Violent fighting is raging in the north of the Gaza Strip, which the Israeli army has claimed to have cut in two, with the aim of destroying the command center of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, refusing to give in to calls for more increasingly pressing for a humanitarian truce.
“We are striking Hamas, and we are advancing bastion by bastion, following our plan, in a systematic effort to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities,” Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told CNN on Sunday evening. .
These ground combats are accompanied by “significant strikes”, according to the Israeli army – 2,500 since October 27 -, to dislodge Hamas fighters entrenched in a network of tunnels.
These bombings hit civilians hard, including in the south of the 362 km2 territory where 2.4 million Palestinians are crowded together, also subject to a siege which has deprived them of water, food and electricity since October 9. – after already a blockade of more than 16 years, since the coming to power in 2007 of Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
- “This has to stop” –
Faced with a toll that grows higher by the day, the leaders of the main UN agencies published a rare joint statement on Sunday evening to express their indignation.
“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” they wrote, also calling on Hamas to release the more than 240 hostages taken into the Gaza Strip on October 7 after its attack on Israeli soil which sparked the war.
The latest official report from the Hamas Ministry of Health counts 9,770 people killed – half of whom are children – in Israeli bombings against Gaza since the start of the war.
In Israel, more than 1,400 people died, mostly civilians killed on October 7, during the Hamas attack, of a violence and scale unprecedented since the creation of Israel in 1948. The warning sirens Rockets fired from Gaza rang out several times on Sunday in Tel Aviv and in towns near the Palestinian territory, and several rockets were intercepted according to the army.
The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken, whose country is opposed to a ceasefire which he believes would benefit Hamas, repeated on Sunday “the commitment of the United States to the delivery of vital humanitarian aid” to Gaza, during an impromptu visit to Ramallah, in the West Bank occupied by Israel since 1967.
Antony Blinken also called for an end to “extremist violence” against Palestinians in the West Bank, where the international community fears an extension of the conflict. More than 150 Palestinians have been killed there by fire from Israeli soldiers or settlers since October 7, according to the Palestinian Authority.
On Sunday, in front of Mr. Blinken, the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas denounced “the war of genocide” led, according to him, by Israel in Gaza.
- “Defensive position” –
According to Daniel Hagari, another Israeli army spokesman, troops operating in Gaza have cut it in two: “Gaza south and Gaza north”.
At least 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground operation began, according to the army.
“We are still allowing passage for civilians from northern Gaza and Gaza City to the south,” added Mr. Hagari while 300,000 to 400,000 people are still in the north.
“The situation is very difficult. There is no bread, no water, nothing, not even salt water. We saw corpses (on the road), the children were very afraid,” says Zakaria Akel who flees with his family to the south.
In almost a month, Israeli bombings have caused immense destruction in Gaza, and the displacement of 1.5 million people in the territory, according to the UN.
“We have nothing to search and clear the rubble so people are dying and we can only watch,” laments Saïd al-Najma, in the Maghazi refugee camp, in central Gaza, where more 30 people were killed in a bombing on Saturday evening, according to Hamas.
“I cried seeing other people’s children die behind my camera, today it is I who lost my children,” says press photographer Mohammed al-Aloul, who lost four children, four brothers and several of his nephews and nieces.
In Lebanon, a journalist also lost four members of his family, including three children, in an Israeli strike on the car in which they were traveling.
Shortly after, Lebanese Hezbollah, pro-Iranian and ally of Hamas, announced that it had fired Katyusha rockets at Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel.
While the daily exchanges of fire on the border with Lebanon raise fears of an spillover of the conflict, Mr. Conricus affirmed on CNN that the Israeli position “has been very defensive. We have only responded to the attacks of Hezbollah”.
Since October 7, 81 people have died on the Lebanese side, according to an AFP count, including 59 Hezbollah fighters. Six soldiers and two civilians were killed on the Israeli side.
- Erdogan snubs Blinken –
In the south of the Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, hundreds of thousands of people are massed in very precarious conditions.
This border partially opened on October 21 to allow humanitarian convoys to pass through the Rafah crossing point. In total, 451 trucks crossed it as of Saturday, according to the UN.
Several hundred foreigners, dual nationals and wounded (1,100 according to the UN) were also able to leave Gaza via Rafah last week. But those evacuations have been suspended since Saturday after Israel refused to allow the evacuation of some injured Palestinians, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.
The King of Jordan announced the airdrop early Monday morning of emergency medical aid to Gaza, intended for a Jordanian field hospital. “It is our duty to help our injured brothers and sisters,” he added, praising “the intrepid members of the Jordanian Air Force.”
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that his country was “working behind the scenes” with its regional allies to try to guarantee an uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Denouncing “the immoral massacre” in Gaza, he cut all contact with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and recalled Ankara’s ambassador to Israel. He also decided not to meet Mr. Blinken, expected in Ankara on Monday.
This article is originally published on nouvelobs.com