With more than 2,200 Palestinians killed in Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza, backed by the US and EU, a further deterioration of the already catastrophic situation for the 2.3 million people in the territory was unthinkable on Saturday.
But as Israel vows to begin an imminent ground invasion, Martin Griffiths, the UN’s humanitarian relief chief, said he feared “that the worst is yet to come.”
“All countries with influence must exert it to ensure respect for the rules of war and to avoid any further escalation and spillover,” Griffiths said.
“The past week has been a test for humanity, and humanity is failing.”
At least 724 children are among the 2,215 Palestinians killed in Israeli revenge strikes in Gaza since Saturday, following an attack led by Hamas that left 1,300 dead in Israel, according to media reports in that country. Dozens of people were captured during the attack and taken into Gaza.
For the last week, Israel has been exterminating an average of 100 Palestinian children per day. On Saturday, a doctor at al-Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s main hospital in Gaza City, told Al Jazeera that every hour dozens of dead and hundreds of injured were being brought in.
“Many casualties are still trapped beneath the rubble, with the Palestinian Civil Defense and medical teams unable to access areas due to safety concerns, equipment shortages and severe damage to streets,” the UN said
Israel says that it is holding the bodies of 1,500 Palestinian fighters who breached the Gaza boundary, though many are likely to be civilians who took advantage of the open fence to visit the land that they are from but denied by Israel from accessing.
Meanwhile, nearly 50 Palestinians have been killed by soldiers and settlers in the West Bank since last Saturday.
Before Israel ordered 1.1 million Palestinians in the north half of Gaza to evacuate to the south, there were around 423,000 displaced people in the territory, most staying at United Nations schools being used as emergency shelters.
“However, since the Israeli military issued an evacuation order for northern Gaza and countless families are fleeing, it is impossible to estimate the number” of displaced people, Defense for Children International-Palestine said on Saturday.
US President Joe Biden, who has given Israel carte blanche to wage its genocidal campaign in Gaza, claimed on Saturday to be working with Israel, the UN and neighboring states to facilitate humanitarian aid to the territory.
But Biden blamed Hamas for the catastrophic situation resulting from Israel’s total war and complete siege on Gaza – a blatant act of collective punishment in violation of the laws of war – by saying it was the “humanitarian consequences” of its attack last week.
Biden also said on Saturday that “innocent Palestinian families, the vast majority have nothing to do with Hamas, are being used as human shields” in Gaza.
Biden was both parroting Israeli government propaganda and apparently preemptively absolving Israel of responsibility for killing and maiming those unable or unwilling to comply with the order to evacuate northern Gaza to other parts of the territory, none of which are safe from Israel’s constant bombardment.Despite reports that Israel and Egypt agreed to allow foreign passport-holders to leave Gaza via Rafah crossing, US citizens remained stranded at the border on Saturday afternoon.
A Palestinian spokesperson at the crossing and an unnamed diplomat told The New York Times that “Egypt had said it wouldn’t allow the foreign nationals to leave unless humanitarian assistance was allowed to enter Gaza.”
The US State Department instructed its citizens in Gaza to come to the border, only for them to find it closed. Canadian nationals in Gaza were also abandoned under that government’s “two-tier evacuation plan,” Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East said on Saturday.
Israeli-American genocide in Gaza
Gaza remains cut off from food, fuel, electricity, water and medical supplies and humanitarian assistance after Israel announced its total war and complete siege on the territory earlier in the week.
The widespread targeting of civilians and the starvation siege, as well as statements made by Israeli leaders, demonstrate the genocidal intent of the current military campaign.
Meanwhile, the US has partnered with Israel to manufacture consent for genocide in Gaza. Its leaders have made lurid and unsubstantiated allegations of mass rape and beheading babies. US leaders have also said that Hamas is worse than Islamic State – #HamasworsethanISIS is a popular hashtag among Israeli propagandists – and makes “al-Qaeda look pure.”(Ironically, Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri compared the foreign passport-holding Israeli soldiers captured and held in Gaza to the foreign Islamic State fighters in Syria.)
The US and Israel, both settler-colonial states, have sought to strip Hamas of its context as an organization with both a political and military wing operating within the Palestinian national consensus: demanding the right of return of refugees, the protection of Palestinians’ holy sites, an end to the occupation, and the right to self-determination.
The US and Israel have falsely said that Hamas is motivated solely by a desire to kill Jews, seeking to obscure that that the Palestinian cause is one of decolonization – and that Palestinians didn’t get to pick the religious identity of the people who colonized their land.
US and Israeli leaders have also cynically invoked the memory of the Nazi genocide of the Jews and other peoples during the Holocaust to justify Israeli atrocities in Gaza akin to the scorched earth destruction that the Nazis were tried for at Nuremberg – and which the victorious Allies themselves perpetrated against German cities like Dresden as well as a Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on which the US dropped atomic bombs.
Mass ethnic cleansing
Atrocity crimes are underway in Gaza.
On Friday, Israel bombed convoys of vehicles traveling on one of the two roads that the military identified as “safe routes,” killing at least 40.
An investigation by the British research group Forensic Architecture and the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq confirmed that one strike occurred on Salah al-Din Road, one of the safe routes.
Francesca Albanese, the UN’s special reporter on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said that “the international community has the responsibility to prevent and protect populations from atrocity crimes.”
“There is a grave danger that what we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale,” she said, noting that Israeli officials have publicly called for another mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.
“Israel has already carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war,” Albanese said. “Again, in the name of self-defense, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.”Meanwhile, a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is underway as essential supplies have not been allowed into the territory – already under a comprehensive Israeli blockade since 2007 – for more than a week. The lack of safe drinking water “has become a matter of life and death,” said Philippe Lazzarini, the chief of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees. “It is a must; fuel needs to be delivered now into Gaza to make water available for 2 million people.”
“If not, people will start dying of severe dehydration, among them young children, the elderly and women,” Lazzarini said.The agency warned on Saturday that its emergency shelters in Gaza were not safe – an unprecedented situation in a territory that has endured repeated Israeli military offensives displacing hundreds of thousands.
“Gaza must be smaller by the end of the war”
The Israeli military announced on Saturday evening that it was readying to wage “an integrated and coordinated attack by air, sea and land,” emphasizing a “significant ground operation.”
Gideon Sa’ar, an Israeli minister, told Israel’s Channel 12 News that Gaza “must be smaller at the end of the war” and that “there should be an area that is classified as a security zone where whoever enters is intercepted.”
He said that Israel was at war with Iran and that “we must make the end of our campaign clear to everyone around us. Whoever starts a war against Israel must lose territory.”
An Israeli reserve brigadier-general made clear in an interview with the BBC that Israel intends to expel Palestinians in Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula:Egypt put up blast walls on its side of the Rafah crossing with Gaza to prevent a mass exodus of Palestinians from the territory.
The Economist reported that “American and some Arab countries” are pushing Egypt’s president to change his mind and allow Israel to expel Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai.On Saturday, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political wing, saluted Egypt for refusing to bow to such pressure and insisted that Palestinians would stay on their land – a commitment shared by many in Gaza, including people in the area under Israel’s evacuation order.
“No migration from Gaza and no migration from the West Bank. We are here to remain in our homeland as long as there is thyme and olives,” Haniyeh said.
The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza are already refugees from lands inside what is now called Israel – or 1948 Palestine by most Palestinians and many others.
Haniyeh said that Hamas has only one line – and that’s to “return to our land.”
He said that the return of Palestinian refugees “was not far away, it’s in hand. Our return is very near.”
Meanwhile, Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, called on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza and warned that if Hizballah in Lebanon joined the fight, Israel would suffer “a huge earthquake.”
Amirabdollahian said he met with Hizballah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday and that he knew about “the scenarios that Hizballah has put in place.”
US President Joe Biden has warned Washington’s enemies not to get involved and has sent American warships to the eastern Mediterranean – a move that Turkey’s president warned would lead to additional massacres in Gaza.
Tensions at the Israel-Lebanon border have escalated over the past week.
On Saturday, an Israeli drone strike on the Lebanese border killed a “cell” trying to infiltrate Israel, its military said. A Lebanese couple were killed when Israel shelled a border village in retaliation for a barrage of projectiles reportedly fired by Hizballah.
Israeli reservists were stationed along the Gaza-Israel boundary but had not yet launched a ground offensive as of early Sunday.
Palestinian fighters continued to fire rockets towards Israel, reaching as far as Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the UN said that the “Israeli city of Sderot will be completely evacuated within 24 hours, according to Israeli media, and many have reportedly left Ashkelon and other Israeli towns.”
Small communities in the immediate vicinity to Gaza have already been evacuated.
An Israeli military spokesperson claimed that in Gaza on Friday, Israel retrieved the bodies of several people who had been missing since last Saturday’s attack.
On Saturday, the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said that its fighters crossed the Gaza boundary fence east of Khan Younis and destroyed three Israeli military vehicles.
The Qassam Brigades also said that nine people it was holding captive in Gaza, including four foreign nationals, were killed in Israeli strikes in the past 24 hours.
Hospitals defy evacuation order
The World Health Organization on Saturday reiterated its warning that “evacuation orders by Israel to hospitals in northern Gaza are a death sentence for the sick and injured.”
WHO strongly condemned “Israel’s repeated orders for the evacuation of 22 hospitals treating more than 2,000 inpatients in northern Gaza.”
The Ahli Anglican Hospital in Gaza City was reportedly hit in a missile strike on Saturday, partially destroying one of its buildings.Paula Gaviria Betancur, the UN special reporter on internally displaced persons, said that Israel’s order to evacuate 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza – around half of the population of the territory – was “a crime against humanity and a blatant violation of international humanitarian law.”
Israel sent threatening messages to Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital, the largest in the territory, after it refused to evacuate on Saturday.
Some 35,000 people were sheltering at the hospital ahead of an expected Israeli ground invasion.Two hospitals in northern Gaza – al-Awda hospital and the Kamal Adwan children’s hospital – said that they would not evacuate due to a lack of space in Gaza’s southern hospitals. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that al-Quds hospital had received three evacuation orders and remained “at risk of being bombed.”
“It is imperative for the world to take action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and a massacre,” the Red Crescent said.
The Red Crescent insisted that it “cannot evacuate the hospital,” and that its humanitarian mandate requires its medical teams to “continue to provide essential life-saving services to the people remaining.”The Red Cross warned on Saturday that moving babies in incubators and patients on life-saving equipment would “endanger their lives,” and said that “medical staff and facilities must be protected.”
Hospitals in Gaza had enough fuel to run generators amid Israel’s cutoff of fuel and electricity for only another couple of days and “the shutdown of generators would place the lives of thousands of patients at immediate risk,” the UN said.
More families massacredIsrael cut off internet connectivity in Gaza, and the destruction of two of Gaza’s three cellular towers and inability to charge mobile phone batteries has made it difficult for Palestinian families to contact one another – its own form of psychological torture.
And while Israel has attempted to cut off Gaza from the rest of the world, and has prevented foreign correspondents from entering, horrifying footage streamed out of the bombarded and besieged territory on Saturday.The health ministry in the territory said early Sunday local time that “300 people, mostly children and women, had been killed, and 800 others had been injured in Gaza during the last 24 hours.”
Some of the below videos and images show the bodies of people killed in Israeli strikes, including children.
In a live report, Noor Harazeen, a correspondent in Gaza for China’s international state broadcaster, said that the situation at al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah was “indescribable” after Israeli strikes massacred the Abu Jabara family in an area that Israel had ordered people in northern Gaza to evacuate to:Harazeen said that she had seen small children with their heads cut off as more ambulances pulled up behind her carrying more casualties.
“What we are witnessing right now is whole massacres,” she said.
The broadcast showed paramedics carrying a dead baby to the morgue and then the remains of people whose bodies were shredded and wrapped in blankets.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that at least seven Palestinians were killed in an airstrike targeting a residential building belonging to the Jouda family in Deir al-Balah on Saturday.Israel targeted multiple residential buildings in densely populated areas over the past 24 hours, the UN said late Saturday.
WAFA said that Palestinians were killed in Israeli bombardment in the Gaza City neighborhoods of Tal al-Hawa, Rimal and Beach refugee camp, as well Shujaiyeh and al-Zaytoun in the eastern outskirts.
The agency added that 10 people were killed in Beit Lahiya and 20 were killed in Khan Younis.
At least 20 Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on a residential building in the al-Fakhoura neighborhood west of Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Saturday, according to WAFA.
Israel also targeted the market area in Nuseirat, central Gaza Strip, causing fatalities, including children, and injuries.
Hospitals in Gaza were receiving “an average of 1,000 daily injuries, with 75 percent classified as moderate to severe,” the UN said.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza who were able to reach the outside world described a terrible situation:Buildings in Western cities have not been illuminated in the colors of the Palestinian flag to honor people constantly being killed in Gaza, as they were illuminated in blue and white for people killed in Israel last Saturday.
Instead, social media was filled with tweets remembering those killed in Israel and Washington’s genocidal war: