Hatem Ali Associated Press Residents queue to buy bread in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, Sunday October 29, 2023.
Jonah Mandel – Agence France-Presse and Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse respectively in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip
- Middle East
Hamas said Sunday evening that “heavy fighting” is underway with the army Israel in the Gaza Strip, where the UN fears the collapse of “public order” after looting of food aid centers.
Calls are growing to allow humanitarian support to flow to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, subjected to incessant bombardments by the Israeli army, triggered by the Hamas attack on its soil on October 7, the deadliest in history of Israel.
The Palestinian Islamist movement, in power in Gaza since 2007, claims that more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Israeli bombings.
According to Israeli authorities, more than 1,400 people have died since October 7, mostly civilians killed on the day of the attack in which Hamas took 230 people hostage.
In a statement, Hamas reported, on Sunday evening, “violent fighting” between its men and Israeli forces “using automatic and anti-tank weapons” in the north of the Gaza Strip, where the army Israeli has been operating on the ground since Friday evening.
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The Israeli army had assured earlier in the day that its air force, “guided by [ground] troops, had struck [Sunday] Hamas military structures in the north of the Gaza Strip,” adding that rockets were fired from Palestinian territory towards central and southern Israel.
In northern Gaza, an Israeli soldier was seriously injured by mortar shells overnight and another lightly hit in fights, according to the same source.
The army released images of bulldozers appearing to open roads in the Gaza Strip, and black and white images purporting to show airstrikes and Merkava tanks accompanied by soldiers on foot.
According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the conflict entered a “second stage” on Saturday.
Israel's primary supporter, political and military, the United States called on its ally to “take all possible measures at its disposal to distinguish between Hamas […] and civilians”, declared the security adviser national team from the White House, Jake Sullivan.
Aid in dribs and drabs
In the Gaza Strip, where residents are deprived of everything , ten trucks of humanitarian aid were able to enter on Sunday via the Rafah crossing point with Egypt.
This brings to 94 the number of these vehicles arriving since October 21, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, when it would take a hundred per day in this territory of 360 m2 where 2.4 million inhabitants are crowded.
Since October 9, Israel has imposed a “total siege” on Gaza, cutting off supplies of water, electricity and food, although the territory had already been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
“More than forty other aid trucks are expected later today,” said a senior US government official who requested anonymity.
According to him, “Israel is committed to adjusting the control process to be able to process 100 trucks per day.”
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has warned of a collapse of “public order” in the Gaza Strip following the looting of warehouses and food aid distribution centers that it manages.
Souleimane al-Houli, owner of a bakery in Rafah in the South, deplores the scenes of crowds jostling in the hope of getting some bread.
“I’m upset, I can’t give bread to everyone. The bakery only produces 30 batches per hour. It’s much less than what people need,” laments this baker.
Aïcha Ibrahim, 39, claims to have queued in front of two other bakeries “since 5:30 in the morning” before to come and try his luck ahead of that of Mr. Houli.
On Sunday, the head of the UN deplored a situation in Gaza “more desperate every hour.”
In a call on Sunday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the need for “urgent humanitarian support for Gaza,” according to Downing Street.
Netanyahu under pressure
Referring to a “long and difficult” war, Benjamin Netanyahu assured Saturday that the Israeli army “will destroy [it] the enemy on land and underground” , a reference to the network of hundreds of kilometers of tunnels from which Hamas directs its operations, according to the Jewish state.
The objective of this “second stage of the war” is “clear: to destroy the military capabilities and leadership of Hamas”, which it describes as a “terrorist” organization like the United States and the European Union, and “ bring the hostages home,” Netanyahu said after meeting with the families of Hamas captives.
Their loved ones are increasingly unhappy with the “absolute uncertainty” they face , declared Haim Rubinstein, their spokesperson.
Four women have been released so far. Hamas estimates the number of these hostages killed in the bombings to be “nearly 50”.
The leader of the Islamist movement in Gaza, Yahya Sinouar, declared on Saturday that he was ready “to immediately conclude an exchange to make release all prisoners in the Zionist enemy's prisons against all hostages.”
According to the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, an association which defends their rights, some 5,200 Palestinians are incarcerated by Israel.
On October 7, in the middle of Shabbat, the weekly Jewish rest, hundreds of fighters from the Islamist movement infiltrated from Gaza onto Israeli soil, where they carried out the deadliest attack since the creation of Israel in 1948.
On Saturday, Benjamin Netanyahu recognized that it was a “terrible failure” , and promised a “thorough investigation” into responsibilities.
The Israeli army had called on civilians in northern Gaza to “immediately leave” towards the south on Saturday.
But Ibrahim Shandoughli, a 53-year-old father, told AFP that He would stay in Jabaliya, a town in northern Gaza. “Where do you want us to evacuate? It's dangerous everywhere. »
One hundred and sixteen health workers have been killed in the Palestinian territory since October 7, according to the Hamas health ministry, which said 12 hospitals were no longer functioning.
The international community fears a regional conflagration, while Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi, whose country supports Hamas, estimated on Sunday that Israel had crossed “the red lines”, which “could” decide other parties “to take action.”
One of the fears of conflagration concerns the border between Israel and Lebanon, where almost daily exchanges of fire take place between the Israeli army and the powerful Hezbollah movement.< /p>
The Israeli army reported on Sunday new shots coming from Lebanon towards the Har Dov sector, the projectiles having fallen in uninhabited areas. She said she returned fire towards the source of the shots.
Tension is also very high in the occupied West Bank, where three Palestinians were killed on Sunday by Israeli army fire, according to the ministry. health of the Palestinian Authority. Since October 7, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers.