A month into war and siege, Gazans endure daily grief and hardship

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - The dead body of a toddler is carried out of a bombed house. A woman weeps over a row of corpses wrapped in white. The latest casualties arrive in hospitals already overflowing with the wounded and displaced. People queue for hours to get a few litres of water to share with dozens of others.

A month into Israel's devastating military assault on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinians stuck inside the besieged enclave face daily suffering of a scale, intensity and repetitiveness that have pushed some into fury and despair.

"I swear we are waiting for death. It will be better than living. We are waiting for death at each moment. It's a suspended death," said Abu Jihad, a middle-aged resident of Khan Younis in the south of the tiny, densely populated territory.

He was standing in a street close to a house flattened by an air strike that shook the neighbourhood awake in the middle of the night.

"We are not living. We need a solution. Either kill us all or let us live," he said, raging at Israel and at the wider world which he accused of being silent and impotent.

Israel's stated military objective is to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group whose fighters burst through Gaza's border fence and rampaged through nearby Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people, and abducting 240 others back to the enclave.

Israel's subsequent air, sea and ground onslaught against Hamas has killed more than 10,000 people in the coastal strip, according to health authorities there.

Israel has told residents of the northern part of the enclave, where its forces have encircled Gaza City, to move to the south for their own safety, but has been bombarding the south too, though less intensively than the north.

ROW OF CORPSES

In Khan Younis and Rafah, two separate strikes on homes killed 23 people overnight, health officials said on Tuesday.

At the site of the Khan Younis strike, a man carried the lifeless body of a tiny child, dressed in what looked like pink pyjamas, from the flattened ruin of a home.

A young girl had survived but was trapped by a slab of concrete that had fallen on her legs. A group of men were using their bare hands to try and free her as an anxious crowd stood outside, calling out encouragements to the rescuers.

Ahmed Ayesh, a resident injured in the strike, walked out of the bomb site with a bloodied face and blood spattered over his T-shirt and one arm. He was visibly enraged as he spoke to reporters.

"This is the bravery of the so-called Israel. They show their might and power against civilians. Babies inside! Kids inside!" he said, jabbing his finger towards the ruin and raising his voice.

Israel says it targets only militants and accuses Hamas of using human shields and concealing weapons and operations posts in built-up residential districts. Hamas denies this.

At Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, a row of corpses wrapped in white shrouds had been placed on the ground outside the door. From the length of the bodies, it was clear that some of the dead were adults and some were children.

A woman in a red dress and beige head scarf broke down into uncontrollable weeping, her body folding forwards as a man tried to comfort her. A man in a black shirt crouched down and cried, his face reddened and contorted by anguish.

After a time, a group of men including medical staff in surgical scrubs and plastic aprons knelt down to pray alongside the bodies.

In Rafah, also in the south, another all-too-familiar scene unfolded as men and boys lined up on a sandy expanse strewn with rubbish, where a single functioning hosepipe was the only source of water accessible to thousands of residents.

A lengthy line of yellow, black, green and blue jerry cans were placed in a tidy line as people settled in for hours of waiting to get a meagre ration.

"Each person comes with a 20-litre container and shares it with the rest of his family. Every person gets four or five litres. It's the same situation every day," said Bakr al-Kashef, a young man in a yellow jacket.

(Writing by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Mark Heinrich)