Middle East

People try to escape Jabalya in northern Gaza as Israel battles Hamas

From Abdul Qader Sabbah in Jabalya, Abeer Salman, Kareem Khadder and Tim Lister

Intense shelling and gunfire have continued in much of the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza after Israeli forces began a ground operation there on Saturday.

Videos from the area uploaded Sunday and Monday show civilians streaming out of the area against a background of constant drone flights, automatic gunfire, and explosions. Panicked families carrying whatever they can are seen leaving a UN school in the refugee camp amid heavy explosions.

In one video showing the rooftops of Jabalya, the sound of heavy gunfire is constant.

Communications from much of Gaza have been sporadic in the last few days. But CNN footage from Jabalya filmed early Monday showed terrified and exhausted families trying to leave the area. One child is seen carrying another child. There are also people being pushed in wheelchairs.

One child said there were Israeli tanks behind the schools. “They are coming for us, we are going to the other schools.”

An unidentified man also said that tanks were close to the schools, where thousands have taken shelter.

“They are bombarding the area and randomly shooting everyone. Those people are running away, they were in the schools, hoping they were safe. Where will they go now?”

Fares Afarna, director of ambulance services in northern Gaza, told the Al Jazeera network Monday that “ambulances are having a hard time to evacuate the dead and injured in the north.”

He alleged that “more than once our ambulances have been targeted by Israeli occupation forces…”

Afarna said that since the Israeli operation began on Saturday, ambulance crews had evacuated more than 50 wounded and 20 bodies. He told Al Jazeera that only two hospitals (Kamal Adwan and Al-Awada) were operating “and that’s where we are evacuating the dead and injured to and to some medical field points in the area.”

CNN is reaching out to the Israeli military for a response to the allegation that ambulances are being targeted.

“Following calls to the civilian population to temporarily evacuate from the area of Jabalya to shelters in western Gaza City, IDF troops began an operation overnight based on intelligence information regarding attempts by Hamas to reassemble its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area,” the military said.

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