This story was created by the team at Mondoweiss and curated by Slingshot Media’s advocacy team
Multiple testimonies collected from Palestinians displaced from northern Gaza reveal the horrors of the Israeli army's "safe passage" on Salah al-Din Street.
During the temporary ceasefire, I was able to visit several shelters housing displaced people who have come in from northern Gaza, mainly at the European Hospital and an UNRWA-run school in Khan Younis. The stories I heard from people in multiple shelters are difficult to believe, even now after everything we’ve seen. Most of the stories center around how they evacuated the north and were expelled to the south, including the harrowing journey on Salah al-Din Street, which has been designated a “safe passage” by the Israeli army. It became apparent from the testimonies I heard that the road was not designed to facilitate the flight of civilians but to systematically humiliate, degrade, and, in some cases, kill them. Not everyone survived the journey south, and even now, Salah al-Din Steet is littered with dozens of bodies — men, women, and children — in different states of decomposition.
The picture that emerges is not a “humanitarian road” but a death march. These are some of the testimonies I gathered from dozens of eyewitnesses.
‘The soldier ordered me to crawl through the checkpoint’
In a small room barely wider than two meters, two young men lie down on separate mattresses. They arrived at the hospital together, but one of the young men, whose name is Ayman, told a story that sounded like something out of a war novel.
His house was bombed in northern Gaza on top of his family of 21 people. Four of them were killed in the bombing — his father and three of his siblings, leaving him as the only young person in the family. Ayman was injured and transferred to the hospital, his right foot held together by little more than muscle and skin, as the bones of his right shin were totally shattered. At the hospital, his entire foot and his leg were fitted with plates all the way up to the knee. His cousin Mahmoud stayed with him in the hospital. When the Israeli army raided the Indonesian Hospital last week, Mahmoud was also shot in the foot, and doctors also fitted him with metal plates.
Yet when the time came for the evacuation from the hospital, the army forced everyone in the hospital to march south on foot. That is when Ayman’s nightmare began to unfold.
“I was walking on crutches, and two paramedics who had fled south with us were helping me along the way,” he told Mondoweiss. “Sometimes they would carry me or allow me to lean on them as we walked.”
When they reached the Israeli military checkpoint that had been erected on Salah al-Din Street, a soldier called on him from a distance and ordered him to walk on his own and throw away his crutches before arriving at the checkpoint to be searched.
“I still wasn’t able to put my foot on the ground or to put any pressure on it,” Ayman said. “But the soldier kept ordering me to walk without it.”
“The minute I put my foot on the ground, I fell, unable to bear the pain,” he continued. “But the soldier kept insisting and told me to stand up.”
Ayman said he could not bear the humiliation the soldier was forcing on him. For a second time, he tried to get up and tried to take another step.
The plate in his leg broke. He collapsed, screaming in pain. The soldier did nothing, just ordering him to crawl past the checkpoint and go on his way. Ayman had no choice but to do as he was ordered, dragging himself until he got to the other side, where people picked him up and assisted him.
Ayman is now in the European Hospital in Khan Younis and needs two surgeries. The first is to repair the dislocation of his knee resulting from the broken plate — to look at him, his leg is bent in an unnatural U-shape — and the second surgery is to fit him with a new metal plate. The problem is that the doctors at the European hospital haven’t been able to conduct the surgery, and he requires a hospital transfer outside of Gaza to fix it, given his ordeal and the complicated double injuries it has caused.
“There was nothing wrong with me,” Ayman said. “If only the soldier had allowed me to walk through on my crutches or to let the paramedics carry me, none of this would be needed now.”
He insists that the soldiers were making a point of humiliating the refugees, adding another layer of suffering to their journey. They seemed to take pleasure in their retribution, he said.
Testimonies of soldiers ‘sniping children’ from a distance and forcing parents to abandon their corpses
Some stories have been so widespread that multiple people tell the same story. In some cases, the person who suffered the ordeal didn’t make the journey to the south, but their story was witnessed by many others who did. Mondoweiss has not been able to independently verify these accounts.
One incident I heard from multiple people that I met at an UNRWA school recounts the story of a woman carrying her child and walking along Salah al-Din. Her child would cry loudly as she carried him, multiple people told me, all repeating the same details and recounting the same sequence of events that would follow: a soldier, annoyed by the child’s screeching, “sniped at him” from a distance and shot him in the head as his mother carried him. The soldier then picked up his megaphone and ordered her to throw him by the side of the road and keep walking.
In utter shock, the woman wailed and cried but eventually was forced to obey the soldiers’ orders at gunpoint, who surrounded her from the side and were also perched on top of a tank. Everyone told me the same thing: that the woman was forced to set down her lifeless child and continue, screaming and crying the entire way.