Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

In Gaza, few options for those seeking safety from violence

by Take Two®

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During Saturday's humanitarian cease-fire, families returned to the Shejaiya district of Gaza City Saturday to find their homes ground into rubble by Israeli tank fire and air strikes. An attempt to extend the cease-fire by an additional 24 hours ended early Sunday, but Hamas said it would accept a new cease-fire, partly to acknowledge the holiday of Eid. Mahumud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Within minutes of a partial ceasefire today, an Israeli strike hit a refugee camp in Gaza City. An eight-year-old girl was killed and more than two dozen people were injured. Israel said it was investigating the incident and that rockets from Gaza had also been fired into Israel.

Israel declared the partial ceasefire in Gaza earlier. It was to last seven hours and apply only to parts of the region where its military was not operating. It was intended as a humanitarian gesture, to give relief groups time to deal with the ongoing devastation.

However, one major consequence of some five weeks of shelling is the widespread displacement of residents in Gaza.

Today, more than a quarter of Gazans have fled their homes and nearly 260,000 have gone to shelters run by the UN.

But Gaza is a crowded area and those shelters are turning out to be far from safe, after Israeli strikes hit close to several sites where civilians were taking refuge. Israel's military has maintained that no UN shelter has been directly targeted and that Hamas has used UN schools to hide rockets.

"This is one of the most densely-populated areas on Earth," Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and an expert in internal displacement, told Take Two. "People are trapped. There's no place to go except with friends and relatives or these UN facilities that are less and less safe for people."

Gaza spans about 28 miles by 7 miles wide and is home to about 1.8 million people, almost one-fourth of whom are now displaced, said Ferris. However, Ferris also notes that many of the displaced have been refugees for a long time, describing the scene in the area as one of the world's longest refugee situations, dating back to conflict in 1948 between Israel and the Arab states.

"These are people who have long-term refugee status, their kids are considered refugees, they felt like they've been displaced their whole lives ... who are now experiencing another wave of displacement," she said.

There are also limited options for those living in the small area when word arrives of an incoming strike, and the situation is compounded due to Gaza's mostly closed borders.

"In Gaza, people are trapped, there's no place to go except with friends, relatives or these U.N. facilities that are less and less safe for people," Ferris said, adding that another impediment to people fleeing the area is the Israeli blockade that's existed for years. 

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