About 20 square kilometers southwest of Gaza, the Muazi area is at the center of a fierce battle between Israel and international humanitarian organizations over the safety of its civilians.
Israeli officials presented Muawsi as a solution to protect people fleeing their homes from fierce fighting between troops and militants of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
The United Nations and humanitarian aid groups insist that Muazi is a poorly planned attempt to impose a settlement on the displaced population, and that safety is not guaranteed in an area that is subject to repeated airstrikes in other areas designated as safe.
“How can an area in a war zone be safe if it is decided unilaterally by one party to the conflict?” UN for Palestinian refugees asked the agency’s (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.
“This can only promote a false sense of security,” he warned.
The area has no running water or bathrooms, no international humanitarian and aid groups and the tents offer little protection against the cold and rainy weather of the coming winter, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
UNRWA and other international aid agencies do not recognize the camp and do not provide services there.
Muazi, however, is poised to play an increasingly important role in protecting Gaza’s civilians. Since Israel launched its war in response to the Palestinian Islamist movement’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israeli territory, three-quarters of the territory’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, in some cases multiple times.
Israel first designated Muazi as a humanitarian zone in late October, and it is unclear how many people Israeli officials, who blame the United Nations for the dire conditions, believe can live there.
Colonel Elad Koran, a senior official at the military body overseeing Palestinian civil affairs, said Israel had allowed temporary shelters and winter equipment to enter.
The same source stressed that Israel does not expect the entire population of Gaza to arrive in Muazi, and that there are 150 additional “shelters”, including schools and medical facilities, which have been coordinated with the UN and other organizations.
The military considers Muazi a permanent safe zone and Elad Koran stressed that Israeli forces did not respond to two Hamas rockets fired from Muazi on Wednesday.
“We understand where the population needs to be. We want to encourage people to move to this area where assistance is provided”, he guaranteed.
Israel’s assurances have not convinced international humanitarian officials and even Israel’s closest ally, the United States, has repeatedly said Palestinian citizens need more protection.
Israel launched a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the Islamist movement, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Tel Aviv, attacked Israeli territory on October 7, killing around 1,200 people. , mostly civilians, and over 200 hostages.
Israeli retaliation against the Palestinian Authority has included cuts to food, water, electricity and fuel supplies.
According to the Health Ministry overseen by Hamas, the conflict has already caused more than 17,000 deaths in the Gaza Strip.
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