Israel imposes blockade in bid to starve Palestinians

Published October 10, 2023
GAZA STRIP: Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on buildings in the Jabalia refugee camp on Monday. Israel continued to relentlessly bombard the Gaza Strip after it imposed a complete blockade, cutting off food, water and electricity to the enclave ahead of an expected ground assault. — AFP
GAZA STRIP: Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on buildings in the Jabalia refugee camp on Monday. Israel continued to relentlessly bombard the Gaza Strip after it imposed a complete blockade, cutting off food, water and electricity to the enclave ahead of an expected ground assault. — AFP

• Death toll climbs to 687 as Jabalia refugee camp bombed, health ministry says
• No food, water or power in Gaza as Tel Aviv readies ground assault, calls up 300,000 reserves
• Hamas says no chance of prisoner swap, Mahmoud Abbas calls for UN intervention

GAZA CITY: Israel imposed a total siege of the Gaza Strip on Monday, cutting off food, water and fuel supply as it kept up a sustained bombing campaign in the crowded enclave, with the Palestinian health ministry saying that 687 people had died in three days of Israeli bombing and airstrikes.

The Jabalia refugee camp was among the areas hit as the Israeli military called up 300,000 reservists, amid signs it is planning a ground assault into the occupied Palestinian territory.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the UN to immediately intervene to prevent the occurrence of a humanitarian catastrophe due to the “ongoing Israeli aggression, especially in Gaza”.

Inside Israel, Palestinian fighters were still said to be holed up in several locations, two days after a raid that shattered Israel’s reputation of invincibility.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad said on Monday that they were keeping Israeli prisoners safe in accordance with the principles of Islam and asked Tel Aviv to refrain from hitting civilians if they cared about the fate of Israelis in its custody.

However, the former ruled out a prisoner exchange with Israel during hostilities.

Electricity shortages mean residents cannot recharge phones, so are cut off from news of each other and from events, and are unable to pump water into rooftop tanks.

At night the enclave is plunged into total darkness, punctuated by the blasts of air strikes.

As darkness fell, the Israeli bombardment became more aggressive, and witnesses said several Hamas security headquarters and ministries were hit. The strikes destroyed several roads and houses as well.

“Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Israel also bombed the headquarters of the private Palestinian Telecommunication Co., which impacted land phone, internet and mobile phone services.

 A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli air strike.—AFP
A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli air strike.—AFP

As it rained, explosions and lightning lit the skies, and thunder mixed with the sound of the bombings.

Mainstream Palestinian groups said the violence was predictable, with a peace process frozen for nearly a decade and far-right Israeli leaders talking of annexing Palestinian land once and for all.

“The Zionist enemy’s military targeting and bombing of homes inhabited by women and children, mosques and schools in Gaza amount to war crimes and terrorism,” Hamas official Izzat Reshiq said in a statement.

Smouldering Jabalia camp

Palestinians reported receiving calls and mobile phone audio messages from Israeli security officers telling them to leave areas mainly in the northern and eastern territories of Gaza, and warning that the army would operate there.

More than 130,000 Palestinians have fled their homes and are stockpiling supplies amid constant Israeli bombardment.

Footage obtained by Reuters showed dozens of people climbing over collapsed buildings in search of survivors, the air still dusty from impact. Sirens rang out as emergency teams put out cars that had caught fire.

Men clambered on a pancaked building near the Jabalia refugee camp to pull an infant’s tiny body from the rubble, carrying it down through the crowd below amid still-smouldering remains of bombed buildings.

Air strikes have damaged and blocked streets, making it harder for ambulances and rescue vehicles to reach bomb sites, according to residents and medics. Civil defence officials said they could not cope with so many bomb sites, and asked for foreign rescue teams to help it save survivors trapped under rubble.

“Where should we go? Where should we go?” asked 55-year-old Mohammad Brais.

He had fled his home near a possible front line to shelter at his shop – only for that to get hit in one of the hundreds of air and artillery strikes already pounding Gaza.

 Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on a refugee camp in Jabalia, Gaza Strip.—AFP
Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on a refugee camp in Jabalia, Gaza Strip.—AFP

As ambulances arrived at a hospital, workers ran out to haul in stretchers bearing the injured. Inside, a man lay next to the shrouded body of his nephew, hysterical with grief, alternately striking the floor and embracing the corpse as he screamed.

Funeral processions wound down Gaza streets. In Rafah, in the south, men strode behind a body being carried on a bier, Palestinian and Hamas flags raised behind.

At the cemetery a family buried Saad Lubbad, a small boy killed in air strikes. His body, wrapped in white, was passed down to be laid on a patterned cloth before burial.

The densely populated enclave’s 2.3 million residents have endured repeated bouts of war and air strikes before. They expect this one to be worse.

“It doesn’t need much thinking about. Israel suffered the biggest loss in its history so you can imagine what it is going to do,” said a resident of Beit Hanoun on Gaza’s northeastern border with Israel.

“I took my family out at sunrise and dozens of other families did the same. Many of us got phone calls, audio messages from Israeli security officers telling us to leave because they will operate there,” he said.

Israeli actions

In a further signal of Israel’s rapid shift to a war footing, a cabinet member from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party said it could set up a national unity government joined by opposition leaders within hours.

Netanyahu told mayors of southern towns hit by Saturday’s surprise assault that Israel’s response would “change the Middle East”.

The announcement that 300,000 reservists had been activated in just two days added to speculation that Israel could be contemplating a ground assault of Gaza, a territory it abandoned nearly two decades ago.

“We have never drafted so many reservists on such a scale,” chief military spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said. “We are going on the offensive.”

“The price the Gaza Strip will pay will be a very heavy one that will change reality for generations,” Defence Minister Gallant said.

Local TV channels said the death toll from the Hamas attack had climbed to 900.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2023

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