News highlights on week 31 of Israel’s genocide in Gaza

The following is from the news roundup during the 8 May livestream. Watch the entire episode here.

Israeli forces heavily bombed areas across the entire Gaza Strip over the last week, especially in the southern city of Rafah.

The army ordered evacuation of neighborhoods in the eastern part of Rafah toward the al-Mawasi sand dunes at the coast, which has been already overcrowded with displaced people lacking access to basic services.
Early Tuesday morning, at least 20 Palestinians were killed in Israeli bombings, most of them in Rafah. Later in the day, Israeli artillery fire hit the headquarters of the local government in Rafah, according to Al Jazeera.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces bombed tents belonging to displaced Palestinians in Rafah.

On Monday night, Israeli bombings killed dozens of women and children, with Palestinian journalists describing that the bombing was so intense that it had crushed people “into pieces.”

On Sunday night, Israeli forces bombed the home of the Qeshta family in Rafah.

Patients and medical workers began to flee al-Najjar hospital in Rafah after Israel ordered the evacuation of the area on Monday.

Maureen Clare Murphy reported that “The hospital is currently the only facility in Gaza with a functioning dialysis department for patients with kidney disease, and its closure would immediately endanger the lives of 200 people if it closed, according to the World Health Organization.”

At the Emirati maternity hospital in Rafah, the last barely functioning maternity hospital in Gaza, Dr. Dorotea Gucciardo of the Glia Project reported on the dangerous and precarious situation for newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit, their families, and medical caregivers as threats of a full-scale military operation loom.

Murphy reported that more than a million Palestinians have fled to Rafah “after being repeatedly displaced from other areas. Some of those areas, including the neighborhoods that Israel ordered evacuated on Monday, had previously been declared ‘safe zones’ by the military.”

Israel shut down Kerem Shalom, the main commercial crossing into Gaza, on Monday after four Israeli soldiers were killed in a rocket attack nearby the previous day, Murphy added.

On Tuesday, Israel said it had seized “operational control” of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, effectively shutting down the only route for Palestinians to exit and for medical teams to enter.

Richard Brennan, regional emergency director for the eastern Mediterranean for the World Health Organization, said that the impact of the Rafah crossing being shut by Israel “makes a disastrous, catastrophic situation far worse.”

“Today, we were expecting to evacuate 140 [critically ill] patients, but now that lifeline is closed off to patients,” he said.

Video footage of an Israeli tank storming its way into the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, deliberately destroying the iconic “I Love Gaza” sign, circulated on social media on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Coordination Department of the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that the closure of the Rafah crossing “prevented the entry of trucks of medicine and medical equipment, the entry of fuel needed for hospitals, and prevented the exit of thousands of wounded and sick people waiting to travel.”

On Tuesday, Hind Khoudary reported for Al Jazeera on the impact of the evacuation orders.

The aid charity Oxfam excoriated Israel’s plans for a Rafah invasion.

On Monday, the charity’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Director, Sally Abi-Khalil, said “We are horrified by Israel’s order to evacuate around 100,000 people and what appears to be an impending invasion of Rafah, despite a universal plea from world leaders urging it to stop its continued, barbaric, onslaught.”

“The fear in Rafah is palpable, as people who have already been forced to flee across Gaza multiple times, must now move again,” she said.

“With Israel now blocking aid, fuel or goods from entering the two critical crossings of Rafah and Kerem Shalom, humanitarian efforts to save lives will be even more difficult.”

Abi-Khalil said that “For over six months, Israel has deliberately and systematically targeted civilians and aid workers, including in clearly marked ‘safe zones’ and ‘evacuation routes.’ Any claims it now makes that civilians can be safely evacuated, have lost credibility. Al-Mawasi area – a so-called humanitarian safe zone where people have been told to flee – has already been targeted twice.”

“It’s unfathomable that one government is allowed to ignore all warnings of the catastrophic humanitarian cost with full impunity, and to callously press forward in chilling disregard for human life, international law, and the ICJ ruling to prevent genocide,” Abi-Khalil said.

Private US company to “assume management” of Rafah crossing?

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Israel and Egypt agreed that “a private American security company will assume management of the crossing after the Israeli army concludes its operation,” which they also claimed would be limited.

Haaretz added that private negotiations have been underway with the company, which was not named, but which “specializes in assisting armies and governments around the world engaged in military conflicts.”

The company “has operated in several African and Middle Eastern countries, guarding strategic sites like oil fields, airports, army bases and sensitive border crossings. It employs veterans of elite US Army units,” Haaretz reports.

However, as The Electronic Intifada’s contributing editor Jon Elmer and our friend Justin Podur at the Anti-Empire Project says, for any of this to happen, Israel, of course, would have to win the war first.

On Tuesday at the US State Department press briefing, spokesperson Matt Miller said he was “not aware” of the plans of a private US company operating at the Rafah crossing, reported by Haaretz, “at all.” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also denied any knowledge of the plan.

Senior Hamas member Osama Hamdan said that Palestinians would not respond to military pressure or threats and would not accept any “occupying force” at the Rafah crossing.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also said that “Any presence of non-Palestinian parties at the Rafah Crossing, we will deal with it as an occupation force and it will be a legitimate target for resistance.”

Israel bans Al Jazeera, raids network’s offices

Over the weekend, the Israeli government shut down the offices and operations of the Al Jazeera network, weeks after Israel’s parliament passed a law allowing the temporary closure of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security during the months-long war in Gaza.

Israeli police raided the network’s offices in Jerusalem, withdrew press accreditations, and banned media service providers from transmitting the broadcasts.

The network condemned the Israeli government’s decision to close its operations in Israel as a “criminal act.”

In a statement, Al Jazeera said that “Israel’s ongoing suppression of the free press, seen as an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza Strip, stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law. Israel’s direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation and threats will not deter Al Jazeera from its commitment to cover, while more than 140 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the beginning of the war on Gaza.”

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan delivered this pre-recorded final report from occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday:

Schoolchildren return to classes

And finally, we wanted to bring you some images and videos from journalists in Gaza who are not just relentlessly documenting the ongoing atrocities but also making sure to highlight the resilience, joy and determination of the Palestinian people.

In Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, dancers performed the traditional debke for children at a school that has been turned into a shelter for displaced families.
Some children returned to school this week in northern Gaza, excited to restart their education after seven months of the ongoing genocide.

Al Jazeera interviewed several schoolchildren who were eager to show off their new uniforms.

A graduate student successfully defended his master’s thesis from a tent in Rafah this week, even though his college, Al-Azhar University, was bombed by Israel in early November. The university set up the tent for students to continue their studies.
Tamer Abu Moussa’s thesis was titled “Psychological Immunity as a Mediating Variable Between Psychological Stressors and Achievement Motivation among Educational Counselors in the Southern Governorates of Palestine.”

In March, we reported on children in the Gaza Strip who were bearing the brunt of Israel’s starvation policy as collective punishment, and told you about Fadi Zant, the 6-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis whose parents and doctors were unable to address his serious medical needs due to Israel’s blockade and engineered hunger crisis.

He was acutely malnourished and suffering from pneumonia when he was evacuated by medical teams working with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the World Health Organization.

His care team announced this week that “Once he was in the south of Gaza with PCRF’s team on the ground, we were able to facilitate his evacuation to Egypt, where he received immediate care to stabilize his condition.”

Fadi is now in New York with his mother where he is finally receiving the comprehensive treatment he desperately needs.

And children in Gaza wrote and printed up messages of solidarity with the students across the US and Canada who have risen up to demand that this genocide end and that their universities divest from corporations that profit from Israel’s crimes.

Other news covered in this week’s report

Photo by Omar Ashtawy / APA images


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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).