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From the New York Times, I'm Sabrina Tavernisi, and this is The Daily. In four months of war, Israel has regularly warned residents of the Gaza Strip to move south for safety. As a result, more than a million Gazans, about half the population of the entire enclave, have ended up in the city of Raafa. Now, as the war enters its fifth month, Prime Minister Benjamin Nen Yahu has said that the next phase of Israel's fight against Hamas would be in Raafa, and ordered the military to draw plans to evacuate it. But Raafa is the Southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, pinned between the Egyptian border and the fighting further north. It is not clear where the people sheltering there would evacuate to. Today, Two Gazans on Life in Rafeh. It's Tuesday, February 20th. Hi, is this Gada?




Hi, Gada. This is Sabrina Tavernisi from the New York Times from The Daily podcast. Can you speak?


Yes, for Sure. Can you hear me well?


I can hear you well. I can.




Where am I speaking to you right now? Where are you?


I'm in Raafah City, south of Gaza Strip.


I hear somebody behind you.


Yeah, this is the family, actually.


Who's in the family?


My sisters, my nieces, all of us girls inside one home.


How many are you?


We are about 20. Oh, wow. Yeah.


Ghada, can you identify your sofa me? Tell me your name, your age, and your profession.


Yes. I'm Ghada Alkord. Tomorrow will be my birthday, so I'll be 38 tomorrow.


Happy birthday.


Yes. Thank you. I work as freelancer journalist here in Gaza. I used to work for international NGOs. Yeah, that's it.


You You say you're in Ra'afa, right? Can you describe Rafa right now for us? What does it look like? What do you see around you when you go out onto the street?


Well, I was about 10 minutes ago, I was out on the street. I was going to provide the family here with some essentials and supplies, some food, maybe some chicken or meat because we are running out of these supplies, maybe some private essentials for me as a girl and for the girls here.


Private But essentials for you as a woman, meaning tampons, supplies for when you have your period.


Yes. Even we can hardly find these essentials. It's overcrowded. You cannot even walk in the streets. You even have to tell the person in front of you or beside you just to move a little bit, just to move a little bit. Can I go through? Yeah, it's very difficult for us to walk. This is the situation here. People are living inside tents, lots of filters you can see around you. Schools are full of displaced people. This is the situation here in Raafah City.


Did you find what you needed Not all of it, actually.


For me, I was looking for a bag, and I found something local. They made it by themselves, and it was bad quality. But I have to buy it just to put my stuff inside if there is another displacement again. I have to buy it.


You've moved how many times in all?


This is the sixth time, I think. Yeah, it's very difficult. Moving from city to a city and being in shelters, I didn't expect this. On the The morning of October seventh, Gada woke up in her apartment in Gaza City to the news of the attack in Israel. Everyone is like, What's going on? What's going on? What's going on? No one knows at that time what's happening. After maybe at 10:00, we know exactly what's happening.


She immediately started making plans with her siblings.


I had a brother, and I told him, Just wake up. There is something dangerous is happening right now. We need to think what we are going to do. This war will be a disaster. I said something in Arabic. It's like, We are going to eat shit.


We're going to eat shit.


Yes. The destruction will be more than you can ever imagine. Then after one week of bombardment, of killings, of airstrikes, we realized that I had to evacuate my with my sister, and I have to go to a Shifa hospital. I spent three days there, living in front of a bathroom on the ground. Actually, I hate hospitals. I went down and I was walking and I saw they are bringing bodies in white bags. They are just carbs. I smelt the blood and it was so disgusting just to smell the blood. Smell of this is around you. I couldn't bear this situation and I want to go to another place. The day they announced that the evacuation to the south, I told my sister, We have to flee. We have to go. The worst is coming. We ended up place in middle area. After the one week that we spent in the middle area, we also evacuated to Khaneunis City.


Did you have enough supplies, clothes, food, water? Was there something in particular that you wished you had had?


My daughters.


I'm sorry. Say it again.


I have two daughters. I'm a divorced woman. At that time, they were with their father. I told him, Can I take them with me? He told me, They will be safe with me. You have too much work to do, and you have to take care of your father and your sisters. They will be safe with me. I'm the man. They can be with me. We can come after you, but he couldn't. My daughters, they're still in North Gaza.


Your daughters are still in North Gaza?




Oh, my goodness. Ghana.


I know. That's why I don't want to leave Gaza.


Do you know if they're okay?


Yeah, they are okay. Thank God. I'm just checking up on them. I'm trying to call their father, but the connection is so bad.


How old are they, Ghana?


The older one, she will be on the 17th of February. She will be 11. The youngest one, next week, she will be nine.


Oh, they're little.


Yeah, for sure. And you know now the hunger now and the famine in north of Gaza, they don't have much food. Actually, they are running a food. So I wish the roads are open now. Maybe I will be the first one to go back. I will go. I cannot bear all of this pain, actually. It's so hard for me to be away with them. I want to be with them. I want to be with them. I know they are experienced so much years and horrific things, but I want to be with them, hug them, love them, take care of them. You know the situation.


Why haven't they evacuated Godda?


Well, even my sister, he didn't evacuate. Another brother, he didn't evacuate. My father, he didn't evacuate. They I would expect that it will be this situation.


They got stuck.


Yeah. I have to tell you that I lost my brother with his wife and daughter in one of the airstrikes. Also, my father, I lost him three weeks ago. He died because of hunger. He couldn't have his diabetes medications. He has a stroke, brain stroke. He got injured in one of the airstrikes. It was near the house he was in. We lost him three weeks ago.


I'm sorry, Kata.


Yeah. I have a little sister. She's younger than me, and she's pregnant. Maybe this week, she will deliver her baby, and there is no hospitals over there. We managed to call her three days ago by video call, finally. Believe me, I I don't know her. She was like an older woman. Her eyes have some dark circles. She was very weak and very thin, actually. She doesn't look like she's pregnant. She's a nine-month pregnant. She told me, I don't know how can I deliver my baby.


God, that must be very frightening for her.


For sure, yeah. She has also another child. He's just maybe two and a half years.


Oh, wow. She's caring for a two-year-old as well.




God, going back to your own story of evacuating. If I'm counting right, when did How did you get to Han Younes? You'd been on the road for about two weeks at that point, right?


Yeah. The first week is so hard for me. The first week, we have to build a tent for us because the buildings inside the shelter, they were all very crowded. We prefer to build a tent. I'm living inside the tent. It's not like a camping tent. The first night, we didn't take any covers, any blankets, anything with us. We had to put some nylons and plastics and woods to cover us. I remember one day I want to go to bathroom. I couldn't, and I have to wait for more than 2 hours in a line to go to bathroom. Then I went to one of the buildings and there was a guard there and he told me, No, this is only for the worker who is working here. I told him, I need to go to bathroom. He told me, No, you can. I told him, I'm not talking about taking your heart or taking your eyes. I'm asking to go to bathroom. I opened the door and went and he was shouting on me. I told him, I don't care. I'm a human, I'm a woman, and this is my right. It's very humiliated, actually.


This is the horrible thing I can ever experience in my life. The air stress, I cannot control it. The shillings, I cannot control it. But going to bathroom, I'm just feeling like I will argue, I will fight, I will do anything I cannot accept.


I understand.




How long did you spend in Hunyunis?


Three months.


Three months in Hunyunis?


Yeah, from October till the 20th of January. After After that, we woke up early in the morning and I found news they are coming close to the shelter. I went to the tent where I was living for three months, and I told my sister, Listen, you have to come with me, pack your luggage, and we will go to Rafeh. Went out through the gates, there was a clashes behind us. There was like, bulldozers, Israeli bulldozers, Israeli tanks, and they opened fire on people, even like snibbing shots, and it was above our heads. So I told her to run as much as she can. And yes, we went from the same way I came, and we directly moved to Raqqa. It become night, and we went through this road, and it was near to the border. I saw the Egyptian side, and I was seeing this is the line between Egypt and Gaza. It was so painful for me to see that only five meters, it's a wave, five meters. And this part is safe. No Earth strikes, nothing. They are having their own country. There was light, actually. There were a lot of light. This was very painful for me to feel like you are living all the day inside the dark.


You are living inside darkness.




Does it make you angry at Egypt, given that it could theoretically open the border, right? Allow people into safety, into the light?


No. Why should I be angry on them?


I mean, they could let people in, right?


But okay, if I'm in your home and I came to your home, and I came to your home. This is your property. If I came without permission, would you allow for me? I'm not defending them, but this is their own country. Okay, we are under war, but at least we have the right to have our own state, our own country.


You're saying basically, Egypt has the right not to let people in because people living in Gaza aren't part of Egypt?


We are part of Palestine. We are not part of Egypt. We are not a plane to Egypt. We are not going to live in Egypt. We have our own country. We want to be here. Why should we live to another country? If we want to spend the vacation there, okay, let's go to Egypt, all of us. But this is our country. We have to stay in our country. As they live in their country, we have the right to live in our country, learn here, work here, build our country. If we leave Gaza, who will stay here?


What did you think when you saw that news about a potential invasion of Rafa?


I have no other place to go. Honestly, I don't have any place. This is the last place that I can evacuate to. I don't have any other place to go. I don't have all my friends' houses. They are full of people or my relatives even, so I'm running out of places. This is the last option that we have.


Does it feel a little bit like the end of things? Like the end of what's happening, the end of the war, maybe?


I hope so, well. If it can be the end, I hope so. But not with the ground invasion to Raafah. Please, stop. Someone tell them not to do this. I'm just I'm expressing my feelings.


God, back in October, when the war first started, we spoke to a woman who was fleeing from the north, and she said at some point in our conversation, what do they want? Why don't they just tell us what they want? Do they want to just throw us into the sea? Just be honest and don't keep us in all of this pain. Tell us what you want to do with us. Does that resonate with you at all?


Yeah, it's a game. We are playing a game. Go there, hide there, don't go there. It's not a safer place. We are asking the same question again. Tell us to stay in this place and don't come. For me, you are fighting with a group, okay? What is my fault? It's not my fault. Just avoid the civilians. Just avoid us.


By that group, you mean Hamas? Yes.


You're fighting is with them.


What is the Israeli's contention that Hamas is, in fact, hiding among civilians, that that is a tactic?


I know that you are going to say this questions. I know. I've been asked many times this questions, but at least try to avoid us. You are killing us.




We are following. The people, the normal people, the civilians, they are following their orders. But whenever you are going to a safer place, the fighting is following you.


That's the game you're talking about.


Yeah, it's a game. You said it's a safer place. Then the next day, you are attacking the safer place. You said it's a safer place. I'm not saying it's a safer place. You said, go there to avoid the civilians. But you came to the same place. How can I believe you? What to do?


But what will you do? Will you try to run if you have to? Would you?


Tell me where to run. Tell me. Just tell me where to go.


We'll be right back.


The Israeli military says it's rescued two of the hostages abducted by Hamas during a raid in Raqqa overnight.


Dozens of Palestinians were reported to have been killed in the early hours of Monday.


Israel's offensive in Raqqa looks set to continue.


Idf appears poised to expand its ground war further south where thousands of civilians have led for safety. Safe? What does the word even mean in Gaza today?


Actually, it's obvious that we are not there because what happened last night, but there is no other place to go. There is no other place to live. We don't know what shall we do.


The day after an Israeli military raid into Ra'afa, we talked to Hussain Alta. He'd been living in Ra'afa for about three weeks.


Starting from my house, the Nasser area at Gaza City, to another neighborhood, another neighborhood, to another governor, to another governor, and finally here in Ra'afa.


Hussain had been displaced four times since the war began. In Rafa, he'd rented a house that was under construction without windows or doors for his wife and three children to live in.


Actually, this is my kids next to me. My eldest daughter, Lee, nine years old.


My son, Mahmoud, six years old, and Zain, 16 months.


Sixteen months old?




Hussain, tell Tell me, what are you doing for food now? What are you eating?


Actually, we are suffering for every basic need for water because each day you are going to fill the water. You are going to carry gallons of gallons for bathroom, for everything. There is huge lack of gas, cooking gas. So people are depending on wood. Starting fire for cooking. What do they cook, actually? Actually, I get canned food, beans, canned meat, et cetera. And all the people are just eating the canned food. Actually, and the best thing we are facing from my perspective during the war, actually, I lost around 30 kilos. It's the only good thing happened to me.


You lost 30 kilos. That's a lot of weight to lose.


Yeah, I needed to lose it, actually. And this is the only good thing happened to me for war.


Hussain? Hi. My goodness. It's very difficult to get through.


Yes. I got there is connection right now, even if it's very hard to call anyone. But this is basically a challenge, actually.


It sounds like there's honking in the background, Hussain. What is that? Where are you right now?


Actually, right now, I'm down on the street. A lot of clouds here. Imagine there is more than a million dead people are here in this small city at the border with Egypt.


What does it look like?


It's dark, and a lot of clouds of people just walking, trying to find food, find water, just walking around us with no direction, with no destination for them. Actually, I see the people like zombies walking on the street. They are walking in a hopeless way. We They are looking like not being alive. It's indescribable, actually, because their face doesn't show life. They look like lost.


They are lost.


Thousands of people, all of them are lost in this place.


Are you lost?


Yeah, for sure I'm lost because I don't know what's going to happen? I don't know what shall I do? It was a very scary night last night. A lot of bombardment and chilling started, a lot of shooting. We were asleep, actually. All of us woke up due to the sounds. The house was shaking due to the booming. My son and daughter were screaming and asking me for hugging them and hiding them. I just hugged them and found the most safe place, which is near the stairs. We just sat in there, came to be alive, to be safe. All of us were scared to be shot or be bombed for no reason. At the morning, I got to go outside to get a grocery for the house. My daughter said to me, We don't need to eat, just to stay with us. It's very dangerous to get outside. We don't move. I convinced here that I'm a big man. I can I managed myself, and we got to eat, and I'm going to be back. Don't worry about me. Just be a full-eye here and listen to your mom.


Did you find food?


Yeah. I went to a shelter next to ours, and I found tomato. I bought canned meat. I bought the stagia. And went back to the home and did the budget. Because it was a very difficult night. Aslin told me that there were more than 70 people killed in Rafa last night. I'm thinking that it could be off any day. We should live the best lives we can live and enjoy every second and a minute as much as we can. I got to prepare something special for this.


So you got the spaghetti.




Hussain, what was your life like before all of this started, before October seventh? Tell me a little bit about you.


Actually, I was very busy. I just finished building my house, which was supposed to move into on the seventh of October.


Oh, wow.


Bought the furniture and everything, and it was to receive the furniture on seventh of October. Oh, my goodness. But I didn't receive the furniture, and my new house is totally destroyed. Actually, it took me around two years to finish it. I got to design every corner with my what colors to use, what materials to use. Actually, it was very beautiful, actually. We did a great kitchen, an open kitchen to the living room, and we had a big balcony. We were thinking that this big balcony would be a place to sit in, drinking coffee and tea, and leaving fresh air. That's not talking about Sorry, but nothing. Sorry for that.


Are you okay?


Alhamdulillah, yeah, I'm fine.


What are you doing now? Where are you going to go?


I'm just walking right now, like a zombie roof. Thank God that it's dark. No one can see the tears in my eyes. Actually, for me, at least I got money. I can buy food. I got a roof above me. I'm not in a tent. But in Imagine the other people who are sleeping on the seats, sleeping on tents, sleeping by the sea shore. They got no toilets, they got no bathrooms. It's not a life for humans, actually. A lot of diseases, a lot of malnutrition. The people are really suffering here. They are really suffering. It's inhuman what we are living in. We did nothing. It's not our fault. We did nothing. We are just normal people just trying to live our lives. Why are we here? Why this is happening to us? Sometimes I think my kids should be at school, should be studying. Are they going to join schools again? There will be schools. This is actually a normal life. As a beginning, I tried to convince my children that we are doing this camping. My daughter just kept to tell me that, No, it's not camping. If it's camping, at least we should have living dogs.


How is it going to be camping? People do camping as a forest, but there is no forest. We should start fire, and we need marshmallow to do on fire. There is nothing to do. We are just living on the street. It's not camping. Actually, I don't get the answer for her. I just said to her that you should enjoy your time with your family. At least we are all together and we are surviving. It's special experience we are living together and you should enjoy it.


Do you think they'll remember this, Hussain? Are you worried they'll remember this?


It's a scar in their memories. I don't disappear, actually.


Are you hopeful that your 16-month-old might not remember this?


Hope so. Maybe he won't remember it, but I guess that he is going to live this effect on his life. Because while his family got no house, there is no proper life for him, nor for any child to live in. There is nothing. Actually, when I see the pictures and the videos of Gaza City where he used to live, it's totally destroyed. So where is he going to live? It's not a proper place to live in, and it will affect him be affect him living in such a situation.


It's their childhood.


It's my life. It's our lives, which is stolen from us.


What does that feel like?


No power, nothing, no choices. We don't know what to do. They didn't declare any safe place to go to. So we are just sitting here waiting for our destiny. And this could be good destiny. We don't know. Maybe we are going to survive. We are going to die. We don't know. It's our destiny.




I just remember the silly questions we used to play in our childhood.


Who will you choose to save? We never imagined that we can be in a real situation where we got to choose. Unfortunately, I can't save anyone. I only can't lie. To save one to flee at maximum. Now I'm thinking about evacuating my kids to save them from the hell we are living in.


A day after we spoke to Hussain, He sent a voice memo saying that he was trying to decide whether to get his family out of Gaza through Egypt. The border is officially closed, but Gazans say that with enough money, you can get people out.


Efecuating one person from Gaza costs around $5,000. It's very hard to decide, and I cannot make a decision to try to evacuate my kids so they can be safe, they I can go to schools, but they are going to be far away from me, which I don't know if I can handle.


Or all of us just can stay here together facing the same destiny.


It's really hard to take a decision It's so difficult.


Would you do that?


I don't think so.


Why? Why would you not leave?


First of all, because of my daughters. Then I'm so attached to this land, actually. I love Gaza.


But even to save your own life, My daughter's life is more important than my life.


I will not be comfortable outside Gaza.


On Sunday, Hussain made his decision. He said he paid to get his wife and children across the border. But he said he stayed behind to take care of his elderly parents and to pay back the money he borrowed to get his family to safety. Gada remains in Ra'afa. And over the weekend, Netanyahu said that negotiations over a ceasefire and a potential hostage release with Hamas had reached an impasse, and that his government was pushing ahead with plans for an invasion of Rafe, despite international pressure to call it off. We'll be right back. Here's what else you should know today. Yamoudu. On Monday, the widow of Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in a Russian prison on Friday, appeared on her husband's YouTube channel for the first time, pledging in a fiercely emotional tone to continue the fight that her husband began.. Yulya Navalnyah, who is 47 and had long shunned the spotlight, urged her husband's followers to take action, however small, against the regime of Vladimir Putin, saying quote, I ask you to share my rage, anger, and hatred of those who have dared to kill our future. She said that the best way to honor her husband's legacy was to fight more desperately and furiously than before.


Meanwhile, the Russian authorities are refusing to release Navalny's body to his mother in a remote Arctic town close to the prison where he died. They told her that her son's body would be subject to a chemical examination for the next 14 days. Today's episode was produced by Rochelle Bonja, Lindsay Garrison, and Stella Tan. It was edited by Paige Cawet and Liz O'Balen. Fact-checked by Susan Lee and Rochelle Bonja. Contains original music by Dan Powell, Marion Lozano, and Cory Schrabble, and was engineered and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Special thanks to Hiba Yasbeck and Yusr Al-Halut. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Lansberg of WNDY. That's it for The Daily. I'm Sabrina Tavernisi. See you tomorrow.