Innocent civilians seek shelter from Israeli-Hamas violence

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

Right in between the surge of rockets from Islamic extremist group Hamas and ground offensives from Israeli forces, innocent inhabitants of Gaza City turn to other options for shelter and safety. The Gazans run into one problem: they are literally trapped.

The rectangular geography of the Gaza Strip poses implications for those wishing to relocate. The Gaza Strip, which is 25 miles long and between three and seven miles wide, has concrete walls and fences along the perimeter of the eastern and northern boundaries. Israel and Egypt can be found at the southern end of the strip and the western side of the strip borders the Mediterranean Sea, leaving the Gazans immovable.

Due to the travel restrictions on Gazans from Egypt and Israel, Gazans are forced to seek out new living situations within the unsafe area. Those along the border have fled to relatives’ homes and those with nowhere else to turn have looked to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) emergency shelters for accommodation.

Beginning on July 7, UNRWA issued a state of emergency in all areas within the Gaza Strip.

Early this morning, UNRWA tweeted, “More than 83,000 people are now taking refuge in UNRWA schools in #Gaza. Numbers are growing.”

Despite consistent efforts to keep up with the rising number of inhabitants, the UNRWA has run into several difficulties, some more unexpected than others. Last week, 20 rockets were found in one of the agency’s abandoned schools. Following the discovery, the agency issued a statement that prohibited the storage of the Gaza militants’ harmful rockets in their facilities.

UNRWA continues to distribute food and water to the shelters but the combat has disrupted the delivery of the supplies. The agency runs into numerous other problems, such as the destruction of schools, as the conflict escalates.

In the past 24 hours, numbers released by the UNRWA revealed a devastating loss for both sides. Innocent Palestinian and Israeli citizens are facing the repercussions of the battle.

This morning, President Obama said Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas but that the United States has “serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.”

He went on to say that the focus should be “a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.” 

Inside United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on July 18, 2014 in Gaza City. Israel launched a Gaza ground campaign after 10 days of bombardments from the air and sea failed to stop militants' rocket attacks, stepping up an offensive that already has taken a heavy toll in civilian lives.(Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)