Gaza reels as Israeli bombing intensifies

A young man holds his hands in the air while shouting as a group of men are tightly packed behind him

Palestinians look for survivors in the rubble after Israeli airstrikes on a home in Rafah, southern Gaza, 23 October.

Abed Rahim Khatib DPA

Each day of bombardment is worse than the day before, say Palestinians in Gaza as Israel appears to be readying for a ground invasion.

Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are now internally displaced, endlessly report on their family, friends and neighbors being killed when they are able to get online.

The health ministry in the territory says that more than 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since 7 October, including more than 2,000 children and 1,000 women. More than 15,000 people have been injured.

Late Monday, the ministry said that Israel had been intensively targeting Gaza since the morning, “committing multiple massacres that claimed hundreds of lives.”

The ministry added that dozens of people were killed and wounded when their homes were hit in Beach refugee camp.

Many people remain under the rubble of destroyed buildings, including some 830 children who remain missing.

Shahd Abusalama, a longtime contributor to The Electronic Intifada, said on Monday that several members of her family had been killed Sunday night in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Video from the scene of the massacre shows her young relatives’ lifeless bodies under the rubble of their home:

The conditions endured by the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave are growing ever more catastrophic as only a handful of trucks of aid have entered Gaza since Saturday as Israel maintains a total siege on the territory.

European Union leaders are reportedly planning to call for a “humanitarian pause” to deliver urgently needed aid.

“The Israeli military said it had struck more than 320 targets in Gaza over 24 hours,” Reuters reported on Monday, “including a tunnel housing Hamas fighters, dozens of command and lookout posts, and mortar and anti-tank missile launcher positions.”

Israel’s top military spokesperson told media on Sunday that it had intensified airstrikes to “reduce the risk to troops in the next stage of the war,” the AP news agency said.

Gaza’s health ministry said on Monday that “436 people had been killed in bombardments over the past 24 hours, most of them in the south of the narrow, densely populated territory,” according to Reuters.

On 12 October, Israel had ordered the more than one million Palestinians who live in the northern half of Gaza to evacuate to the south – a move that human rights experts say amounts to forcible transfer and ethnic cleansing.

Israel is incessantly bombing all areas of Gaza, including the southern half. Israel’s targets include hospitals, bakeries, residential buildings, cafes and other civilian objects in Gaza.

Israel is apparently under pressure to delay a ground invasion as Western states seek the release of captives being held by Hamas in Gaza, including their own citizens. Israeli media suggested on Monday that a deal to release some 50 foreign nationals held by Hamas may be imminent.

Men lay a plastic sheet over the bodies of several people closely packed together in a shallow grave

Palestinians bury the bodies of members of the Abu Dan family in a mass grave after they were killed in Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, on 23 October.

Naaman Omar APA images

Hamas has repeatedly indicated its intention to release the civilians it is holding – including foreign nationals who aren’t soldiers in the Israeli military – when conditions allow.

But Israel has prioritized its revenge campaign in Gaza over securing the release of the captives being held there. Gal Hirsch, a retired general appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to coordinate on the captives and missing persons, told European diplomats last week that “our war machine is moving. Do not ask us to stop.”

Meanwhile, Aryeh Deri, a lawmaker from the rightwing Shas party who is an observer to Israel’s war cabinet, said that the ground invasion has been delayed not because of a refusal by politicians but because the army isn’t prepared.

“Nothing at all”

Palestinians internally displaced in Gaza describe a “very tough” situation in which they feel “extreme fear, loss and uncertainty.”

“There’s no water, no bread, nothing at all, we fight over water,” says an older Palestinian man who was displaced in Gaza in a video interview:
“We’ve been displaced for 77 years … and the Palestinian situation has gone from bad to worse,” he adds.

Speaking from a recently established tent encampment, Ibtisam Hamouda describes in a video interview being displaced from Jabaliya refugee camp due to intense shelling:

She is now sleeping on the ground without a mattress or bedding and eating only canned food.

“How many times do we need to be displaced from our homes?” Hamouda asks. “We were already displaced in 1948 and 1967.”

Waseem Mushtaha, a program manager with Oxfam in Gaza, says that people are sleeping on the streets without any bedding or mattresses:

Those who can afford to do so are purchasing fuel and water at double the usual price, Mushtaha said. But no one knows how long they will be displaced and what kind of costs they will need to pay to cover their families’ basic needs.

Meanwhile, the shelves of shops were empty of foodstuffs as stocks dwindle in Gaza:

The Palestine Red Crescent Society described the difficulty of carrying out their work gathering and disseminating data due to the blackout that Israel imposed on Gaza on 9 October:
The magnitude of the destruction and losses in Gaza had one young woman there questioning whether it was even lucky to still be alive:
Eman Basher described what she saw while evacuating with her family to the south:
Writing for Al Jazeera English, Maram Humaid, who is among the displaced, described being “torn between my journalistic role and the need to collect water for my own family” while attempting to interview people about their experiences during the war.

“We are all in the same dire situation, regardless of our professions,” Humaid reflected. “Whether doctors, journalists, paramedics, or NGO workers, we are all under attack.”

Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, described surviving the bombing and destruction of his home in the affluent al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City on 18 October:

“We are not leaving. We are the stones of the valley,” Sourani said. “We have been here since forever and we will continue forever. We will not be part of the Israeli plan to evacuate Gaza.”

Sourani’s family survived the bombing but many of their neighbors did not, he said.

Other major developments

Qassam release two more captives

The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, released two more of the some 200 captives it is holding in Gaza on Monday.

Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, are the third and fourth captives to be released after an American mother and daughter were transferred to Israel via the Red Cross last week.

Israeli media said that the husbands of the two older women who were released on Monday are still being held in Gaza.

Both couples were taken from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz near Gaza on 7 October, The Times of Israel said.

The Qassam Brigades published a video showing the transfer of Cooper and Lifshitz to the Red Cross. The video shows its fighters escorting the women to chairs and offering them refreshments.

The video shows Lifshitz offering her hand to one of the Qassam fighters and saying goodbye.

Egyptian media broadcast footage of the women being transferred from the Red Cross to an ambulance:
The Qassam Brigades said on Saturday that it had tried to release Cooper and Lifshitz but Israel refused to receive them.

Qassam and Hamas leaders have indicated that they intend to release all of the civilians they are holding when the situation on the ground allows.

The Times of Israel reported that the “Lifshitz couple, who were among the founders of Kibbutz Nir Oz, were peace activists and regularly transported patients from Gaza to receive medical treatment in hospitals across Israel.”

Western leaders make joint statement

The leaders of the US, Canada, Germany, Italy and the UK made a joint statement on Sunday reiterating “their support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”

The reference to civilians appears to be a muted protest of Israel’s slaughter of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including some now 2,000 children.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the human rights watchdog DAWN, said that appealing to Israel to respect international law and protect civilians was a form of deceitful manipulation “deflecting from the fact that Israel has never done either and is certainly not doing so now.”

Whitson added that “what political leaders should be saying is ‘stop bombing and starving Palestinians.’”

Instead of that, the leaders said they “welcomed the release of two hostages,” referring to an American mother and daughter who were released unilaterally by the Qassam Brigades on Friday.

The statement from the five leaders said they were “committed to close coordination to support their nationals in the region, in particular those wishing to leave Gaza” and welcomed the arrival of the first humanitarian convoys to the territory.

Israelis and Lebanese internally displaced

Israeli authorities say that 200,000 people have been internally displaced in both the north and south following the 7 October attack in the Gaza area and ongoing exchanges of fire with Hizballah and Palestinian factions in Syria and Lebanon.

More than 100 Israeli settlements in those areas have been evacuated, with the area near the Gaza boundary now a closed military zone.

More than 19,000 people have been displaced from southern Lebanon, the International Organization for Migration said on Monday.

Israel bombed airports in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo once again on Sunday, “putting both out of service and killing two workers,” Reuters reported, citing Syrian state media.

On Sunday, Hizballah “announced the deaths of six more fighters, raising to 26 the number of its members killed” since 7 October, Reuters reported.

The Times of Israel said on Saturday that at least six Israeli soldiers and six Palestinian fighters have also been killed in the cross-border exchanges.

“One Israeli civilian was killed in a Hezbollah attack, and several Lebanese civilians and a journalist were also reported killed by Israeli shelling,” the Israeli publication added.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the Biden administration’s concern about a potential regional escalation after “recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces,” he told ABC’s This Week.

“We’re concerned about potential escalation. In fact, what we’re seeing is the prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region,” Austin said.

The Pentagon said on Saturday that along with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery (THAAD) and additional Patriot missile battalions are headed to the region. More troops were placed on “prepare to deploy orders,” as well, the Pentagon said. They will bolster US naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean, which already include the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “Washington is prepared to retaliate if US troops are targeted” in the region during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.

Last week, US President Joe Biden asked Congress to pass a massive weapons package for Israel and Ukraine.

“Congress is expecting the White House’s defense supplemental spending request to come in around $100 billion, with the lion’s share going to Ukraine and a smaller portion allocated for Israel alongside more funding for weapons to Taiwan and security for the southern border,” DefenseNews reported.

Washington has already sent Israel “Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMS, small diameter bombs, 155 millimeter artillery rounds and ammunition from US stockpiles,” DefenseNews added, citing the Pentagon.

“The Israeli defense ministry announced Thursday that it has also received armored vehicles from the US as it prepares for a possible ground invasion of Gaza.”


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.