At 8:45 A.M. Sunday, Mustafa called to say they had left their house. At 8:10 they had called a courageous friend who had a car, and they drove with the kids two kilometers north, to the rented apartment of his brother-in-law in the Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal. The brother-in-law rented it a week ago, after he fled with his family from their home in the northern edge of the city, the site of bombing and shooting. Now there are 15 people in a two-room apartment - with no water, of course. The main thing is that the explosions sound a little less loud.
After 15 days they could not take the pressure of tanks entering the Sheikh Ajleen neighborhood, the incessant shooting all night long and the shelling from the sea. The leaflets dumped from helicopters, calling on people to leave their homes - they, too, have been unnerving. But most frightening were the missiles that hit the nearby apartments and killed the neighbors, including Yasser Arafat's official photographer and his family.
As of Sunday, the streets of Gaza are full of people fleeing - both from Sheikh Ajleen, an area with open fields and houses, where battles between Hamas gunmen and Israel Defense Forces soldiers are taking place, but also from nearby neighborhoods. Everyone is carrying his possessions.
Thus, Mustafa and his family have joined the statistics of the newly displaced, whose numbers increase by the day. A relatively small number - some 20,000 - have found refuge in UNRWA schools. Many more have moved in with relatives and friends: in Gaza City, Rafah, Khan Yunis, Beit Hanun and the Nuseirat refugee camp.
The military is steadily forcing the areas known as "population concentrations" to move inward, "clearing" areas on the periphery - first the agricultural land, and now the neighborhoods bordering them - and pushing people into an increasingly smaller territory.
It is hard to count all the dead. However, there are reports of entire families being killed, and of numerous persons from the same family being killed, especially in peripheral areas that are emptying of people. The inhabitants are doing their best to avoid becoming part of the statistics of death.
Last Thursday, at 3:40 P.M., medical teams pulled four bodies out of the rubble - three of them children - in the Atatra neighborhood, southwest of Beit Lahiya. According to the report, the four had been killed several days earlier. On Friday at 3:30 P.M., a UAV fired a warning missile at the home of Faiz Salha in Jabalya. The family did not make it out of the house before heavier artillery slammed into it two minutes later, killing six of them.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now