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Gazans battle for survival, Israeli forces on high alert

world Updated: Nov 19, 2012 00:38 IST

On an eerily deserted street in the al-Karama district of Gaza City, the Abu Sinan family was waiting - in vain - for a taxi.

Clutching two blue plastic bags full of clothing and a black backpack, 19-year-old Tariq alternated between scanning the road for a vehicle and casting his eyes to the sky, from where the buzz of Israeli drones could be heard.

Their intended destination was just a few miles across town. "We think it's a safer area," he said. "Here, there is a lot of empty ground. We see the resistance firing rockets every day, so there are a lot of air strikes." He had no idea how long the family would be away from home: "Until it's over."

A growing number of desperate Gazans appeared to be on the move. One man said that he had taken his wife and baby to Khan Younis, a city in the southern half of the Gaza Strip, in the hope that it was safer.

A woman who took her family to spend the night in a community centre said she had found no respite from the bombing: "We discovered everywhere is equal on the safety scale."

People are beginning to feel like rats in a cage as Israel pummels the tiny territory with missiles and steps up preparations for a possible ground invasion.

The Israeli Defence Forces struck 200 targets overnight; tanks and troops are massing on Gaza's borders; up to 75,000 reservists are being called up. The immediate area around Gaza has been declared a closed military zone.

The psychological impact on Gaza's population of the offensive is as much a weapon of war as the bombing itself. People in Gaza City say their children are terrified and unable to sleep.