Thousands of Palestinians sought refuge at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian schools, Sunday, after Israeli forces ordered them to evacuate their homes in northern Gaza, in preparation for bombing the area. Clashes continued in the West Bank area, today, as soldiers set fire to olive trees near Jenin and deny worshippers entry to Al Aqsa mosque, in occupied East Jerusalem.As leaflets drop from Israeli aircraft on border areas of the northern Gaza Strip, telling citizens to evacuate their homes before noon today, Palestinians in Gaza are faced with the threat of losing their lives and those of their entire families.
WAFA reports that the UNRWA has opened eight schools to accommodate the thousands of individuals being evacuated from the northern Gaza Strip, according to director of UNRWA operations Robert Turner. He stated that the current number of refugees in schools is 4,000 and that the number is growing.
Turner stressed that UNRWA is to open more schools in the event that the number of Palestinians seeking refugee increases, noting that UNRWA can only accommodate no more than 35,000 in their schools.
Ma’an News Agency relates the account of one Samari al-Atar, who during the night fled to an UNRWA school in Gaza City:
‘It was the middle of the night, and I gathered the children, they were so afraid,’ said Samari al-Atar, breaking down in tears as she described how her family had left everything and fled barefoot with shooting all around.
‘Last night there was so much shelling that no one could sleep, it was terrifying,’ said one man, who gave his name only as Farid.
He was fleeing with six family members, riding alongside them on a motorbike piled high with blankets.
‘I’m going to try to go to a school, anywhere that is safe,’ he told AFP.
Another man, named Mohammed Sultan, packed his family’s belongings onto a horse-drawn cart, with five children and what items of necessity he was able to pack.
He walked alongside the cart, with other adult relatives, heading for an UNRWA school.
Nearly 200 people have been killed, so far, in the ongoing bombardement of the Gaza strip, with well over 1,000 injured.
Clashes amidst protests continue in the West Bank region, as well, where Israeli soldiers threw burning tires onto to Palestinian-owned land planted with olive trees in the village of Barta’a, southwest of Jenin, on Sunday, provoking clashes with local residents, according to WAFA local sources and Civil Defense.
During the clashes which ensued, soldiers fired teargas canisters towards residents of Barta’a, causing several cases of suffocation.
Civil Defense managed to put out the fire.
Also on Sunday, Israeli authorities served a notice to a Palestinian prisoner’s family in Tulkarem, notifying them of their intent to demolish his home, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club.
Amer Meqbel, a current prisoner in Israeli jails, was released as part of the Shalit swap in 2011.
He was later re-arrested during Israel’s large-scale arrest campaign which followed the alleged disappearance of three Israeli settlers who were later found dead in Hebron, just near where they reportedly went missing.
Soldiers marched through Nur-Shams refugee camp, near the town, and handed the notice to his family.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police again imposed strict entry restrictions to al-Aqsa Mosque on Palestinian worshipers, while allowing Jewish settlers in, according to WAFA.
The procession was led again by Israeli rabbi Yehuda Glick. Entry for Palestinians below the age of 50 was denied.
Confrontations ensued in which police fired tear gas and poison stun grenades at Palestinian protesters, who responded with chanting and a barrage of rocks and shoes thrown at the policemen.
A staff member of the Islamic Awkaf of al-Aqsa said that Israeli police are currently seeking to impose the spatial and temporal division of the mosque between Muslims and Jews.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is currently in its second week.
Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs, Yousef Id’ais, has called upon the international community and the Muslim world to act to protect the Palestinian people and the holy sites, WAFA further reports, in light of Israel’s daily violations.
(Both Christians and Muslims face ongoing and systematic provocation by both Israeli soldiers and settlers in Palestine; their holy sites are frequent targets for vandals.)
See related IMEMC topic: Holy Sites
WAFA has provided details on recent Israeli violations against mosques in Gaza.