The evacuation of Rafah is another form of Israeli torture | Opinions

When news spread on May 6 that Hamas had accepted a truce proposal, celebrations broke out across Gaza. People took to the streets cheering, believing that the war – the seven months of hell – was over. I was skeptical, but I also teared up thinking that the horror might be over.

It soon became clear that only one party had accepted the deal. The other was determined to continue his brutal massacres of Palestinians. Israel pressed ahead with its invasion of Rafah, where more than a million people from the north and central part of the strip had sought refuge, believing Israeli assurances that it was a “safe zone.”

On May 7, the Israeli army captured the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only exit for Palestinians who could find the means to evacuate and for the wounded and sick who managed to obtain Israeli permission to leave. It was also the main access point for the little humanitarian aid that Israel allowed into the strip.

My family and I had been trying to find a way out of Gaza. The news ended the little hope we had of leaving. We really have nowhere to go now that we face death from bombing, hunger or disease.

Israel is presenting its evacuation orders to the rest of the world out of concern for Palestinian civilians. But Israel knows that pushing people from one place to another every few weeks is a form of torture.

More than half a million Palestinians have fled Rafah, the United Nations reports. Families who have already been displaced several times have had to pack their belongings once again and navigate uncertainty.

Contrary to Western media claims, Israel has not taken any evacuation measures. People who flee have to pay for private cars or carts drawn by animals to transport them. Those who don’t have money try to walk. Some are too impoverished or have sick or elderly relatives to make the trip.

The half a million people who have left Rafah have had to move in with relatives – if they are lucky – or set up tents where they have found space. They are not provided with food, water or other basic needs. Above all, there is no guarantee of safety. Just a day ago, a family that had just fled Rafah was killed when the Israeli army bombed a house in the Nuseirat camp.

The movement of these enormous numbers of people places immense pressure on the communities to which they move. Fights have broken out in lines to get water and bread. The price of basic foodstuffs has skyrocketed. This constant forced eviction of people is tearing the social fabric of Palestinian society.

Life on the move is what no child or adult should experience. People are crammed into rooms or tents, sometimes more than a dozen. There are no toilets, showers or proper sanitation. There is no privacy or personal space.

Diseases, once eradicated, are now widespread. People get hepatitis and stomach viruses regularly.

As temperatures rise, heat stroke claims lives, including those of babies and children.

Israel’s continued forced evictions of already displaced Palestinians are also shattering what little semblance of normality parents are trying to establish for their children.

A month ago I visited one of the camps in Rafah. There I met Nesreen Ayoub, who had been forced to flee her home in Gaza City with her family.

Having lost so much, he found some solace in his daughter, Tasneem, who attended classes at a makeshift school and returned to his shop with a ray of joy, a rare commodity in these desperate times.

Teachers and college graduates volunteered to teach the children, hoping to lift their spirits in the midst of despair. I also met Samia al-Khor, an Arabic teacher, who had also fled the north. Her longing for the familiar rhythm of her classroom had pushed her to gather eager-to-learn children and teach them the Arabic language on a piece of rubble that she had transformed into a blackboard.

The camp was one of the first areas of Rafah that Israel ordered to evacuate. Makeshift classrooms have been dismantled and the joy of learning denied.

Palestinians must be deprived of even the slightest moments of happiness. That is Israeli thinking. Remember the Israeli media’s outrage at scenes of Palestinian children trying to cool off in the sea in the sweltering heat? There must be no respite for the Palestinians. They must be condemned to eternal suffering.

As Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa recently reminded us in an essay, Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and Israeli intellectual, was one of the first to see a reflection of Nazism in Israel. In a 1983 essay, he wrote that he had noticed the Israeli trend toward what he called “Nazification” as early as 1968, a year after the Israeli army occupied the West Bank and Gaza.

“It is now commonplace to claim that most of Hitler’s horrors could have been avoided if the Nazis’ early intentions and practices had been recognized for what they were. The same goes for Israeli Nazism. It can still be stopped if it is seen for what it is,” Shahak wrote.

For four decades, his warning went unheeded. And we have reached the point where Israel is carrying out genocide in Gaza, unfazed by global outrage.

Gaza is “hell on earth,” as the UN has said. The sound of drones and fighter jets, the roar of shelling and shelling, the smell of decomposing bodies and sewage, the sight of razed neighborhoods, the convulsions of hunger and thirst, the agony of the loss of loved ones reign in this small strip of land.

The predominant emotions are not resilience but anguish, despair and terror. The myth of Palestinian resistance is collapsing in the face of the unimaginable suffering inflicted on Palestinians by Israel.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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