Central Gaza pushed beyond breaking point

Deir al-Balah is among the most densely populated places on earth. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Israel’s invasion of Rafah has caused yet another mass displacement during a genocidal war.

Following evacuation orders and numerous attacks, people have fled Gaza’s southernmost city in their hundreds of thousands.

Among their destinations are Deir al-Balah in the Middle Area.

The resulting increase in its population presents serious logistical challenges for the local authorities.

Before Israel declared its current war on Gaza, Deir al-Balah was relatively small. The city itself had a population of less than 10,000.

“Numbers have skyrocketed since the latest evacuation of Rafah,” Fakher al-Kurd of the Deir al-Balah municipality said.

Al-Kurd noted that people had already moved to Deir al-Balah in their hundreds of thousands before the Rafah invasion.

“We barely could meet their needs” for water, sanitation and energy, he said. “Our infrastructure has been hugely damaged since the outbreak of the war.”

“We already lost all our wells in the eastern outskirts of Deir al-Balah after they were completely destroyed by Israeli tanks. And around 10 of Deir al-Balah’s main streets were struck, which hugely obstructed our work.”

The municipality is “unable to assist further,” he added. Problems have been exacerbated by fuel shortages and Israel’s closure of Karem Abu Salem, a key entry point for food and other essentials.

Deir al-Balah is now among the most densely populated places on earth.

“Even if we are provided with everything, we aren’t superhumans,” al-Kurd said. “How can we provide help to this massive number of people?”

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah is under severe strain and lacks medicines to treat numerous illnesses. The only hospital still functioning in central Gaza, it is at severe risk due to fuel shortages and other issues.

Abdul Qader Weshah is an emergency doctor at the hospital.

Before the Rafah invasion, services were so stretched that the scene at the hospital was of “patients receiving treatment on the floor, mothers crying out in pain and people taking shelter” in its buildings.

Weshah estimates that the demands placed on its staff have increased a hundred times because of Israel’s offensive against Rafah.

As well as having to treat the wounded, the hospital is dealing with an upsurge in hepatitis A, scabies and other infections.

“When a million people are in one place, the situation will deteriorate,” Weshah said.

“We can’t deal with so much trauma,” he added. “Our crews have been tirelessly working since day one of this brutal war.”

“Although we’re being targeted and many of us have been killed, we’re still doing our part,” he said. “But we are humans.”

“It’s been more than seven months. We just need an end to this brutal war. We aren’t asking for anything more.”

Abubaker Abed is a journalist and translator from Deir al-Balah refugee camp in Gaza.