Saturday July 13, 2024

Israel intensifies strikes on Gaza amid abject humanitarian situation

Published : 26 Oct 2023, 02:48

  DF News Desk
Palestinians conduct rescue work at destroyed buildings after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, on Oct. 25, 2023. Photo: Xinhua by Yasser Qudih.

The death toll of Palestinians from Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip has risen to 6,546, said the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza Strip on Wednesday, reported Xinhua.

Meanwhile, 17,439 Palestinians were wounded in the coastal enclave, the ministry said in a statement.

Over the past two days, Israel has intensified airstrikes and artillery shelling against the Gaza Strip, said Palestinian security sources and local eyewitnesses. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday Israel's aerial bombardment and artillery shellings have increased three-fold compared to previous days.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Wednesday that it identified at least two Hamas "terrorists" that attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory in the area of Zikim via the sea, after Hamas armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades said its fighters had infiltrated Israel's Zikim base in Ashkelon and clashed with its forces.

On Wednesday morning, the IDF said on social media platform X that its extensive attacks on Gaza during the past day had eliminated Hamas operatives and infrastructure, including tunnel shafts, military headquarters, munitions warehouses and mortar bomb and anti-tank missile launchers.

The Israeli airstrikes and punitive measures, including a siege on the enclave with supplies of water, electricity, fuel, and other necessities being cut off, were triggered by a large-scale Hamas attack on Israeli military targets and towns on Oct. 7, which has so far killed at least 1,400 people in Israel.

On Wednesday, 10 Palestinians were killed in an aircraft bombardment on "the only bakery" in the al-Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza, which also destroyed several surrounding houses, said Salama Maarouf, head of the Hamas-run government media office in Gaza.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said only four of the 24 bakeries it contracted still supply bread for shelters, warning that most of the remaining ones might close soon due to fuel shortages.

Hamas media office said that Israel had bombed Gaza with more than 12,000 tons of explosives, equals to dropping 33 tons per square km, leading to the damages of more than 183,000 housing units, or 50 percent of all housing in Gaza.

Salama Maarouf said during a press conference that one person out of every 100 citizens in the Palestinian enclave was either killed or injured in Israel's continuous attacks, and about 1,400,000 people, or 70 percent of Gaza's population, have been internally displaced, many of whom seek refuge in 222 shelter centers.

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian spokesman warned of a "total collapse" of the health system in Gaza due to power outage and the exhaustion of fuel needed to operate generators in hospitals.

Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza-based Health Ministry, told a press conference that Israeli attacks had so far killed 65 medical staff, destroyed 25 ambulances, and made 12 hospitals and 32 health centers in the Palestinian enclave inoperable.

Al-Qudra said Gaza faces a possible outbreak of infections, as 3,150 cases of diseases, ranging from diarrhea, food poisoning, scabies and bronchial infections were reported in a day since the ongoing conflict, with most of them reported among children, due to the lack of clean water and poor sanitation in shelter facilities.

At the same time, the Israeli army continued to threaten a ground invasion into Gaza, raising fears of prolonging the round of fighting and the possibility of expanding the escalation into a regional war.

IDF Chief-of-Staff Herzi Halevi said Tuesday the troops are honing tactical preparedness while awaiting a joint decision from "the political level regarding the essence and timing of the next stage."

Speaking to a Security Council open debate on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that the protection of civilians holds paramount importance in any armed conflicts, urging relevant parties to refrain from "using them as human shields" or ordering millions "to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself."

Guterres voiced deep concern over "the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza," repeating his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Tensions are also growing along the Israeli-Lebanese border and in Syria. In southern Lebanon, three Hezbollah fighters were killed on Wednesday evening by the Israeli army on the border, raising the total number of Hezbollah deaths to 44 since the fighting broke out, the Lebanese Shiite military group said in a statement.

Hezbollah said it had attacked the Israeli "Branit" barracks with missiles and artillery shells, and a military target near the Hadab Al-Bustan site in the western sector of the border with occupied Palestine and two Israeli sites of Hanita and Al-Bahri with guided missiles, destroying their equipment.

In Syria, the Aleppo International Airport in the north was damaged in an Israeli missile attack on Wednesday, hours after another missile launched from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights killed eight Syrian military personnel in the southern province of Daraa, the Syrian army said.