Escalating Violence in Gaza: Civilians Caught in Crossfire as Israeli Offensive Intensifies

Palestinians with dual citizenship walk at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the hope of getting permission to leave Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 1, 2023. REUTERS/Arafat Barbakh

The ongoing Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in the Palestinian enclave has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, with civilians trapped in the besieged territory facing dire conditions. The latest development in the conflict saw a group of injured evacuees cross into Egypt on Wednesday, under a deal mediated by Qatar and reached between Egypt, Israel, and Hamas.

The evacuees, including a number of foreigners and critically wounded individuals, were driven in ambulances through the Rafah border crossing. Egyptian security sources reported that the deal allows for the evacuation of up to 500 foreign passport holders, with about 200 people waiting at the Palestinian side of the border on Wednesday morning.

Egyptian ambulances driving through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to Gaza on Nov 1. PHOTO: REUTERS

This evacuation comes in the wake of a devastating Israeli airstrike on Tuesday that targeted a refugee camp in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of approximately 50 people, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel claimed that the strike killed a senior Hamas commander, Ibrahim Biari, along with other combatants. However, Palestinian residents reported that the Israeli forces had bombed and shelled Gaza by land, sea, and air throughout the night, causing numerous casualties among the civilian population.

The Israeli military operation in Gaza follows weeks of air and artillery bombardments in retaliation for a deadly attack by the Islamist group on southern Israel on October 7. The civilian death toll in Gaza has raised alarm worldwide, as food, fuel, drinking water, and medicine are in short supply, and hospitals are struggling to treat the wounded.

Personnel of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), take position during ground operations at a location given as Gaza, November 1. via Israel Defense Forces

The ongoing violence has also resulted in a power outage in two of Gaza’s main hospitals, Al Shifa Medical and the Indonesian Hospital, as their generators are rapidly running out of fuel. The Palestinian Health Minister, Mai al-Kaila, reported that Gaza’s only cancer treatment facility, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship hospital, is now out of service due to the lack of fuel.

As the situation continues to deteriorate, countries around the world are scrambling to evacuate their citizens from the conflict zone. Indonesia is attempting to evacuate 10 nationals, although three have chosen to stay and volunteer at an Indonesian-run hospital. The Philippines reported that two Filipino doctors with Doctors Without Borders are among those leaving Gaza. Jordan and Italy also hope to bring their citizens out on Wednesday.

The Palestinian authorities checking the travel documents of people waiting to cross to Egypt at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov 1. PHOTO: AFP

While the evacuations are a glimmer of hope for those able to leave, the situation in Gaza remains dire. The current violence, described as the worst in years, has erupted at a time when Palestinian hopes for an independent state are as distant as ever, with peace talks now just a memory. Israel views Hamas, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, as an existential threat, and has vowed to wipe out the group.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We are in a tough war. It will be a long war. I promise to all citizens of Israel: We will get the job done. We will press ahead until victory.” But with the civilian death toll rising and the humanitarian situation worsening, the world watches on with growing concern.