Gaza’s football stadium is now a refuge for thousands of displaced Palestinians


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of displaced Palestinians in northern Gaza have taken refuge in one of the territory’s largest soccer stadiums, where families are now surviving on little food or water as they try to stay one step ahead of Israeli final offensive.

Their makeshift tents hug the shade beneath the stadium seats, clothes hanging in the July sun across the dusty, parched soccer field. Under the covered benches where players used to sit, Um Bashar is washing a toddler standing in a plastic tub. He soaps the boy’s hair, and he wobbles and shivers as she pours the cold water over his head, gripping the plastic chairs to steady himself.

They have been displaced several times, she said, most recently because of renewed Israeli operations against Hamas in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City.

“We woke up and saw tanks outside the door,” she says. “We didn’t bring anything with us, no mattress, no pillow, no clothes, nothing. Not even food.”

She fled with a group of 70 other people to the Yarmouk Sports Stadium, just under 3 kilometers northwest of Shijaiyah, which had been heavily bombed and largely abandoned. early in the warMany people who ended up in the stadium say they have nothing to go back to.

“We left our homes,” said one man, Hazem Abu Thoraya, “and all our homes were bombed and burned, and everyone around us too.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have remained in northern Gaza, even though Israeli forces have surrounded and largely isolated it. Aid flows there have improved recently, however, and the UN said earlier this week that they are now able to to meet people’s basic needs in the north. Israel says it is allowing aid into Gaza and blames the UN for not doing enough to move it.

Yet residents say that poverty and uncertainty are becoming increasingly severe.

“There is no safe place. Safety is with God,” said a displaced woman, Um Ahmad. “Fear is now felt not only among the children but also among the adults. … We don’t even feel safe when we walk on the streets.”


This story has been updated to correct that the Yarmouk stadium is not the largest in Gaza.

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