The United Nations said on Tuesday that nearly 450,000 people have been displaced from Rafah since Israel began issuing evacuation orders for the south Gaza City eight days ago.

At the same time, another 100,000 people have fled their homes amid renewed fighting in northern Gaza, the UN said, meaning that around a quarter of Gaza’s population of around 2.4 million people has been displaced again in just over a week.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said on Tuesday that it estimated “that nearly 450,000 people have been forcibly displaced from Rafah since May 6.”

That was the day Israel issued an initial evacuation order for eastern Rafah, and it has repeatedly expanded the areas ordered emptied of civilians since then, as it prepares for a widely feared ground assault.

While it has not yet announced a large-scale operation, Israel defied international opposition and entered Rafah with tanks and troops last week, seizing its key crossing on the Egyptian border.

The UN warned of an “epic” disaster if Israel conducts an outright invasion of the city where 1.4 million people – many displaced from elsewhere in war-torn Gaza – had been sheltering.

Israel asked people in the designated evacuation areas in Rafah to head to the Al-Mawasi “humanitarian zone” on the coast northwest of Rafah, though aid groups warned that it is not ready for an influx of people.

UNRWA warned later on Tuesday that the infrastructure in Khan Younis was “completely destroyed.”

“There are no water, electricity nor sewage services,” it said, cautioning that “displaced people fleeing Rafah are moving back to destroyed areas that are in no way fit for them to live in.”

“Families keep fleeing where they can – including to rubble & sand dunes – in search of safety. But there’s no such thing in Gaza,” said the agency.

With AFP