June 11, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

Israel-Hamas: 18,205 Palestinians killed, more starve as Gaza war rages amid fears of exodus into Egypt

ISRAEL has denied it intends to push Palestinians seeking refuge from its bombardment of Gaza over the border into Egypt, as international relief agencies say hunger is spreading among the besieged enclave’s civilian population.
Amid the worsening humanitarian crisis, Hamas fighters and Israeli troops fought across the territory late into Tuesday night, with the militants trying to block Israeli tanks from advancing through the shattered streets.
Gaza health ministry data says 18,205 people have now been killed and 49,645 wounded in Gaza in just over two months of warfare – hundreds since the United States vetoed a proposal for a ceasefire at the United Nations Security Council five days ago.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge or food in the densely populated coastal enclave.
One Palestinian told Reuters news agency he has not eaten for three days and has been begging for bread for his children.
“I pretend to be strong but I am afraid I will collapse in front of them at any moment,” he says to Reuters by telephone, declining to be named for fear of reprisals.
UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, says some people are arriving at its health centres and shelters carrying their dead children.
“We are on the verge of collapse,” it says on X (formerly Twitter).
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he is fearful of a mass displacement into Egypt and UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini says pushing Gazans closer to the border points to attempts to move them over it.
Jordan also accuses Israel of seeking “to empty Gaza of its people.” (The border with Egypt is the only way out of Gaza at present, but Cairo has warned it will not allow Gazans into its territory, fearing they would not be able to return.)
However, the Israeli government has denied this is its aim. Spokesperson Eylon Levy calls the accusation “outrageous and false” and says his country is defending itself from the “monsters” who attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.
In that raid, the deadliest in Israel’s history, Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 100 of those abducted have since been freed.
The Hamas attack triggered an Israeli retaliatory assault and brought the bloodiest period of warfare of the decades-long Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“Enough is enough”
U.N. officials say 1.9 million people – 85% of Gaza’s population – are displaced and describe the conditions in the southern areas where they have concentrated as hellish.
Gazans say people forced to flee repeatedly were dying of hunger and cold as well as the bombardments, describing looting of aid trucks and sky high prices. The U.N. World Food Programme has said half of the population is starving.
Israel says its instructions to people to move are among measures to protect the population, but U.N. Security Council envoys speak of unimaginable suffering and urge an end to the war.
Asked by reporters if he had a message to nations that opposed a ceasefire in Gaza, China’s U.N. envoy Zhang Jun said simply: “Enough is enough.”
Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant says Israel had no intention of staying permanently in the Gaza Strip and it is open to discussing alternatives about who would control the territory, as long as it was not a group hostile to Israel.
“Israel will take any measures in order to destroy Hamas, but we have no intention to stay permanently in the Gaza Strip. We only take care of our security and the security of our citizens alongside the border with Gaza,” Gallant says.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 and has sworn to destroy Israel. Israel accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid, which Hamas denies.
Israel has prevented most aid from moving into Gaza, saying it fears it will just fuel Hamas attacks.
Now, Israel says it would begin screening aid bound for Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing, but is not opening the crossing itself, where most trucks entering the strip passed before the war.
Two Egyptian security sources say inspections began on Tuesday under a new system agreed between Israel, Egypt and the United States.
After the collapse of a week-long ceasefire on Dec. 1, Israel began a ground offensive in the south and has since pushed from the east into the heart of Khan Younis city, with warplanes attacking an area to the west.
On Monday, militants and residents said fighters were preventing Israeli tanks moving farther west and clashing with Israeli forces in northern Gaza, where Israel had said its mission was largely complete.
Israel for its part says dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered and urged others to join them. The armed wing of Hamas says it had fired rockets towards Tel Aviv, where Israelis fled to shelters.
The Gaza health ministry says 32 Palestinians were killed in Khan Younis overnight. Hamas says its fighters had hit two Israeli tanks with rockets and fired mortars at Israeli forces.
Militants and residents say fighting is also fierce in Shejaia, east of the centre of Gaza City, the northwestern Sheikh Radwan district and Jabalia farther north.
In central Gaza, where Israel told people to move on Monday towards shelters in the Deir al-Balah area, health officials said the Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital had received 40 dead.
Residents report exchanges of fire near the coastal road and Hamas media say fighters foiled an attempt by Israeli naval forces to make a landing of forces offshore.
Israeli bombing continued into the night Tuesday, residents and health officials say. Medics say Israeli air strikes killed at least 15 people in separate strikes in the central and southern Gaza strip.