That night, as thousands poured through the border gates in Rafah, a harrowing true story lurked beneath the millions of square feet of the Gaza Strip’s vast network of concrete and steel. But there was nothing miraculous about the numbers crossing the border — 11,000 people, 70 percent of them just children, meant that people were fleeing only, and quickly, as if under a pressure cooker. Scores of small children in tiny plastic-trimmed backpacks. Hundreds of families, with toddlers in their arms. Men with large babies strapped to their backs, carrying them in those of their young nieces and nephews.

On an unwelcoming side of the wall, and uphill from the exit point, passengers hauling gigantic bags snaked past on foot. Rail carriages now representing a late arrival that simply could not make it through had lined up on the only way out. Israeli soldiers, with their rifles and spotlights shining into the dark, searched the arrivals’ bags and slowly led them to a bus.

The rest of Gaza greeted the refugee exodus from Gaza with a mixture of relief and sadness. Israel once again had created a catastrophe here — this time it was the third in a row, this time Gaza with almost nothing to return to. The refugees had waited for this moment, unable to say goodbye to the spouses and children they loved, unable to say goodbye to their homes, many of which are unlivable. They were bombed, they were flooded, now they were pinned between Israeli guns and giant concrete blocks.

For the people of Gaza, this was nothing short of a catastrophe. Today, even the more knowledgeable voices outside Gaza say it is not possible to think that rebuilding the rubble can begin before it is damaged irreparably again. The concrete block that shot into a window late at night with the sound of many shells is the lowest of the humanity of Gaza.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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