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A number of Palestinians - it is not clear how many - are trapped in small enclaves surrounded by Israel Defense Forces positions in the Gaza Strip's peripheral farming areas. The soldiers shoot at anyone who tries to leave the enclaves, they said.

These people didn't manage to flee, or decided to stay home when the IDF took over the area. But they never imagined that they would be cut off from their relatives and the nearby towns and villages for so long.

Fragmented reports from such enclaves indicate that the beleaguered Palestinians are suffering from an increasing shortage of water, medicines and food. At least in one enclave, east of Jabalya, there is a cancer patient whose medication has run out, Haaretz has learned. Attempts to evacuate diabetics and elderly people from another enclave have failed. IDF troops surrounding the enclaves shoot at anyone who tries to leave.

Some people are completely cut off and have lost all contact with other enclaves and with their relatives a few kilometers away. In Siafa, in north Beit Lahia for example, relatives and neighbors have no way of knowing if a woman and her son, who live in one of the area's besieged houses, are alive or dead. At their request Haaretz asked HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual and other Israeli human rights organizations for help.

HaMoked has made contact with some of the besieged people and has even tried to organize, in coordination with the IDF, food delivery to some 120 people trapped in Siafa.

A small part of the equipment, medications and food was delivered on Sunday but delivery was cut short due to the end of the lull in Israeli fire.

The IDF insisted that the trapped people's relatives deliver the supplies with two donkey carts. In a bid to speed up delivery, the family arranged with the IDF to bring another cart, led by a horse. But when it approached the truck, soldiers fired at the horse, killing it, they said.

Some 20 al-Aidi family members, including two elderly women and four children who were wounded by an IDF shell, were evacuated from their home over the weekend - a week after being hit. The Red Cross and Physicians for Human Rights tried to evacuate them to hospital the day after they were wounded - but in vain.

When the rescue efforts were finally coordinated, a week later, the ambulances could not reach their homes, located southeast of Gaza City, which were caught between IDF outposts and firing targets, and they had to walk about two kilometers.