Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeWorldMiddle EastPalestinian death toll passes 8,000, Israel expands military offensive

Palestinian death toll passes 8,000, Israel expands military offensive

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Sunday the Palestinian death toll had risen to more than 8,000, mostly women and children. The day before, Israel had launched the second phase of a military operation following the Hamas invasion on 7 October.

The death toll is unprecedented in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence. On the Israeli side, more than 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians killed in the first attack, which is also unprecedented.

Nearly 30 trucks of humanitarian aid have entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing, but aid workers say the aid is not enough, after thousands of people stormed warehouses to take flour and basic hygiene products.

On Friday, Israeli bombardment, described by residents as the most intense of the war, knocked out telephone and internet service, but internet connections were restored to most of the 2.3 million population as early as Sunday.

The Israeli authorities have been keeping the Gaza Strip under total siege for three weeks now, depriving civilians of water, electricity and food. Until recently, the Israeli army did not allow humanitarian aid into the region. However, on Sunday, 33 truckloads of water, food and medical supplies entered the only border crossing from the Egyptian side, Rafah Wael Abo Omar, a spokesman for the Rafah crossing, told the Associated Press.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, visiting the Rafah crossing, described the civilian suffering as “profound” and said he was unable to enter Gaza. Karim Khan, whose court has been investigating the actions of Israeli and Palestinian authorities since 2014, said:

“These are the most tragic of days.”

An Israeli army spokesman said on Sunday that the army hit more than 450 militant targets over the past 24 hours, including Hamas command centres and anti-tank missile launching positions. Military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said dozens of militants were killed.

Hagari, who reported the intensification of ground operations, also called on Gazans to withdraw to the south of the region. There they would have better access to food, water and medicine, he said. Hagari claimed:

“This is a matter of urgency.”

More than 1.4 million Gazans have fled their homes. The Government of Israel notes that most Gazans have complied with its order to leave the southern part of the besieged territory, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north, also because Israel is also shelling targets in the so-called safe zones.

Palestinians have begun raiding aid warehouses. According to Thomas White, the Gaza director for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, it was “a worrying sign that civil order is beginning to break down after three weeks of war and a tight blockade of Gaza.” According to the UN World Food Programme, 80 tonnes of food was stored in one of the warehouses. Thomas White added:

“People are scared, frustrated and desperate.”

Joe Biden, in a telephone conversation with Netanyahu on Sunday, “emphasised the need for an immediate and significant increase in the flow of humanitarian aid to meet the needs of the civilian population in Gaza.”

Israel has said it would soon allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. However, the head of civil affairs at COGAT, the Israeli defence agency responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, did not comment on exactly how much aid would be provided. Elad Goren also reported that Israel has opened two water lines in southern Gaza over the past week.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s overcrowded hospitals are under constant threat of airstrikes. Residents living near the territory’s largest hospital, Shifa, reported that overnight Israel launched strikes near the compound, which shelters tens of thousands of civilians. Israel accuses Hamas of having a secret command centre beneath the hospital, but cites no confirmation. Hamas denies the allegations.

Israeli airstrikes nearby damaged parts of another Gaza City hospital building after it received two calls Sunday from Israeli authorities demanding it evacuate, the Palestinian Red Crescent Rescue Service said. Some windows in the hospital were smashed and wards were littered with debris. Rescuers said the airstrikes came within 50 metres of Al-Quds Hospital, which houses about 14,000 people.

Israel ordered the hospital to evacuate over a week ago, but the hospital as well as other medical facilities refused because the evacuation would kill patients on ventilators. The director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, told CBS’ “Face the Nation”:

“Under no circumstances, hospitals should be bombed.”

According to the director of Nasser Hospital, Dr Mohammed Kandil, about 20,000 people are sheltering in the hospital. One displaced resident who gave her name only as Umm Ahmad said:

“I brought my kids to sleep here. I used to be afraid of my kids playing in the sand. Now their hands are dirty with the blood on the floor.”

On Sunday, an Israeli airstrike on a two-storey house in Khan Younis killed at least 13 people, including 10 from the same family. The bodies of the dead were taken to nearby Nasser Hospital.

The military escalation has increased pressure on the Israeli government to secure the release of some 230 hostages taken by Hamas militants in the 7 October attack. Israel claims that it is targeting Hamas militants and infrastructure and that militants are operating among civilians, endangering them.

Israeli army officials say some 250,000 Israelis have fled their homes due to shelling on the Gaza border and on the northern border with Lebanon.


Most Popular