Israel pummeled the occupied Gaza Strip in more than a dozen strikes Wednesday night amid warnings from a United Nations official that hospitals in Gaza were about to run out of emergency fuel.
Gaza’s health ministry stated that Inas Muhammad Khamash, a pregnant 23-year-old, was killed by bombing in central Gaza along with her daughter Bayan, one and a half years old. The woman’s husband, Muhammad Khamash, was moderately injured.
Gaza’s health ministry also announced the death of Ali al-Ghandour, 30, in northern Gaza. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
The assault followed a series of escalations beginning with the killing of two Gaza fighters Tuesday morning.
The Ma’an News Agency named the two men as Ahmad Murjan and Abd al-Hafiz al-Silawi, members of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
In that incident, Israel claimed that it hit a Hamas facility in response to fire from Gaza.
Hamas denied Israel’s claims and it later transpired that soldiers mistook gunfire during an exercise at a Hamas naval commando base for a sniper attack.
“Israeli troops mistakenly thought the gunfire was aimed at them and responded with tank fire,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
The shooting took place two kilometers away from where the soldiers, part of an engineering corps, were operating.
Palestinian groups fired dozens of rockets towards Israel – four of them hitting the southern Israeli town of Sderot – earlier in the evening on Wednesday after Israel attacked a “Hamas target” in northern Gaza.
That was reportedly in response to gunfire hitting a civilian vehicle involved in the construction of a barrier along the eastern perimeter of the territory, as is said to be shown in these photos:
Nine Israelis were injured as a result of rocket fire on Wednesday, according to Haaretz. Gaza’s health ministry reported six injuries requiring hospitalization.
Photos and videos uploaded to social media show Israeli strikes in densely populated areas in Gaza:
This video is said to show an airstrike west of Jabaliya in northern Gaza where civilians had gathered on the beach to enjoy the summer evening:
The Israeli military published a video of what it claimed to be a strike on a “vehicle used by a Gaza rocket launching squad”:
Media from Israel show damaged cars and injured persons:
Another video shows families running for cover at a park as a rocket from Gaza is intercepted:
The escalation comes as Hamas and Israel were reportedly nearing a deal following weeks of indirect talks mediated by the United Nations and Egypt.
The multistage deal would reportedly see the easing of Israel’s blockade and the implementation of internationally funded humanitarian projects after the declaration of an immediate ceasefire, including the halting of incendiary kites and balloons sent from Gaza.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East peace envoy, decried the escalation late Wednesday, stating that “Our collective efforts have prevented the situation from exploding until now.”
He warned that if not “contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”
Gaza’s health ministry warned earlier on Wednesday that its fuel reserves would soon run out and called on “all concerned parties to act soon to avoid disaster.”
UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick demanded that Israel immediately allow the entry of emergency fuel into Gaza.
“The well-being of two million people, half of whom are children, is at stake,” McGoldrick stated. “It is unacceptable that Palestinians in Gaza are repeatedly deprived of the most basic elements of a dignified life.”
Emergency fuel is needed urgently to prevent the closure of Gaza’s hospitals and the overflow of sewage into the streets of one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
“Hospitals and other critical health services are reducing operations, with five hospitals facing possible closure in the coming three days, if emergency fuel is not allowed in,” McGoldrick’s office stated.
Two thousand patients relying on electrical devices in Gaza’s hospitals are at highest risk.
Funding for emergency fuel for all critical facilities is due to run out in around a week, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
OCHA added that “$4.5 million [is] required to ensure that a minimum level of essential services can continue to run through the end of the year.”