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Israeli military enters Jabalia as part of new offensive in northern Gaza, criticism of Netanyahu grows

Israeli armed forces began to go deeper into the Jabalia refugee camp after bombing the camp, killing and wounding several Palestinians.

The Israeli military had earlier called on residents and displaced people in the Jabalia neighbourhood in northern Gaza to clear out, saying they were returning to work there after noticing that Hamas was trying to regain control of the area. As of now, Israeli military tanks have begun to go deeper into the Jabalia refugee camp as part of a new offensive in the northern Gaza Strip after Israel “carpet-bombed” the camp, killing and wounding several Palestinians.

The Israeli military has now crossed Salah al-Din road into the camp as fighting rages between Hamas militants and the Israeli military.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 37 Palestinians, 24 of them from central Gaza, were killed in overnight airstrikes across the enclave, including in Rafiah, the Strip’s southernmost city bordering Egypt. No distinction was made between civilians and militants. Khitam Al-Khatib, who said she had lost at least 10 of her relatives in an airstrike on a family house earlier on Saturday, told Reuters.

They threw fliers on Rafah and said, from Rafah to al-Zawayda is safe, people should evacuate there, and they did, and what has become of them? Dismembered bodies? There is no safe place in Gaza.

Eyewitnesses report that in this very densely populated neighbourhood, tanks are surrounding evacuation points and residential buildings. They describe the situation as critically dire as they witness the mass evacuation and displacement of people in the western part of Gaza City. These residents were displaced from one place to another during a previous military incursion into a refugee camp, and are now being forced to take up residence again.

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Refugees in the Near East, the 1.4 square kilometre Jabalia refugee camp is home to 116,000 people, most of whom are descendants of Palestinian families who fled their homes after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The Israeli military said its planes have struck dozens of targets across Gaza over the past 24 hours, adding that its ground troops killed some 30 militants in Zeitoun, AND confirmed that it continues to operate against Hamas militants in eastern Rafah and on the Gaza Strip side of the Rafah crossing.

In spite of heavy US pressure and the alarm of residents and humanitarian groups, Israel said it would continue the offensive in Rafah because it could not win the war without destroying the thousands of Hamas militants still in Rafah. On Friday, Israeli tanks seized the main road separating the eastern and western parts of Rafiah, effectively encircling the eastern side in an offensive that forced Washington to delay the delivery of some military aid to its ally.

Criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The results of Israel’s actions have drawn criticism from many allies, including Israel’s main ally, the United States, which has repeatedly suspected Israel of violating international law in the region. On Friday, the Biden Administration said Israel allegedly violated international humanitarian law during the Gaza operation, the strongest criticism of Israel to date.

Mohamad Elmasry, a political analyst and Professor of Media Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, spoke to Al Jazeera about the Biden administration’s changing attitudes towards Israel’s war in Gaza and the Netanyahu government’s response.

The [US] rhetoric might become even more harsh towards Israel but the question that I have is: is it too little too late? (…) But does Netanyahu really care? Many analysts have noted that he is much more interested in his own political survival. And the moment this war ends and elections are called for he will lose and then he is on trial for bribery. And that is the larger elephant in the room at this point.

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate end to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the return of hostages and the admission of humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.

I repeat my call, the world’s call, for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid, Guterres said in a video address to an international donors’ conference in Kuwait.

Officials from the European Union and the United Nations have warned against a major ground offensive on Rafah after the Israeli military expanded evacuation orders for the city, which shelters 1.4 million Palestinians.

Othman Moqbel, head of the UK-based humanitarian aid agency Action for Humanity, said his NGO was “horrified and devastated by the news of the Jabalia massacre” in the Gaza Strip. Also, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told Sky News television that Israel should not launch an offensive in Rafah without a plan to protect civilians:

For there to be a major offensive in Rafah, there would have to be an absolutely clear plan about how you save lives, how you move people out of the way, how you make sure they’re fed, you make sure that they have medicine and shelter and everything.

The attacks on Jabalia prompted widespread condemnation, with Bahrain and Jordan expelling Israeli ambassadors and recalling their own. Saudi Arabia condemned “in the strongest terms possible” the “inhumane targeting” of the refugee camp, while the UAE said the persistence of the “senseless bombing” will have difficult-to-remedy repercussions for the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was causing the “jealousy” of the late German dictator Adolf Hitler with his methods of “genocide” in the Gaza Strip:

Is it possible to look at what Israel has inflicted on the people of Gaza for months and see it as legitimate for Israel to bomb hospitals, kill children, oppress civilians, and condemn innocent people to hunger, thirst, and lack of medicine under various excuses? What did Hitler do in the past? He oppressed and killed people in concentration camps, Erdogan told Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper in an interview.

Controversy is also growing within the state of Israel, with tens of thousands of people taking part in anti-government protests in Israeli cities as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate a deal to bring prisoners home, while he rejects any offer from Hamas.

The war was instigated by a Hamas attack on southern Israel on 7 October, in which some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli calculations. Israel’s military operation in Gaza has caused at least 34,971 deaths and 78,641 injuries, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The bombardment has devastated the coastal enclave and caused a deep humanitarian crisis.

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