People flee their homes amid Israeli strikes in the southern Gaza Strip, October 8, 2023. Photo: Reuters
Surrounded by his grandchildren, Mahmud al-Sarsawi on Sunday lay on a table in a corridor hooked up to an oxygen tube in a school-turned-bomb-shelter in the besieged Gaza Strip.
“We all came here to escape the Israeli airstrikes,” said the elderly man from the Shujaiyya neighbourhood, adding he was among about 70 people sheltering in the building for the second day from Israeli air strikes.
“The situation was terrifying, and we had no choice but to seek refuge,” added Sarsawi, 68, who is worried he may run out of oxygen.
He had taken cover in one of 44 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), which they have opened up as shelters.
More than 20,000 people in the Palestinian territory have been displaced due to fighting, UNWRA says, after Hamas militants launched thousands of rockets, and stormed into Israel before dawn on Saturday in a series of devastating attacks on southern Israeli towns.
Retaliation was swift from Israeli forces, who launched air raids on the impoverished and densely-populated Gaza Strip, where 2.3 million people live crammed into a small piece of land.
“I’m telling the people of Gaza: get out of there now, because we’re about to act everywhere with all our force,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned late Saturday, telling people to leave certain areas saying Hamas hideouts in Gaza would be reduced to rubble.
In just two days, about 600 people have been killed in Israel and at least 370 people in Gaza, according to figures from officials on both sides.
Inside the classroom, women members of Sarsawi’s family sat on sponge mattresses brought from their home, surrounded by cooking gas, canned