In one of the areas set up for displaced Palestinian families in Khan Younis, volunteer cooks aim to feed 500 people daily.
Khan Younis – Among the dozens of tents set up for displaced Palestinian families by the United Nations-run training college in this city in southern Gaza, large metal cauldrons full of bubbling white beans in red sauce are cooked over an open fire.
One of the cooks ladles a serving to the huddle of mostly children, who are holding out metal bowls and pots in their outstretched hands.
“More food please,” one boy says.
Other children clamour around the cook, pushing their bowls and pots in front of them.
“Uncle, I’ve been waiting for a while,” says another.
“Uncle, put me some more, even if it’s just soup,” yet another one pipes up.
A man’s voice is heard over the noise, instructing the cook.
“Make sure you give two servings to the old woman standing,” he says. “There are 15 people in her family.”
According to the cook, Abu Ibrahim Zaqout, this new initiative, which was just set up on Wednesday, has already managed to feed 50 families, or about 500 people.
“The man behind the idea is Abu al-Abed al-Masri from Beit Hanoon, who was displaced with his entire family of more than 50 people,” Zaqout says.
“He approached me with the idea of cooking for people after seeing that they needed food here,” he explains. “I told him I know how to cook well, and I have experience in volunteer work.”
People donated food and cooking utensils and the team, assembled of volunteers from Zaqout’s family, cooked lentils on the first day.
The Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which began on October 7 after a surprise Hamas attack that killed 1,405 Israelis, has been the most brutal for the last 15 years.
For three weeks, Israeli warplanes have bombed the Gaza Strip from the north to the south, and imposed a total blockade, cutting off electricity, fuel and destroying the communications tower.
According to the health ministry, more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 2,913 children and 1,709 women. A further 1,950 people are missing under the rubble of their homes, including 940 children.
Entire neighbourhoods have been levelled to the ground, and the indiscriminate bombing has led to the internal displacement of 1.4 million Palestinians of a population of 2.3 million, the United Nations said.
The Israeli military has dropped leaflets and called Palestinians on their mobile phones, warning them to flee their homes in northern Gaza and Gaza City and head south.
Zaqout and his family, 10 members altogether, were forced to leave their home in Beit Hanoon in northern Gaza and make their way south to Khan Younis.
“We will cook whatever food or ingredients people donate to us,” Zaqout said. “There is no bread, and we don’t want the children to sleep hungry.”