Northern Gaza sees fiercest fighting yet

Published May 18, 2024
RAFAH: The International Red Cross has set up a field hospital in the Al-Mawasi area of southern Gaza to meet what it described as an “overwhelming” demand for health services as the medical system in the territory has virtually collapsed due to Israel’s assault.—Reuters
RAFAH: The International Red Cross has set up a field hospital in the Al-Mawasi area of southern Gaza to meet what it described as an “overwhelming” demand for health services as the medical system in the territory has virtually collapsed due to Israel’s assault.—Reuters

• Residents say bulldozers demolishing homes, markets
• Israeli tanks, warplanes bombard parts of Rafah

CAIRO: Israeli forces launched a fresh assault on northern Gaza on Friday in some of the fiercest engagements since they returned to the area a week ago, while in the south Hamas fighters attacked tanks massing around Rafah.

Residents said Israeli armour had thrust as far as the market at the heart of Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, and that bulldozers were demolishing homes and shops in the path of the advance.

“Tanks and planes are wiping out residential districts and markets, shops, restaurants, everything. It is all happening before the one-eyed world,” Ayman Rajab, a resident of western Jabalia, said via a chat app.

At the southern end of Gaza, thick smoke rose over Rafah, bordering Egypt, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the only places of refuge left.

“People are terrified and they’re trying to get away,” Jens Laerke, the UN humanitarian office spokesperson, said in Geneva, adding that most were following orders to move north towards the coast but that there were no safe routes or destinations.

As the fighting raged, the US military said trucks had started moving aid ashore from a temporary pier built off the coast, the first to reach the besieged enclave by sea in weeks.

The United Nations said it was finalising plans to distribute the aid, while reiterating that truck convoys by land — disrupted this month by the assault on Rafah — were the most efficient way of getting aid in.

“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza and for that, we need access by land now,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.

Jabalia resident Rajab, a father-of-four, said food aid was not the answer: “We want this war to end and then we can manage our lives on our own,” he said.

At least 35,303 Palestinians have now been killed, according to figures from Gaza health ministry, while aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and the threat of disease.

Doctors say they have to perform surgery, including amputations, with no anaesthetics or painkillers as the medical system in the territory has virtually collapsed.

Israel said on Friday that its forces had rescued the bodies of three prisoners from Gaza, without saying where they were found.

‘Tragic war’

Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded parts of Rafah on Friday, while the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they were firing anti-tank missiles and mortars at forces massing to the east, southeast and inside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

UNRWA, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians, said more than 630,000 people had fled Rafah since the offensive began on May 6. Many have crowded into Deir al-Balah, a city up the coast that is the only other one in Gaza yet to be assaulted by Israeli forces.

“They’re moving to areas where there is no water — we’ve got to truck it in — and people aren’t getting enough food,” Sam Rose, director of planning at UNRWA told Reuters on Friday by telephone from Rafah, where he said it was eerily quiet.

At the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, where South Africa has accused Israel of violating the Genocide Convention, Israeli justice ministry official Gilad Noam defended the operation.

The South African legal team, which set out its case for fresh emergency measures the previous day, framed the Israeli military operation as part of a genocidal plan aimed at bringing about the destruction of the Palestinian people.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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