Israel’s bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip entered its second day on Saturday with no sign of de-escalation as the United States, European Union and other Western countries gave Tel Aviv a green light to continue its campaign of killing and destruction.
By late evening on Saturday, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza had killed at least five more people.
The health ministry in Gaza said that 24 had been killed in the territory, including six children, since Israel launched the surprise attack on Friday afternoon by assassinating a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad resistance group.
More than 200 Palestinians have been injured.
Israel claimed an air strike in Rafah on Saturday evening killed Khalid Mansour, the commander of Islamic Jihad in southern Gaza. But the group did not immediately confirm that.
There were reports of at least five people killed in an explosion near a mosque in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Saturday night, among them several children.
But Israel denied bombing the area and claimed the deaths were caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket.
Throughout the day, Israeli warplanes continued to strike densely populated residential areas, targeting civilians and their property. And an Israeli military spokesperson warned the assault could last a week.
Islamic Jihad fired 350 rockets into Gaza by Saturday afternoon, including towards Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport.
While Hamas, which controls Gaza’s internal affairs, has backed Islamic Jihad’s response, it has yet to launch a single rocket at Israel since Israel launched its assault on Friday.
Hamas said on Friday that resistance factions were coordinating their responses. Its restraint so far may be an indication that the resistance groups are trying to contain the flare-up before it erupts into a full-blown confrontation with Israel.
This may change on Sunday as Israelis plan to ascend to the al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first day of the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, which in Jewish belief commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Many of these Jewish extremists want to see the al-Aqsa mosque replaced with a new Jewish temple.
The Israeli police is permitting them to do so, with the expected participation of extreme-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Similar provocations led to Israel’s May 2021 assault, when Hamas responded to Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem with barrages of rockets into Israel.
A missile fired by Israeli warplanes struck a group of people east of Khan Younis early Saturday, killing 24-year-old Tamim Ghassan Abdullah Hijazi and 27-year-old Osama Abdulrahman Hussein al-Suri, according to the Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan.
Hours later, Israeli warplanes fired three missiles at the three-story home of a family of 40 southwest of Gaza City, where mostly women and children lived, destroying the building completely and damaging other houses nearby.
On Saturday afternoon, Israeli warplanes destroyed another home occupied by four families and caused severe damage to nearby residences.
In the northern Jabaliya area, Israeli warplanes struck a group of Palestinians, killing 28-year-old Hasan Muhammad Yousef Mansour and severely injuring another.
Israeli warplanes also hit a group of Palestinians, mainly women and children, who were getting in a car to go to a family wedding.
Al-Mezan said the attack killed the groom’s mother, Naamah Talbat Muhammad Abu Qaidah.
Five children were injured.
Greatly exacerbating the situation for Gaza’s 2.1 million inhabitants, the territory’s only power plant said that it would shut down on Saturday due to Israel’s continued closure of external crossings, blocking fuel imports.
Gaza has just a quarter of the power it needs during the summer, according to Gisha, an Israeli human rights group. This means residents may now receive only four hours of electricity per day, followed by an outage of 12 hours.This is a particularly dire threat to Gaza’s healthcare system, which has already been battered by successive Israeli assaults and 15 years of an ongoing siege.
Pharmaceutical supplies in Gaza are at their “worst in years,” the Palestinian health ministry stated.
There are also severe shortages of supplies for labs and blood banks and other medical consumables.
Power outages pose a “serious threat” to vital hospital departments, including emergency rooms, intensive care units and dialysis clinics, the ministry said.
Desalination plants, sewage pumps and water supplies to homes will also be disrupted, “which may cause a severe health and humanitarian disaster,” the health ministry warned.
Israeli authorities continue to block the entry of two dozen x-ray machines and spare parts to repair medical devices in essential emergency departments.
All scheduled surgeries are being postponed to help hospitals cope with those injured in the ongoing Israeli attacks.
Meanwhile, Israel’s continued closure of the Erez checkpoint is preventing hundreds of Palestinian patients from leaving Gaza for medical treatment, putting their lives at risk, according to Al-Mezan.
The health ministry announced that a shutdown of the power plant would start a 72-hour countdown to health services coming to a standstill.
Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, called for “an immediate de-escalation and halt to the violence” on Saturday.