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Israel ordered Gazans to evacuate. They have nowhere to go

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

More than 1 million Palestinians are under evacuation orders after the Israeli military warned residents of northern Gaza to leave their homes. The United Nations has said an evacuation of that scale is, quote, "impossible without devastating humanitarian consequences."

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Noor Harazin is one of the people forced to flee. She's a freelance journalist in Gaza. Her parents refused to leave Gaza City and are sheltering at a hospital, but she fled south with her kids and husband.

NOOR HARAZIN: I was one of the luckiest people to get a car and basically move from Gaza to southern Gaza with a car. But we saw hundreds of people taking this route on their feet. And you're talking about tens of kilometers. And I saw women crying and children crying. And people are shocked.

CHANG: Supplies of food and water in Gaza are dwindling, and there is no electricity. Gaza's main power plant shut down on Wednesday because Israel has blocked supplies of fuel. And hospitals are struggling to provide care.

HARAZIN: Outside of the hospital right now I am standing in front of, ice cream trucks that now the hospital is using to refrigerate and cool the bodies of the people killed because there is no more rooms in the hospitals. This is how bad the situation here in Gaza is.

SHAPIRO: Elsewhere in Gaza, Mohammad Abu Safia (ph) is one of those who stayed behind despite the order. He's sheltering with his wife and kids in a school in Gaza City. Five minutes before we reached him, he said airstrikes began around the school.

MOHAMMAD ABU SAFIA: (Non-English language spoken).

SHAPIRO: "We are all civilians," he says. The Israeli Defense Forces appear to be striking randomly.

CHANG: Along with residents, humanitarian groups working in Gaza also got orders to leave, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. I caught up with their spokesperson in Beirut, Imene Trabelsi, and asked her how well she's been able to keep in touch with her colleagues working on the ground in Gaza.

IMENE TRABELSI: We are trying to keep as much as possible in contact with our colleagues. They're struggling to have internet connection, to have proper electricity as they're all undergoing the same circumstances that the overall population are undergoing right now, a permanent state of fear. They don't know if their houses are going to be next. They don't know, when they're asked to evacuate, where to go to, as eviction notes are everywhere. I was speaking to my colleague Hisham (ph), who's one of our team, our communication team in Gaza right now. He's with a pregnant wife. He has a toddler. And he was telling me over the phone he doesn't know where to take them. He doesn't know where's the next place that will be bombarded. He doesn't know if the place where they're spending the night is going to be safe. He pretty much think that that's the worst thing when you don't know, when you're a parent and you don't know if your children are going to make the night or not.

CHANG: Yes. And as these questions abound, how are your colleagues trying to stay safe right now?

TRABELSI: It's very hard to find safety or to say that anywhere is safe around Gaza. Our colleagues are reporting to us that eviction note over the past days, they were almost in every neighborhood around Gaza, and therefore, technically speaking, nowhere's safe.

CHANG: And that's one of the questions I have. Where are people supposed to evacuate? I mean, Gaza is sealed off. We're talking about one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Can southern Gaza fit another million people fleeing northern Gaza?

TRABELSI: Well, in general terms, the instruction that the Israeli authorities have given to over 1.1 million people to evacuate from northern areas towards the south without, at the same time, providing basic necessities such as shelter, food, water, medical care not only endangers the lives of 1.1 million people, but furthermore, this is not in accordance and this is not compatible with what the international humanitarian law states in terms of ordering evacuation, as the authorities needs to maintain or the need to guarantee that these population have access to their basic needs, which is, in these circumstances or the situation of siege that Gaza is undergoing, maintaining or guaranteeing access to basic needs is no longer guaranteed for the majority of the population. And these are the stories that we're hearing. People are struggling to find food, water. Access to healthcare is becoming more challenging every day and by the hour.

CHANG: Well, I saw a statement this morning from the ICRC saying that your organization is, quote, "scaling up" to provide lifesaving relief in the middle of this evacuation. Can you give us more detail on that? What does this scaling up look like?

TRABELSI: At the moment, we are trying to be able to provide further assistance, but at the same time, that is not possible if we're not provided with the proper security guarantees for our teams to be able to move around Gaza to provide assistance without risking their own lives. We've been able to provide some assistance. We cannot say that the assistance that we've provided is enough, as we are facing a complete collapse of the health sector, a near collapse of the water system. We want to do more, but at the same time, if we're not provided with the proper security guarantees, we will not be able to do the work or to provide the much-needed assistance the way we want to.

CHANG: So is the ICRC going to be running out of important supplies quite soon?

TRABELSI: It's a fact today that there is a need - crucial. It's a matter of life and death that further humanitarian assistance is provided. We continue our discussion bilaterally with the parties involved in the conflict in order to be able to solve several files, including the assistance files, including the hostages files. But it's crucial today. It's a matter of - we're really running against the clock when it comes to providing further assistance. The people cannot survive for a long time in these circumstances with no health, no food, no water, no safety.

CHANG: Imene Trabelsi is with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thank you very much.

TRABELSI: Thank you so much.

CHANG: And you can see NPR's full collection of stories about the war at npr.org/mideastupdates. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.