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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike east of Rafah in Gaza on 11 May Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP/PA

Thousands flee northern Gaza as Taoiseach holds talks about recognising state of Palestine

Simon Harris held discussions with the prime ministers of Slovenia and Australia today.


THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE fled northern Gaza today as renewed shelling pounded areas where Israel says Hamas militants have regrouped, despite having announced them cleared months ago.

“The army dropped leaflets and sent a message on mobile phones warning everyone to leave Jabalia,” said Umm Odai Nassar, after reaching Gaza City from nearby Jabalia refugee camp in the far north of the Gaza Strip.

She is one among many Palestinians who had remained in northern Gaza despite the vast devastation to civilian infrastructure inflicted during the early months of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in the territory.

Israel said on Saturday it was operating again in the Jabalia camp to counter Hamas attempts to reestablish its military capabilities in the area.

Since then, AFP correspondents have reported battles there and in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighbourhood. Hamas has said it engaged in clashes with Israel near Gaza City.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said its estimate until this week showed about 250,000 people living in north Gaza.

“This is not the first time we have been displaced. Every time we try to return and settle, there is an invasion operation, and the army with its airplanes and tanks bombards the houses and kills people,” Nassar said.

Recognising the state of Palestine

Taoiseach Simon Harris today held separate discussions with the prime ministers of Slovenia and Australia where the “recognition of the state of Palestine featured heavily”, a spokesperson said.

“He will continue his discussions with other leaders this week and remains in lockstep with Prime Minister Sanchez of Spain,” they added.

Officials confirmed last month that Ireland is working with Spain and other countries to build support for the recognition of the state of Palestine.

On Friday, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of a Palestinian bid for full membership of the organisation.

The resolution, which states that the Palestinians should be admitted to the UN and grants them some additional rights as observers, received 143 votes for, nine against and 25 abstentions.

Following the vote, Harris reiterated the call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

‘From place to place’ 

The return to intense fighting in the north comes at the same time as Israel presses its military campaign in the south, in the eastern section of Rafah city.

Mahmud al-Barsh, a 33-year-old from Jabalia, said he feels the lives of Gazans “have become like that of cat and mouse.”

“We move from place to place, and the shelling is ongoing,” he said from Gaza City.

War broke out on 7 October, when Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack on Israel resulting in the deaths of at least 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory onslaught on the Palestinian territory has killed at least 35,091 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said late on Monday that since the evacuation orders were issued on Saturday for northern Gaza, around 100,000 people have been displaced from there.

Dark smoke from Israeli bombardments hung over the area as some families moved their belongings on horse-drawn carts.

Some were heading to UNRWA shelters in north Gaza even as several of these structures had been hit by Israeli forces, UNRWA told AFP.

Gaza’s civil defence agency said that Israeli warplanes were carrying out “successive air strikes” on Zeitun, hitting several houses and causing numerous casualties.

“We are living in dire conditions in every sense of the word. We leave the house not knowing if we will return and find it standing or destroyed from the bombardment.”

© AFP 2024