under 15. Money that must be given to Egyptian security through their mediator in Rafah. For my family it would be 40 thousand euros, where can I find it?”.

But, even if we wanted to, the money isn’t there. The cost of living has become very high”on the black market prices are ten times higher than before” the war, ”You can stay in line for up to thirteen hours for a piece of bread. You wake up at 3 in the morning, queue up, the hours pass and maybe when your turn comes the bread is finished’‘. And this is how ”we eat once a day, we have all lost a lot of weight. I ended up weighing 60 kilos”. It’s also difficult to get around, ”a liter of petrol costs 30 euros, a liter of diesel costs 20. Trees are cut down for cooking and making a fire”. Not to mention milk for children, ”difficult to find, a pack of nappies cost 50 euros”.

The only constant, for Abu Omar, is ”hope”. And it is ”hope in the negotiations, in the intervention of Qatar and the United States” to reach a permanent ceasefire. We don’t want a 35 day truce. After the last one-week pause in fighting they invaded Khan Yunis and after this last week of 35 they would completely invade Rafah”. Netanyahu has said he wants to end the offensive against Rafah by the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins March 11. ”But Rafah will take another six months and there will be a very high number of victims”, because ”Israel doesn’t listen to anyone, it doesn’t respect international laws”.