Com about 20 square kilometers southwest of Gaza, Muwasi is at the center of a bitter battle between Israel and international humanitarian organizations over the safety of the territory’s civilians.
Israeli authorities presented Muwasi as a solution to protect people who fled their homes and sought shelter from the intense fighting between their troops and militants from the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
The United Nations and humanitarian aid groups emphasize, in turn, that Muwasi is a poorly planned attempt to impose a solution on the people who have been displaced and offers no guarantee of security in a territory where continuous airstrikes hit other areas designated as safe.
“How can an area be safe in a war zone if it is only decided unilaterally by one party to the conflict?” asked Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
“It can only promote the false feeling that it will be safe,” he warned.
The area has no running water or bathrooms, there are no international humanitarian and assistance groups and the tents provide little protection against the cold and rainy weather of the coming winter, reported the Associated Press (AP).
UNRWA and other international aid organizations do not recognize the camp and do not provide services there.
However, Muwasi is prepared to play an increasingly important role in protecting Gaza’s civilians. About three-quarters of the territory’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, in some cases multiple times, since Israel launched its war in response to the unprecedented October 7 attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement on Israeli territory.
Israel first mentioned Muwasi as a humanitarian zone in late October, and it is unclear how many people Israeli authorities, who blame the United Nations for poor conditions, believe can live there.
Colonel Elad Goren, a senior official at the military body that oversees Palestinian civil affairs, said that Israel has allowed the entry of temporary shelters and winter equipment.
The same source stressed that Israel does not expect the entire population of Gaza to flock to Muwasi and that there are 150 additional “shelter areas”, including schools and medical facilities, which are coordinated with the UN and other organizations.
The army considers Muwasi a permanent safe zone and Elad Goren stressed that Israeli forces have not responded to two Hamas rocket launches since Muwasi on Wednesday.
“We understand that the population needs a solution where to be. We want to encourage the population to go to this area where assistance will be provided”, he guaranteed.
Israeli assurances have not convinced international humanitarian authorities and even the US, Israel’s closest ally, has repeatedly said that Palestinian civilians need more protection.
Israel began 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, carried out an attack on Israeli territory on October 7, which left around 1,200 dead. , mostly civilians, and more than 200 hostages.
Israeli retaliation against the Palestinian enclave also included cuts to food, water, electricity and fuel supplies.
According to the Ministry of Health supervised by Hamas, the conflict has already caused more than 17 thousand deaths in the Gaza Strip.
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