Israel delivers on its vows to bring hell to Gaza

A child at a hospital following an Israeli strike in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, 14 November.

Omar Ashtawy APA images

The Israeli military has delivered on the promises made by the country’s leaders to render Gaza uninhabitable for its 2.3 million Palestinian residents, most of them refugees.

“Civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” the head of the World Food Program said on Thursday, with the organization adding that Gaza’s “entire population is in desperate need of food assistance.”

The meager amounts of food being allowed into Gaza under Israel’s comprehensive siege – a collective punishment amounting to a death sentence imposed for more than five weeks – only meets “seven percent of the people’s daily minimum caloric needs,” the UN’s largest humanitarian agency said.

Most of the bakeries in Gaza that weren’t targeted and destroyed in Israeli bombing have shut down after running out of fuel, which Israel has refused to allow into the territory. No bakeries are currently operating in the northern half of Gaza.

The World Food Program said that whatever food remains in the few shops that are still open are being sold at inflated prices “and are of little use without the ability to cook.”

Israel said that it “had agreed to let in two truckloads of fuel a day at the request of Washington to help the United Nations meet basic needs, and spoke of plans to increase aid more broadly,” Reuters reported on Friday.

While COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees the administration of Gaza, claims “there is no limitation” on the delivery of humanitarian aid, it will still have full control over everything that goes into Gaza.

COGAT says that it will require the UN to provide “lists” of aid and that the military body will check all deliveries. This means that Israel will maintain a chokehold and exercise veto power over the provision of desperately needed life essentials to people that Ghassan Alian, the head of COGAT, described on 10 October as “human beasts.”

“You will not have electricity or water, you will just get hell,” Alian added, in a clear declaration of intent to commit a crime against humanity.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said on Thursday that “there is a deliberate attempt to strangle our operation.”

He added that the “tiny shipment of fuel” that UNRWA, the largest humanitarian organization operating in Gaza, received on Wednesday was delivered with the condition “that it is to be used only and exclusively” for trucks transferring aid delivered to Gaza via Rafah crossing with Egypt.

This condition means that the fuel cannot be used for essential operations including water treatment and sewage pumping or baking bread.

He said that it is “outrageous that humanitarian agencies are reduced to begging for fuel and forced after that to decide who will we assist or not assist, when you have such a large population in a lifesaving situation.”

Indeed, the highly limited and Israeli-controlled humanitarian aid via Rafah crossing is an American fig leaf for the genocidal campaign underway in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza say they have been abandoned and betrayed by international agencies, particularly UNRWA and the ICRC, left without even their humanitarian presence as Israel raids and destroys hospitals and UNRWA schools and refugee camps in the northern half of Gaza.

Three prominent Palestinian human rights groups say that the full force of one of the world’s most powerful militaries is being unleashed against a “captive civilian population … under the voyeuristic gaze of the international community.”

“Genocide in the making”

Dozens of independent UN human rights experts warned on Thursday that Israel’s grave violations against Palestinians “point to a genocide in the making.”

They say this is demonstrated by Israel’s “genocidal incitement, overt intent to ‘destroy the Palestinian people under occupation, loud calls for a ‘second Nakba’ in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the use of powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure.”

The destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure includes the hospitals in Gaza City and northern Gaza, despite – or because of – the presence of patients, their family members, health workers and displaced people sheltering at the facilities.

On Saturday, Israeli forces ordered patients and medics to evacuate al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest health facility, within one hour, some at gunpoint, Al Jazeera reported.

The Israeli army denied giving any evacuation order. But Muhammad Zaqout, the director-general of hospitals in Gaza, told Al Jazeera: “I categorically deny these false allegations [from the Israeli army] … I am telling you we were forced to leave by gunpoint.”

Omar Zaqout, the hospital’s supervisor, told Al Jazeera that forced evacuations began after the army’s deadline passed, adding that the scenes outside were “appalling”.

“We were told to leave through al-Wihda road. Dozens of dead bodies are scattered on the road,” Zaqout said. “Many homeless people who cannot walk are left out in the open.”

Munir al-Bursh, a doctor at al-Shifa, told the network that the Israeli army “warned that all those leaving had to wave a white handkerchief and walk in a single line.”

“They were humiliated by soldiers all along the road,” he said. “Many of the patients were put on wheelchairs or rolling beds. Family members were forced to carry their wounded children or parents themselves … These are horrible, unprecedented scenes.”

Al Jazeera Arabic reported that many medical staff defied orders to leave the hospital and vowed to remain there with their patients who could not be moved, including dozens of premature babies.

After besieging it for days and launching heavy attacks on its surroundings, Israel raided al-Shifa hospital on Wednesday. Israel has so far failed to yield evidence that the hospital was used as a command center by Hamas, as Israel has claimed for years, eliciting skepticism even among its most loyal stenographers at the BBC.

Dozens of patients, including premature babies, have died at al-Shifa since 11 November due to the lack of electricity.

On Monday, Israel raided a children’s hospital, also in Gaza City. In a propaganda video recorded in the basement of the facility, the Israeli military’s chief spokesperson claims a calendar lists the names of “terrorists” who guarded over hostages. In reality, it named the days of the week.

That video, like the one recorded at al-Shifa, was roundly mocked on social media.

Israel has not provided anything resembling compelling proof that hospitals in Gaza’s north were used as “terror infrastructure.” But it rendered the hospitals inoperable in the process.

Now Israeli claims that Hamas leaders are holed up in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, and is threatening to unleash the death and destruction there that it wrought in Gaza City.

Israeli evacuation orders in southern Gaza

On Wednesday, the Israeli military dropped flyers in areas east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza ordering residents to evacuate immediately to “known shelters.”

After destroying much of the northern half of Gaza – where hundreds of thousands of people defied Israel’s forced transfer orders or were simply unable to comply, and are without food and water – Israel is now ordering the transfer of people in parts of the south.

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev said in an interview with the UK’s Sky News that “you saw what happened to the city of Gaza, Khan Younis is a center for Hamas activity as well.”

Regev added that “we’re asking civilians to evacuate for your own safety, we don’t want to see you caught up in the crossfire.”

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former prime minister, likewise told euronews on Friday that “Khan Younis, which is in the southern part of [the] Gaza Strip, is the real headquarters of Hamas.”

A military advance in Khan Younis “will put civilians in the firing line,” as Reuters reported on Saturday.

As noted by the news agency, “two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3 million have been made homeless by the war and every available space in Khan Younis and other southern towns is already crammed.”

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said that Israel’s order “is not an effective warning” and is merely a cynical attempt “to create the impression that the military is trying to protect civilians when, in fact, it is completely ignoring its obligations under international law.”

Israel has been bombing every area in Gaza – a third of the more than 100 UNRWA employees killed since 7 October were in the south – and food and safe drinking water are increasingly scarce or nonexistent. There is no place safe in Gaza for people to go, and this points to the true aim of Israel’s total warfare against the entire population of the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s goal

From day one, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally broke his hours of silence after Hamas’ shocking defeat of the Israeli military’s southern command on 7 October, he made it clear that the goal was to push Palestinians out of Gaza.

“The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” Netanyahu said, foreshadowing the extermination of entire families and destruction of neighborhoods in Gaza that would soon follow.

He told the millions of Palestinians in Gaza to “get out now,” threatening that Israel “will be everywhere and with all of our might.”

Israel has used the firepower equivalent of two of the atomic bombs that the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War II.

The massive, widespread bombing has apparently failed to make much of a dent in the capacity of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, which frequently posts updates each day regarding its battlefield achievements.

The Qassam Brigades says that its fighters struck 160 Israeli armored vehicles in the first two weeks of the ground invasion of Gaza. Numerous videos recorded and published by the group show their forces striking the armored vehicles with locally made anti-tank weapons.

Israel has confirmed that more than 50 of its soldiers have died in Gaza since it began ground operations three weeks ago and many more have been evacuated after being injured. Seven troops have been killed along Israel’s northern front with Lebanon as have some 80 people in Lebanon, including 70 fighters from the resistance group Hizballah.

Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Qassam Brigades, said on Friday that the actual number of Israeli soldiers killed is much higher than what the Israeli public is being led to believe.

Actually fighting Hamas on the ground is proving much more difficult for Israel than massacring civilians by dropping bombs from the air.

More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed (15,700 with the inclusion of missing people trapped under the rubble), the overwhelming majority of them civilians who died when Israel bombed their homes.

The maximalist goal of eradicating Hamas is not Israel’s ultimate aim. Declaring such an impossible goal gives Israel – and its chief sponsor, the US – time and a pretext to wage an open-ended genocidal war on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Israel’s single organizing principle is exclusive Jewish control over as much Palestinian and other Arab land as possible, with as few Palestinians and Arabs as possible.

Members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition openly espouse their desire to expel Palestinians from their homeland and finish the Nakba begun in 1948.

“We have just witnessed the largest displacement of Palestinians since 1948,” UNRWA’s Lazzarini said on Thursday. “It is an exodus under our watch. A river of people being forced to flee their homes.”

After forcibly transferring Palestinians from the north to the south, and now evacuation orders threatening deadly violence against Palestinians in Gaza’s southeast, the arrows on Israel’s battle map point in one direction: a mass expulsion to Egypt.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.