Armoured Israeli forces escalated their assault on Gaza City on Monday, attacking from two directions and focusing on the main road that links the city to southern Gaza. These military actions have intensified international pleas for the protection of Palestinian civilians.
Ori Megidish, an Israeli soldier previously held hostage by Hamas, has been freed, as confirmed by Israeli officials. Megidish is one of the 239 hostages Israel reports were taken by Hamas gunmen on October 7th after a violent incursion into southern Israeli communities. This event resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 individuals. Following her release, Megidish underwent medical evaluations and, according to Israeli military sources, is “doing well”.
As the conflict enters its fourth week, Israel’s military has broadened its operations, having targeted over 600 militant positions in recent days. The current situation in Gaza is dire, with Palestinian civilians desperately requiring basic necessities such as food, fuel, and clean water. Palestinian medical authorities reported a staggering 8,306 casualties on Monday, including 3,457 minors, from Israel’s ongoing air and ground campaign.
A worrying aspect of the conflict is the acute shortage of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza. The United Nations has expressed concerns, noting that the aid trucks reaching the besieged region are far fewer than what’s urgently needed. Civil order has deteriorated significantly, with desperate citizens ransacking UN warehouses in search of sustenance.
The situation has become so critical that four UN aid distribution centres and a storage facility are now non-operational, says the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). “It’s a disaster on top of a disaster. Health needs are soaring and our ability to meet those needs is rapidly declining,” stated Rick Brennan, the World Health Organization’s regional emergencies chief. He joined a growing chorus of international voices calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Meanwhile, many Palestinians are defying Israel’s warnings to evacuate from northern to southern Gaza. Fadi, a resident of the Jabalia refugee camp, told Reuters by phone, “No one in the entire neighbourhood has left. We are staying.” He emphasized that the community’s decision to remain could even mean facing death.
Israel’s Defense Forces, or IDF, has reported the killing of several Hamas operatives and many other militants. Their ground operations in the region continue to expand, as stated by Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
Despite the intensified military actions, neither side has commented on the other’s reports. The volatile situation has made it challenging to independently verify developments on the ground.
The impact of the conflict is evident in health facilities too. Palestinian health officials have reported airstrikes near major hospitals, including Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital. Israel has made accusations of Hamas setting up command centers and weapon caches near hospitals, an allegation which Hamas denies.
The UN humanitarian office, OCHA, reveals alarming figures: about 1,800 individuals, including 940 children, have been reported missing, presumably trapped or dead under the rubble.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to a recent video by Hamas as “cruel psychological propaganda”. The video features three female hostages accusing him of not ensuring their release. Netanyahu is optimistic about the potential of the ground campaign in facilitating hostage rescues.
Amidst these developments, global protests in support of Palestinians have surged. Unfortunately, these demonstrations have also been marred by incidents of antisemitic and Islamophobic harassment. A particularly concerning event unfolded in Russia’s Dagestan region, where authorities had to intervene when anti-Israel protesters stormed an airport, searching for Jewish passengers on a flight from Israel.
As the conflict continues, the international community watches with growing concern, hoping for a swift resolution and an end to the escalating human tragedy.