In 20 days of Israel’s assault on Gaza - Operation Protective Edge - 1,049 Palestinians have been killed and 5,345 injured. But a lesser known statistic is the number of internally displaced people, which triples the peak number from Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.
On 25 July the number of people taking refuge in UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) shelters passed 150,000. The total number of displaced Gazans, who are also staying in the homes of relatives, in hospitals and government-run schools, has reached 250,000.
Displaced people in Gaza are trapped; they have nowhere to go. But this hasn’t stopped Israeli forces from targeting these shelters. On 23 July, an elementary school in Beit Hanoun was hit, killing 15 and causing multiple injuries. Attempts by UNRWA staff to negotiate with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) a safe corridor to relocate staff and displaced people were not approved. The school’s coordinates had been formally conveyed to the Israeli authorities on 12 occasions, says UNRWA, in a report.
Above: A family seeks refuge in one of the UNRWA schools. There are up to 80 people in each classroom of the 84 schools, and there are no spare shelters left.
Above A family seeks refuge in one of the UNRWA schools. Four schools have been targeted since the start of the Israeli offensive on 8 July.
Above: Palestinians evacuate Beit Lahya in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli military announced their intent to heavily bomb the area in retaliation for the numerous rockets fired into Israel over the past few days.
Above: Hundreds of homes have been destroyed.
Above: Families queue for water in a UNRWA shelter. Relief agencies have been trying to deliver water with tankers in areas with no pumped water while local communities give what they can.
Above: Supplies of food and medicine are running low.
Above: Children at a UNRWA school, turned shelter.
Half of Gaza’s 1.7 million population is under 18. Seven-year-old children have lived all their lives under siege, and have witnessed three deadly Israeli military operations.
Above: A family evacuate a house after it was hit by a warning bomb, a ‘knock on the roof’.
A humanitarian ceasefire requested by the UN was observed for 12 hours on 26 July. On 27 July Hamas called for a 24-hour truce ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr. It has stalled. Palestinians have little to celebrate today. Rather, they grieve for their loved ones and what they have lost.
All images are the copyright of Eloïse Bollack.
This photo essay is part of our mini-series on Palestine.