The disappeared of Gaza: tens of thousands missing in territory since start of war

The disappeared of Gaza: tens of thousands missing in territory since start of war

The Guardian reports:

Late one night in March, Ahmed Abu Jalala rose quietly, trying hard not to wake his family, sleeping around him on the floor of a UN-run school in northern Gaza.

The 54-year-old father knew his six children needed food, but after months of war there was none. Little aid reached Jabaliya, where they had been staying since fleeing their small home in the early weeks of the conflict, and his children had been reduced to eating wild plants. So Abu Jalala went out into the darkness to search for flour being brought by a humanitarian convoy.

“We would never have let him go if we’d known … We’ve not seen or heard of him since,” said Etemad Abu Jalala, the missing man’s uncle.

After six months of war, tens of thousands have disappeared in Gaza, their whereabouts unknown to their relatives or friends. The International Committee of the Red Cross has recorded more than 7,000 calls to its missing persons hotline since the start of the conflict in Gaza but the total is almost certainly many times that figure.

Abu Jalala, who had chronic psychological illness, has not been seen since the night he left his family in the shelter.

“We go out to search for him every day hoping to find him, but in vain. We hope that he is still alive. We have tried to contact hospitals and the police … but without any results,” his brother said.

More than 33,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza so far in the conflict, according to local health officials. Artillery bombardment and airstrikes have reduced entire blocks of flats or tenements to rubble across much of the territory, burying many whose deaths have gone unrecorded. Some of the dead have been placed in makeshift graves by strangers.

Raji Kamal Kaleel, 36, is still hoping for news of his wife and two-year-old daughter, whom he last saw in January during a bout of Israeli shelling and airstrikes in Gaza City.

“When the bombardment intensified on our neighbourhood, we decided to flee to a UN shelter, but on the way there was a big airstrike, and the whole area was filled black smoke. We couldn’t see each other so all of us ran in different directions,” Kaleel said.

When the smoke cleared, Kaleel found his mother, his 10-year-old son, and his oldest daughter, who is 11,, but not his wife or youngest child. [Continue reading…]

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