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Tuesday May 28, 2024

Scale of events in occupied Palestine-Israel is 'bone-chilling', says UN Relief Chief

Hamas has called on "resistance fighters in the West Bank" as well as in "Arab and Islamic nations" to join the battle

By Web Desk
October 10, 2023
A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9, 2023. — AFP
A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9, 2023. — AFP

Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Relief Chief said on Tuesday that the scale and speed of what’s unfolding in the occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel is bone-chilling.

"Hundreds of Israelis have been killed and thousands have been injured. Scores are being held captive, facing appalling threats to their lives. Thousands of indiscriminate rockets have been launched into Israel," Griffiths said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

"In densely populated Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousands have been injured in intense bombing. Homes, health centres and schools sheltering displaced families have been hit. The whole city is now under a siege order," he added.

"My message to all sides is unequivocal: The laws of war must be upheld. Those held captive must be treated humanely. Hostages must be released without delay. Throughout hostilities, civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected. Civilians must be allowed to leave for safer areas. And humanitarian relief and vital services and supplies to Gaza must not be blocked. The whole region is at a tipping point. The violence must stop," he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday criticised the United States for moving a carrier strike group closer to Israel, saying that it would commit “serious massacres” in Gaza.

Following a surprise attack by Hamas on Israel on Saturday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that the US will be moving a carrier strike group, which includes the USS Gerald R. Ford, closer to Israel, reported Al Arabiya.

“What will the aircraft carrier of the US do near Israel, why do they come? What will boats around and aircraft on it will do? They will hit Gaza and around, and take steps for serious massacres there,” Erdogan said in a joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Ankara.

Moreover, Israel refused a request to bring food and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip, Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO said on Tuesday.

“We call on the international humanitarian institutions and the international community to intervene urgently to stop the aggression, allow the entry of relief materials, and restore electricity and water, because the Gaza Strip is facing a major humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

Israel bombarded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned his country´s military campaign was only the start of a sustained war.

Netanyahu promised to "change the Middle East", with fears of a regional conflict growing amid clashes on the Lebanese border and expectations of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

This is what we know about the conflict so far:

How the assault unfolded

Hundreds of Hamas fighters attacked Israel from around 6:30 am (0330 GMT) on Saturday, the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, in an assault that came 50 years after the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

The Gaza-based Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel and used explosives and bulldozers to break through the fence around the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Using motorbikes, pickup trucks, motorised gliders and speed boats, Hamas streamed into Israel, targeting cities including Ashkelon, Ofakim and Sderot.

Hamas carried out a massacre at a music festival attended by hundreds of young Israelis and foreigners near Kibbutz Reim, close to Gaza.

Israel said Hamas took more than 150 hostages. They include at least 11 Thais, two Mexicans and an unknown number of Americans and Germans.

How Israel is responding

Israel declared war on Hamas on Sunday, and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday ordered a "complete siege" on Gaza, meaning "no electricity, no food, no water, no gas".

The military has massed tens of thousands of troops and heavy armour near Gaza, and called up 300,000 reservists for a campaign it has dubbed "Swords of Iron".

Netanyahu vowed to reduce to "rubble" the Hamas's hideouts in Gaza, an impoverished territory of 2.3 million people hemmed in by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for more than 15 years.

On Tuesday the army said it had "more or less restored control over the border" with Gaza, a day after announcing it was evacuating communities near the frontier.

Israel further pounded Gaza overnight Monday-Tuesday, with strikes concentrated on Jabalia refugee camp.

Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, on Monday said Israeli air strikes had killed "four of the enemy´s prisoners".

On Tuesday, the journalist syndicate in Gaza said three Palestinian journalists were killed by an Israeli air strike.

There have also been two days of clashes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah in the border area between Lebanon and Israel.

Death toll mounts

Israel says Hamas has killed more than 900 people and wounded over 2,000 in Israeli cities, towns and kibbutz communities.

An estimated 270 people were killed at the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Reim.

On the Gaza side, health officials said at least 830 people had been killed and more than 2,900 wounded.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had found the bodies of 1,500 Hamas gunmen in the southern areas that it recaptured.

Eighteen Thais and 10 Nepalis, 11 US citizens and at least eight French nationals are among the foreigners killed from 10 other countries.

Unrest has also broken out in the occupied West Bank where 15 Palestinians have died since Saturday.

What Hamas says about the attack

Hamas said it fired 5,000 rockets in an offensive it branded "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood".

Its chief Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday vowed to press ahead with "the battle to liberate our land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons".

Hamas has called on "resistance fighters in the West Bank" as well as in "Arab and Islamic nations" to join the battle.

On Monday it ruled out negotiating a prisoner swap with Israel as "the military operation is still ongoing".

It later threatened to start killing hostages every time Israel launches a strike on a civilian target without warning.

What allies are doing

Lebanon´s Iran-backed group Hezbollah said it launched missiles and artillery shells into northern Israel early Sunday "in solidarity" with the Hamas offensive.

The Israeli army said it retaliated with artillery fire.

On Monday, Israel´s army said it killed a number of armed suspects who crossed the border from Lebanon and that its helicopters carried out strikes in the area.

The United States has vowed "rock solid and unwavering" support for Israel, with President Joe Biden on Sunday ordering "additional support" for its key ally.

The US Navy moved an aircraft carrier battle group to the eastern Mediterranean to boost deterrence against new actors joining the conflict.

In a joint statement released by the White House on Monday, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy condemned the attack and stressed their full support for Israel.

They said they "recognise the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people" but said Hamas "offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed".

Iran has repeatedly denied allegations it had a role in the Hamas attack after the Wall Street Journal reported it had helped to plan it and gave the Palestinian group the "green light".

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday said supporters of Israel were "wrong" to accuse Iran of being behind the Hamas assault.

How the world has reacted

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned "in the strongest terms" Hamas´s attack on Israel and called for "diplomatic efforts to avoid a wider conflagration".

He said he was "deeply distressed" by the siege announcement and warned Gaza´s already dire humanitarian situation would "only deteriorate exponentially".

The European Union on Monday said it was reviewing development aid payments to Palestinians after a row broke out between member states over suspending payments.

Russia on Monday said creating a Palestinian state was the "most reliable" solution for peace in Israel and that fighting terrorism alone would not ensure security.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who strongly backs the Palestinian cause, urged both sides "to support peace".