Gaza death toll reaches 8,000

The site of an Israeli airstrike in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, 29 October.

Naaman Omar APA images

Israel pounded Gaza for the 23rd consecutive day on Sunday while Palestinian resistance in the territory continued to fire rockets and engage with the occupier’s ground forces.

Three prominent Palestinian human rights groups expressed their extreme concern for all civilians in Gaza, particularly those in the northern half of the territory, where Israel has threatened hospitals and repeatedly ordered the evacuation of civilians.

The human rights groups – Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – reiterated that Israel must “protect all Palestinian civilians who either stayed or returned to northern Gaza … from direct targeting and indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.”

They added that “the atrocities we are currently witnessing in Gaza, including genocidal acts, will haunt humanity for decades to come.”

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said on Sunday that Israel was striking the immediate vicinity of al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, forcing “medical staff, displaced individuals and patients to evacuate the hospital.”

The humanitarian organization published a video showing smoke filling the facility, which it said was significantly damaged by the Israeli strikes:

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, said that the report “of evacuation threats to al-Quds hospital in Gaza is deeply concerning” and reiterated that “it’s impossible to evacuate hospitals full of patients without endangering their lives.”

Under the laws of war, “healthcare must always be protected,” Ghebreyesus said.

Israel threatened another Gaza City hospital on Friday, claiming without credible evidence that it was used by Hamas as its command center.

A direct strike on a major health facility would cause an unthinkable loss of life, as portended by the massacre at Gaza City’s al-Ahli hospital on 17 October.

“Ambulances were no longer taking calls”

Communications in Gaza were partially restored on Sunday after more than a day-long blackout “that had badly impacted rescue operations,” as Reuters reported on Sunday.

“Medical services became so stretched that ambulances were no longer taking calls,” according to Reuters. “People hit by bombings relied on volunteers to take them for treatment.”

Some people were relieved to find out that their loved ones in Gaza were still alive after the communications blackout ended. Others received the dreaded news that their family and friends had been killed in the heaviest bombardments since Israel’s military offensive began on 7 October.

“These are the targets, the targets of the occupation are children,” a grief-stricken man carrying the motionless body of a baby said in central Gaza while pointing to the child he was holding and an apparently dead infant cradled in the arms of a second man:

Marwan al-Hams, director of al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza, had a similar message on Sunday, describing the horrific injuries inflicted on a Palestinian family when Israel brought down their home over their heads:
A child from the family was brought to the hospital with a crushed skull and ripped open abdomen and his mother was decapitated.

Pointing to the child, whose body is blurred in the video, al-Hams said that “this is Israel’s target bank,” including in the southern areas of Gaza where it has ordered people in the north to move to.

Palestinian media reported that nearly two dozen people from the Jumaa and al-Khatib families were brought to hospitals in the north of the territory on Sunday:

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British-Palestinian surgeon currently in Gaza, said on Sunday that Israel was “increasingly using phosphorus bombs” and that he had treated a 13-year-old girl “with distinctive phosphorus burns to both legs and thighs.”

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have determined that Israel has used white phosphorus weapons in Gaza and Lebanon since 7 October.

Gaza death toll reaches 8,000

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said on Sunday that more than 8,000 Palestinians in the territory had been killed since 7 October, including more than 3,300 children. The actual death toll is likely much higher as many people remain under the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes.

The UK charity Save the Children said on Sunday that “the number of children reported killed in Gaza in just three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones since 2019.”

The health ministry said that as of 26 October, 881 families in Gaza had suffered multiple fatalities – with 192 families losing 10 or more members in Israeli attacks, 136 families losing six to nine members and 444 families losing two to five members.

Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to US President Joe Biden, told CNN on Sunday that “the Israeli government should be taking every possible means available” to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

He accused Hamas of “taking civilians as human shields … by putting their rocket infrastructure and terrorist infrastructure among civilians.”

Sullivan confirmed that the Biden administration believes that “thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed in this bombardment.”

Last week, both Biden and White House spokesperson John Kirby cast doubt on the casualty figures from the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, despite the good reputation of the ministry’s figures among international organizations including the United Nations.

Sullivan also alleged that Hamas was preventing foreign nationals including Americans from leaving Gaza via Rafah crossing with Egypt.

He also said that Netanyahu has “a responsibility to rein in the extremist settlers in the West Bank” and said that settler violence was “totally unacceptable.”

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said on Sunday that several of its Gaza warehouses had been broken into by thousands of people who took “wheat flour and other basic survival items like hygiene supplies.”

Thomas White, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, said that people “feel that they are on their own” and called for “a regular and steady flow line of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip.”

“We needed aid, and we wouldn’t have done this if we weren’t in need,” said Abdulrahman al-Kilani at the site of one of the UNRWA warehouses. “All international powers are against us.”

Palestinians have accused UNRWA, the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza, of abandoning people in the northern half of the territory that Israel ordered evacuated on 12 October.

The UN said on Sunday that “a major humanitarian crisis has unfolded” in Gaza.

The UN reported significant damage to critical infrastructure and essential services in Gaza, with nearly half of Gaza’s housing stock destroyed or damaged.

Only 117 trucks with humanitarian aid have entered Gaza since 21 October, compared with a daily average of 500 truckloads before 7 October under the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

ICC prosecutor visits Rafah crossing

Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, made an unannounced visit to Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border on Sunday and said that he hoped to enter both Gaza and Israel during his current mission.

Khan said that “we have active investigations ongoing in relation to the crimes allegedly committed in Israel” on 7 October “and also in relation to Gaza and the West Bank and our jurisdiction goes back to 2014.”

During a press conference in Cairo later in the day, Khan said that blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza may constitute a war crime.

He said that Israel must make “discernible efforts, without further delay to make sure civilians receive basic foods, medicine,” Reuters reported.

Palestinian and international human rights groups have pressed Khan to respond to the situation in Gaza with the same urgency that he did in the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Agnes Callamard, the head of Amnesty International, called for rapid progress in the ICC’s Palestine investigation opened in 2021 and said that states must lend their unconditional and unequivocal support to the court.

Israel is vehemently against the ICC investigation into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and may be denying entry to Khan, as it has banned UN investigators and other human rights researchers from the territory it controls.

The US also opposes the investigation and the human rights watchdog DAWN has warned that American officials may be liable to prosecution if they fail to ensure that weapons provided by Washington to Israel are not used to commit war crimes in Gaza.

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, an organization based in the UK, said on Sunday that Khan “properly carried out his responsibility to deter ongoing apparent violations by providing a public warning to the parties to the conflict.”

The group noted that Khan’s statement was an implicit “warning to Israel’s leadership about the prohibition of starvation.”

Last week, the UK charity Oxfam said that “starvation is being used as a weapon of war against Gaza civilians” as Israel hinders the delivery of aid and maintains its total siege on the territory.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.