Israelis kill dozens in fresh push for parts of north Gaza

Published May 19, 2024
PALESTINIANS climb on a truck to grab aid delivered into Gaza through US-built temporary floating pier.—Reuters
PALESTINIANS climb on a truck to grab aid delivered into Gaza through US-built temporary floating pier.—Reuters

• Heavy ground offensive, aerial bombardment affect emergency service
• UN agency says 800,000 Palestinians ‘forced to flee’ Rafah

CAIRO: Israeli troops and tanks pushed on Saturday into parts of a congested northern Gaza Strip district that they had previously skirted in the more than seven-month-old conflict, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, medics and residents said.

Israel’s forces also took over some ground in Rafah, a southern city next to the Egyptian border that is packed with displaced people and where the launch this month of a long-threatened incursion has alarmed Cairo and Washington.

Israel has conducted renewed military sweeps this month of parts of northern Gaza where it had declared the end of major operations in January.

One site has been Jabalia, the largest of Gaza Strip’s eight historic refugee camps. On Saturday, troops and tanks edged into streets so far spared the ground offensive, residents said. In one strike, medics said 15 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.

The Gaza health ministry and the Civil Emergency Service said teams received dozens of calls about possible casualties but were unable to carry out any searches because of the ongoing ground offensive and the aerial bombardment.

“Today is the most difficult in terms of the occupation bombardment, air strikes and tank shelling have going on almost non-stop,” said one resident in Jabalia, Ibrahim Khaled, via a chat app.

“We know of dozens of people, martyrs and wounded, but no ambulance vehicle can get into the area,” he told Reuters.

The Israeli military said forces have continued to operate in areas across the Gaza Strip, including Jabalia and Rafah, and struck over 70 targets.

Armed wings of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Fatah said its fighters attacked Israeli forces in Jabalia and Rafah with anti-tank rockets, mortar bombs, and explosive devices already planted in some of the roads, killing and wounding many soldiers.

At least 35,386 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes since Oct 7, according to figures from the Gaza health ministry, while aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said on Saturday that 800,000 people had been “forced to flee” Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah since Israel began military operations there this month.

“Nearly half of the population of Rafah or 800,000 people are on the road having been forced to flee since the Israeli forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said in a post on social media site X.

First aid via pier

The Israeli incursion into Rafah, launched despite overwhelming international opposition and as mediators were hoping for a breakthrough in stalled truce talks, has worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis, aid groups say.

With key land crossings closed or operating at limited capacity due to the fighting, some relief supplies began flowing into Gaza via a temporary, floating pier constructed by the United States.

The Israeli army said 310 pallets began moving ashore in “the first entry of humanitarian aid through the floating pier”.

Satellite pictures taken on Saturday showed more than a dozen trucks lining up on the approach road to the pier.

In the coming days, around 500 tonnes of aid are expected to be delivered to Gaza through the pier, according to US Central Command.

But UN agencies and humanitarian aid groups have warned sea or air deliveries cannot replace far more efficient truck convoys into Gaza, where the United Nations has repeatedly warned of looming famine.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

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