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“Our Children Deserve to Live”: Mother in Rafah Desperate to Escape as Israel Prepares Ground Invasion

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As Palestinian health officials say overnight Israeli strikes killed dozens in Rafah, where over 1 million Palestinians have sought refuge, we speak with a teacher trying to evacuate Rafah with her young children, who urges the U.S. government to stop the bloodshed. “My message to President Biden: We are innocent civilians, and we have no fault in what is happening,” says Duha Latif. “Our children deserve to live a normal life like the rest of the world’s children.” Latif is fundraising to gather the money she needs to enter Egypt. The latest Israeli bombardment was conducted as part of an operation to free two Israeli hostages and came amid warnings from U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders against Israel’s expected ground invasion of Rafah. Aid agencies fear the offensive would cause massive casualties.

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StoryJul 15, 2024Mawasi Massacre: Over 90 Killed in Israeli Airstrikes on Tent Camp in Gaza “Safe Zone”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Palestinian health officials say overnight Israeli strikes on Rafah in southern Gaza have killed at least 67 people as concern grows Israel will soon launch a full-scale ground invasion. Over a million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah, which borders Egypt, after Israel claimed it was a safe zone. Palestinians in Rafah say a mosque and several houses were hit by the overnight Israeli strikes.

KHALED AL-TAWEEL: [translated] It was an Apache firing with a really loud noise. The F-16s fired, the Cobra, the drone, all kinds of aircraft. Terror, terror, so much terror. They wiped out mosques, people, and displaced people. They kept saying, “Go to Rafah. Go to Rafah.” And people came here. And then you target them?

AMY GOODMAN: Over the weekend, Israel carried out numerous airstrikes on Rafah, including one that leveled a five-story home, killing at least eight people.

ENAS AMER: [translated] My sister and her husband are sleeping in the room, and my mother and my other sister with her children in the living room, me and my father in the room over here. Suddenly, a rocket fell on us. My sister, her husband and their children, including my niece, who is 2 months old, all gone.

AMY GOODMAN: The overnight airstrikes came as Israeli forces carried out an operation in Rafah to free two Israeli Argentine hostages, who were found to be in good condition. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces increasing pressure at home to secure the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza. Earlier today, a relative of the two men freed in Rafah called for Israel to reach a deal now.

EDAN BEGERANO: And we know about the discussions in Cairo, or in Paris, in others, between the Hamas and between Israel, with the mediators. Please, be serious and strike a deal. The Israeli people need the deal done — not yesterday, not tomorrow, today. We want it done as soon as possible in order for to give us some breath. We must breathe a little bit here.

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, President Biden spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning against Israel launching a ground invasion of Rafah. Aid agencies fear the offensive would cause massive casualties, while UNICEF has warned an escalation of Israel’s attacks in Rafah will cause hunger and disease to skyrocket. Hamas cautioned an Israeli invasion of Rafah will torpedo ongoing negotiations for a truce. Authorities in Egypt have also threatened to suspend a key peace treaty with Israel if Rafah is invaded.

For more, we’re going directly to Rafah to speak with Duha Latif. She’s a 29-year-old teacher from Gaza trying to evacuate Rafah with her young children, 6-year-old Ameer and 1-and-a-half-year-old Kareem.

Duha, welcome to Democracy Now! Especially under these difficult circumstances, we appreciate you being with us. You are a native of Rafah. Can you describe the situation there now?

DUHA LATIF: Hello, Amy. Thanks for hosting.

I’m sure most of you saw the news yesterday. And what happened in Rafah, it was the worst night in my life, and I really cannot believe that I am still alive. And actually, situation here is very terrible. Rafah is a small city, and now 1.5 million people in Rafah, and Rafah is just 55 square kilometers, which means that per square kilometers in Rafah, there are around 24,000 Palestinians. Just imagine this, Amy. Therefore, it is very difficult to get food, water or medicine, in addition to the spread of diseases, because of a large population. Also, Rafah is a city with no hospital, no electricity, no bakeries since four months. This is the situation here.

AMY GOODMAN: You are 29 years old. You’re a teacher, Duha, in Rafah?

DUHA LATIF: Yes, that’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: The city has swelled to four times the population. Can you talk about your attempts to get out with your two little ones, your 1-and-a-half-year-old and your 6-year-old?

DUHA LATIF: The issue of leaving Rafah and evacuation to Egypt is very complicated, and it’s very, very expensive, because we need the approval of the Egyptian side to grant us exit arrangements, which costs a large amount of money. And this is what we don’t have at the present time. And this is what got me created a GoFundMe account, because we don’t have money to get out from Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? How much money does it cost to leave Gaza? What are you raising money for?

DUHA LATIF: In fact, I can’t determine that exactly, but I can tell you that’s the amount required to be paid to exit Gaza. It’s considered somewhat high, very high, especially in our current case. This amount includes the travel cost and the expensive coordination, in addition to what is required when we arrive in Egypt side — of course, if we’re still alive — such as renting a place to stay and buy clothes and food and children needs. Actually, we don’t know to whom this money goes, and I cannot mention specific site. But what I know, it’s that we have to pay this amount for one of Egyptian offices.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your little ones and how they are processing what’s happening right now? Do you hear bombing, shelling around you?

DUHA LATIF: Yes, yes. Last night, maybe you see this in the news. And it was terrible. And we are all — that my children was scared all the night, and they’re crying. And maybe you see what’s happened in the news. And what’s happened, really, is very, very hard and difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m wondering if you heard the relative of the two Israeli Argentine hostages who the Israeli military freed in Rafah. Their relative said, “Please, have a truce now. It is not enough that you have freed our two loved ones.”

DUHA LATIF: Yes. No, I don’t hear of this. And I am like you: I hear this just from the news.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can talk about, at this point, what message you have for President Biden? You may have heard that his aides are saying that he’s made mistakes in dealing with the Middle East. What message do you have for President Biden?

DUHA LATIF: I will send a message. I have two children, and they are always nervous and afraid from the voices they hear around us, and always ask me questions I don’t have the answers for it: “Mom, when can we get out? Mom, when we will eat burger? Mom, when we can go back to school?” And it’s difficult to calm children while the mother needs somebody to calm her. So, my message to President Biden: We are innocent civilians, and we have no fault in what is happening. Our children deserve to live a normal life like the rest of the world’s children. Just one word, President Biden: ceasefire now. You have the power to make it happen right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Duha, do you have access to clean water? Also, have you taken in refugees from other parts of Gaza at this point into your own home?

DUHA LATIF: And actually, Amy, yes, I have, but there is only canned foods, beans and tuna, for four months. My children are in a growing stage and need healthy and useful food, like an egg, milk, fruits. And all of this doesn’t exist at the present time. There is no clean water. Because of this, my young son Kareem, 1-and-a-half years, suffered intestinal khatar. And also, there is also no medicine for this. Also, about the refugees, yes, our situation like the situation of thousands people here in Rafah. Yes, I have many refugees in my home. They are my relatives from Gaza, in northern Gaza. Every home in Rafah is full of refugees.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I thank you so much for taking this time, speaking to us from Rafah.

DUHA LATIF: Amy, I want just to say a word. Can I?


DUHA LATIF: We are urgently trying to leave Rafah, but we need money to leave. We have a GoFundMe account, if people want to support us by donating or sharing or help my family. We need to leave to keep my family safe.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Duha Latif, I thank you so much for being with us, 29-year-old teacher from Rafah, trying to evacuate there with her young children, her 6-year-old Ameer and her 1-and-a-half-year-old Kareem.

When we come back, we’ll speak with Palestinian human rights attorney Noura Erakat, as the U.S., the European Union, countries around the world warn Israel against a ground invasion of Rafah. Stay with us.

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“Worst-Case Scenario”: Noura Erakat on Israel’s Looming Invasion of Rafah

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