Could people fleeing from the Hamas-Israel conflict seek refuge in our area?

As the fighting continues in Israel and Gaza, and the death toll rises, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Many have had their apartments and houses destroyed in airstrikes.

Like the war in Ukraine, it’s a humanitarian crisis and it raises the question: Could people seek refuge in our area?

The United Nations estimates that in Gaza at least 200,000 of the 2.2 million residents are displaced and fleeing for their lives. Some have had their homes demolished while others worry the airstrikes will hit them next.

Now the Israeli defense minister said it plans to stop electricity, fuel, water and food from coming into Gaza.

Israelis, especially those near the Gaza Strip, are also living in fear, worried Hamas terrorists are hiding among them.

It’s a humanitarian crisis similar to what we’ve seen with the Russian war on Ukraine, the Sudanese civil war, and genocide in Syria. In each of these scenarios, Jacksonville has hosted refugees.

“When it comes to basic needs, you can always call 211 in terms of let’s make sure we can get you food on the table, let’s make sure we can find you proper clothing. And then we’re going to connect you to some of the really big players in the game who can further support and maybe its housing needs,” said Elizabeth Findley with United Way of Northeast Florida.

Findley said the 988 lines are available for anyone in distress right now and down the road that could mean helping those displaced by the attacks.

“And so we really look to Catholic Charities and LSF as the experts in that world. But you know, what we can do is connect you to those people to make sure you’re getting to the right place so we can start solving some of those needs,” Findley said.

Many in the Gaza Strip are already considered refugees, living in camps across the area.

The UN is promising aid and urging fighters on both sides to protect, “Civilians, especially children, medical facilities, humanitarian personnel health workers, and journalists”

Mariam Feist, who is with the Jacksonville Jewish Federation and Foundation, doesn’t expect an influx of Israelis to America.

“Given the deep deep history and religious significance of the state of Israel, people are not running or fleeing, they’re staying,” Feist said.

She said they’ll continue to fight back against Hamas attacks and stay resilient in their homes.

Again, the United Way has its 988 crisis line available for anyone in distress over these attacks. It could be as simple as seeing the destruction on TV and wanting to talk about it. It’s free and available 24-7.

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