Misery deepens in Gaza as Israel intensifies strikes

The Health Ministry in Gaza said Monday that the besieged Palestinian territory’s health system is “hours away” from collapse, after fighting has blocked fuel shipments through key crossings.
“We are just hours away from the collapse of the health system in the Gaza Strip due to the lack of the necessary fuel to operate generators in hospitals, ambulances, and (for vehicles to) transport staff,” the ministry said in a statement.
The director of the Kuwait Hospital, one of the last functioning medical centers in Rafah, said medical staff and residents living near the facility have been told to evacuate. Sohaib al-Hams warned that any evacuation of the hospital itself would have “catastrophic consequences.”
Israel attacked several areas in Gaza on Monday, including Rafah, despite US warnings against a full-scale invasion of the crowded city and of the threat of post-war “anarchy” across the Palestinian territory.
Clashes also raged in northern and central Gaza.
AFP correspondents in Gaza reported helicopter strikes and heavy artillery shelling in the east of Rafah, as well as battles in northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp and Gaza City’s Zeitun neighborhood.
Israel last week defied a chorus of warnings, including from top ally Washington, and sent tanks and troops into the east of Rafah, the city on the Egyptian border where some 1.4 million Palestinians had sought shelter.
This has sparked an exodus of nearly 360,000 people from Rafah so far, said the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, which warned that “no place is safe” in the largely devastated territory.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Washington had not seen any credible Israeli plan to protect civilians in Rafah, and that “we also haven’t seen a plan for what happens the day after this war in Gaza ends”.
Fighting has raged in northern Gaza where – months after Israel declared Hamas’s command structure had been dismantled – an Israeli army spokesman said there were “attempts by Hamas to rebuild its military capabilities”.
“The army threw leaflets and sent a message on mobile phones warning everyone to leave Jabalia” refugee camp, said one displaced Palestinian, Umm Adi Nassar, after arriving in Gaza City.
“This is not the first time we have been displaced,” she said. “Every time we try to return and settle, there is an invasion operation, and the army with its airplanes and tanks bombards the houses and kills people.”
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, also said that its fighters were engaged in ground battles in Rafah and Jabalia.
Rafah residents on Monday received more evacuation orders through phone calls and text messages, prompting yet more people to leave their homes, witnesses said.
Amid the fighting, Egyptian, Qatari and US mediation efforts towards a truce appeared to have stalled.
Israel’s bombardment and offensive in Gaza have killed at least 35,091 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Israel’s military says 272 soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in Gaza on October 27.
The war has displaced most Gazans, many multiple times.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Sunday that Israel’s latest evacuation orders were “forcing people in Rafah to flee anywhere and everywhere”.
Umm Mohammed Al-Mughayyir, who has had to move her family seven times to escape the fighting, said: “We have reached a point where we wish for death.”
Residents were told to head to the Al-Mawasi “humanitarian zone” on the coast northwest of Rafah, though aid groups have warned it is not ready for an influx of people.

Date archive