The choice given to the people of Gaza is no choice at all

While thousands have fled from the north to the south in the wake of an Israeli evacuation order, others have chosen to stay in their homes, writes Donald Macintyre

Monday 16 October 2023 09:46 BST
<p>A family stand in the road carrying their belongings as they flee</p>

A family stand in the road carrying their belongings as they flee

For anyone who knows the territory well, the pictures of destruction in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Rimal are somehow especially shocking.

This isn’t really because it is “upscale” or “middle-class”, as it has been routinely described. Rather, its boulevards, its hotels. offices, shops and restaurants testified to something else. Rimal has long remained, for all Gaza’s bloody and turbulent history over the decades, the persistently vibrant commercial and cultural heart of what is, with two long-established universities, the most sophisticated and metropolitan of Palestinian cities. As local businessman Ali al Hayek told the Associated Press on Wednesday: “Israel has destroyed the centre of everything. That is the space of our public life, our community.”

The sense of anxiety generated by the wreckage in Rimal will have extended far into other Gaza districts. In many homes, there were no doubt fraught family conversations going on, as Israel massed its tanks and hundreds of thousands of troops on Gaza’s border for a ground invasion. That is something top Western intelligence professionals like the former MI6 chief Alex Younger have warned is actually what Hamas wants, and will radicalise another generation of young Gazans to replace dead Hamas militants.

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