CHICAGO — Israel gave civilians in Gaza a 24-hour warning to evacuate Friday before an expected large-scale invasion in the midst of launching deadly airstrikes across the region in the past week. Feelings of distress escalate for Palestinians in Chicago as they worry for loved ones scrambling to seek safety.
Israeli air raids have reduced buildings to rubble, killed dozens of civilians in the past day and minimized access to safekeeping. The U.N. has warned that evacuating more than half of the population would be calamitous and has urged Israel to reconsider action.
More than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 12,000 wounded in Gaza. Associated Press reported that the morgue at Gaza’s biggest hospital has overflowed as bodies came in faster than relatives could claim.
Hospitals in the northern part of the strip have also been ordered to evacuate.
“Evacuation is impossible for most people, there is nowhere to evacuate and no way to get there. This is asking to displace half of a population in 24 hours. It is a humanitarian disaster,” Deanna Othman said.
Othman, a teacher from Oak Lawn, recently travelled to Gaza after 13 years to share her native roots with her four children when shortly after, she would have to help them process the catastrophes taking place in their motherland.
“I have my in-laws, all their children and extended family there. It was the first time my kids were able to take in the experience which makes the current situation a lot more difficult,” Othman said.
Othman said Palestinian Chicagoans have been helping connect families with missing loved ones — putting the pieces together across the ocean.
“You never know when the generators will run out of electricity. When you don’t hear back from someone, it’s terrifying, thinking the possibilities of what might’ve happened,” Othman said.
Othman shared her family members were forced to leave their homes, and the conversations with her children have been ones full of grief.
“My younger ones are feeling it more emotionally, they are in tears — worried about our family members and often can’t sleep at night,” Othman said.
Gaza has been sealed off from food, water, medical supplies and is under a virtual total power blackout. The Gaza Health Ministry said more than 1,900 people have been killed in the territory — more than half of them under the age of 18, or women.
“I want Palestinians to be seen as human beings who are fighting for liberation just like any other community. They are victims who need to be defended,” Othman said.