Israel intensifies bombardment, early Tuesday, Israel increased its shelling of Gaza’s second-largest city, sending ambulances and private automobiles racing into a local hospital carrying injured people in a brutal new phase of the battle.
Israel Intensifies Bombardment of Gaza’s 2nd Largest City
Under pressure from the United States to avoid further mass casualties, Israel claims to be being more precise as it expands its offensive into southern Gaza after obliterating much of the north – but Palestinians say there are no safe areas, and many fear that if they leave their homes, they will never be allowed to return.
Aerial bombardment and the ground offensive have already driven three-fourths of the territory’s 2.3 million people from their homes, and new orders to evacuate areas around Khan Younis are compressing people into ever-smaller portions of the already tiny coastal strip.
“What’s happening here is unimaginable,” said Hamza al-Bursh, who lives in Maan, one of several neighbourhoods in and around Jerusalem where Israel has forced inhabitants to leave. “They strike indiscriminately.”
Residents reported forces had pushed to Bani Suheila, a community immediately east of Khan Younis, following heavy bombings. Halima Abdel-Rahman, who fled to the town from her home in the north early in the violence, said they could hear bombs all night.
“They are extremely close,” she explained. “It’s the same scenario we saw in the north.”
Satellite images taken on Sunday revealed approximately 150 Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and other vehicles just under 6 kilometres (4 miles) north of the city centre.
FEWER PLACES TO VISIT
In the early days of the conflict, Israel ordered a full-scale evacuation of northern Gaza and has banned Palestinians who fled from returning. It has ordered the evacuation of roughly two dozen neighbourhoods in and around Khan Younis in the south. This limited the region in central and southern Gaza where residents can seek refuge by more than a fourth.
“Nowhere in Gaza is safe, and there is nowhere to go,” said Lynn Hastings, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territory, on Monday. “There are no conditions for delivering aid to the people of Gaza.” An even more dreadful catastrophe is likely to emerge.”
To avoid a repeat of the Oct. 7 strike that sparked the conflict, Israel believes it must eliminate Hamas’ massive military infrastructure and remove it from power. During the surprise attack through the border barrier, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists killed approximately 1,200 individuals, the majority of whom were civilians, and captured approximately 240 men, women, and children.
The military says it makes every effort to protect civilians and accuses Hamas of using them as human shields while the militants fight in dense residential neighbourhoods with labyrinths of tunnels, bunkers, rocket launchers, and sniper nests.
Hamas is firmly embedded in Palestinian society, and its goal to end decades of open-ended Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians is supported by the vast majority of Palestinians, including those who reject its ideology and attacks on Israeli civilians. This will challenge any effort to destroy Hamas without causing large bloodshed and greater relocation.
Even after weeks of unremitting bombardment, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, was able to orchestrate the release of more than 100 Israeli and foreign hostages in return for 240 Palestinian inmates last week. Palestinian terrorists have also continued to launch rockets into Israel, both before and after the cease-fire.
AN UNCOMMON CHARGE
Meanwhile, the conflict has caused enormous death and destruction along the coast.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the death toll in the region since Oct. 7 has topped 15,890 individuals, with 70% of those killed being women and children, and more than 42,000 injured. The Ministry of Defence makes no distinction between civilian and combatant deaths. It claims that hundreds of people have been killed or injured since the cease-fire ended and that many are still buried under rubble.
On Monday, an Israeli army official supplied a similar figure for the death toll in Gaza, following weeks in which Israeli officials questioned the ministry’s total. The official stated that at least 15,000 people had been killed, including 5,000 insurgents, but did not elaborate on how the military arrived at its statistics. According to the military, 86 of its soldiers were killed in the Gaza incursion.
In line with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, it is too early to pronounce judgment on Israeli actions, but it is rare for a modern military to designate precise areas of impending ground manoeuvres and ask residents to evacuate, as Israel has done in Khan Younis.
“These are the kinds of steps that we have asked them to undertake,” added the minister.
In recent days, Israeli military leaflets flown over Khan Younis have warned civilians to travel south towards the Egyptian border, but they are unable to leave Gaza because both Israel and Egypt have refused to accept any refugees.
The region that Israel ordered vacated was home to 117,000 people, but it now also accommodates more than 50,000 Palestinians displaced from the north, who are housed in 21 shelters, according to the United Nations. It was unknown how many people were escaping.