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RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Downtown Rafah in Gaza is deserted after most residents fled weeks of fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups led by Hamas that punctuated daily life there.
Those who stayed in the city feel trapped.
Israeli officials have described Rafah as Hamas’ last bastion in the Gaza Strip.
In early May, troops entered the city in the southern Palestinian territory, shelling areas near the border with Egypt and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee.
“There is no more water or food. We are totally trapped,” said Haitham Abu Taha.
He is one of the few Palestinians who returned to Rafah with his family after the Israeli army recently announced a daily break on a southern route.
“It was better than staying in tents or with relatives because we were separated from each other,” he recalled thinking, before returning to find that the soldiers “hadn’t really retreated.”
“There is hardly anyone left” in Rafah, Abu Taha said, except for some people who refused to leave their homes or who returned later.
Over the sea of ​​rubble of the deserted city, Palestinians say Israeli drones perform precise maneuvers at low altitudes.
Almost silent, they provide a detailed view of the terrain and have been used, Palestinians say, to carry out precision strikes since the Israel-Hamas war began more than eight months ago.

Abu Taha, 30, spoke of the “danger of quadcopter drones mercilessly targeting anyone who walks” on the streets.
“Many people were killed” by the quadcopters, 22-year-old Ismail Abu Shaar told AFP, claiming he had stayed at home to “protect” the area.
The “artillery, shooting and clashes” never stop, he said.
The Israeli military said on Monday it was “continuing intelligence-based targeted operations” in and around Rafah, adding that it had found “large quantities of weapons”.
“We are clearly approaching the point where we can say that we have dismantled (Hamas’) Rafah Brigade, that it is defeated not in the sense that there are no more terrorists, but in the sense that it can no longer function as a struggle. unity,” army chief Herzi Halevi said in a statement after visiting Rafah late Sunday.
However, Palestinian armed groups, particularly Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, say they regularly operate in the area.
William Schomburg, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Rafah, told reporters on Saturday that the city was now a “ghost town”.
“We’re seeing very few people, very significant destruction,” he said.
The suffering of the 2.4 million people in the narrow strip of land that is Gaza, already impoverished before the war, has increased with the fighting.

International organizations have said for months they are facing extreme difficulties in delivering humanitarian aid to civilians, while Israeli authorities say they have allowed aid to enter but it has not been collected for distribution.
Plumes of smoke regularly rise over Rafah, to which Egypt partially controlled access until the war changed the situation on the ground.
Before the Israeli ground offensive on the city began in early May, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians took refuge there, displaced from across the territory as fighting intensified.
Many left the homes they had lived in for years or the apartments they had rented at high prices after the war began – or the tents hastily erected as the war tightened its grip on the city.
In late May, AFP correspondents saw hundreds of Palestinians fleeing Tal Al-Sultan, a district in Rafah that had just been hit by an Israeli strike that left 45 dead, according to local authorities in the Hamas-run territory.
After last week’s strikes killed dozens, the east and center of the city are becoming even more deserted as people flee.
On top of vans and donkey carts, families piled patchwork solar panels, flower-covered foam mattresses, wooden planks and plastic pipes.
A young boy pushed metal sheets into an office chair.
Many say they simply don’t have the means to commit to a new movement as war closes in on the few left behind.
“We are afraid to move because we are afraid of being killed,” Abu Taha said.

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