A UN official said there are no guarantees of safety in the supposed safe zones: “These are tiny patches of barren land, or they are street corners, they are sidewalks,” adding that there is not one single toilet.
The United States on Monday argued that it was too early to definitively assess whether Israel was doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza and that it expects the occupation forces to designate safe zones.
“It’s too early to make a definitive assessment,” US State Department spokesman Matt Miller told reporters at a briefing when questioned about whether Israel was adhering to Washington’s advice.
“In the north … you saw them ask, or order, more than a million people to move. We’ve seen a much more targeted request for evacuations here,” he argued, adding that Israel had pinpointed particular neighbourhoods where they intended to conduct operations “rather than telling an entire city … to vacate their homes”.
He further added that the US expects Israeli occupation forces not to strike areas they designate as safe zones.
This comes as the United Nations declared on Tuesday that it was impossible to create supposed safe zones for civilians to flee to inside the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s relentless bombing campaign which has so far killed around 15,899 Palestinians.
Israel initially directed its military offensive towards the northern region of the enclave, but on December 1 the occupation forces distributed leaflets in southern areas coercing Palestinians to leave to continue its bombardment.
But civilians have nowhere to go.
“The so-called safe zones… are not scientific, they are not rational, they are not possible, and I think the authorities are aware of this,” James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told reporters in Geneva through a video-link from Cairo.
Elder maintained that the safe zones identified by Israel itself “cannot be safe nor humanitarian when unilaterally declared”.
The claim that there is a secure place for Palestinians to escape to is deemed “callous,” he said. He said that in a proper safe zone, “you can guarantee the conditions of food, water, medicine and shelter”.
Elder, who has been in Gaza for the past week, emphasised that there are no guarantees of safety in the designated zones.
“These are entirely, entirely absent. You cannot overstate this. These are tiny patches of barren land, or they are street corners, they are sidewalks,” he detailed.
“There is no water, no facilities, no shelter from the cold and the rain [and] there’s no sanitation.”
Elder stressed that in the densely populated shelters, where the majority of Gaza’s displaced population sought refuge, there was approximately one toilet for every 400 individuals.
“Now remove those people and put them in… the so-called safe places. It’s tens of thousands of people without a single toilet – not one – no clean water, nothing to drink,” he said.
“Without water, without sanitation, without shelter the so-called safe zones risks becoming zones of disease.”
Falling on the backdrop of Miller’s remarks are multiple reports of Israel continuously attacking zones it identified as “safe”.
Since October 13, over a million Palestinians have been forced to leave northern Gaza following the Israeli military’s coercion to evacuate to the southern regions within a 24-hour timeframe.
As of this week, Israel is operating and carrying out its military offence in the south of the enclave.
On Sunday, Israel’s military demanded the immediate evacuation of approximately 20 percent of Khan Younis south of the besieged Strip. This marked area includes 21 shelters and accommodates 50,000 internally displaced people, predominantly from northern Gaza, as reported by OCHA.
The evacuation order came as Israel escalated its bombardment in the area, resulting in the death of more than 800 Palestinians in Gaza within the past four days.
Residents reported being directed to relocate to Rafah, which has also witnessed the impact of the relentless attacks, according to Al Jazeera.
Before the truce ended on Friday morning, Khan Younis served as a designated safe zone, hosting 215,000 displaced Palestinians across 34 UNRWA shelters in the city.
Tens of thousands more sought refuge in alternative locations provided by local authorities.
The supposed “safe zones” in Gaza do not provide any sort of protection for Palestinians.
This week’s attacks on supposed safety zones were not the first such instance of targetting by Israel.
Over 10 days after October 7, relentless Israeli airstrikes demolished residences, targeted a UN school sheltering displaced individuals, and resulted in staggering casualties in the southern and central regions of Gaza.
“The situation is very, very difficult with artillery shelling and aerial bombardment on homes and defenceless people,” said Abu Hashem Abu Al-Hussein, who initially opened his home in Khan Younis to displaced families, but eventually sought refuge in a UN school himself amid the escalating violence.
Around the same time, Israel had claimed to maintain the accessibility of two routes for Palestinians to evacuate, but the displaced Palestinians escaping via those routes reported continuous Israeli bombings in the areas surrounding those roads.
October 13, Israeli airstrikes resulted in the deaths of 70 Palestinians and left 200 others injured as they targeted multiple vehicles transporting displaced individuals in Gaza.