Ceasefire elusive as Gaza genocide enters fifth month

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a school following an Israeli attack on Nuseirat refugee camp in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, 31 January.

Naaman Omar APA images

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has resulted in at least 100,000 Palestinians killed, injured or missing and presumed dead – more than 4 percent of the population of 2.3 million, or nearly every one in 20 people – as the genocide enters its fifth month.

Sixty percent of the 27,585 Palestinian fatalities recorded by the health ministry in Gaza since 7 October were women and children. Thousands more are buried under the rubble.

At least 17,000 boys and girls in Gaza are unaccompanied or separated from their family, according to the UN children’s fund UNICEF.

Khan Younis in southern Gaza was bearing the brunt of the bombardment while Palestinian resistance groups fought Israeli ground forces across much of Gaza in recent days, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported.

Israeli forces bombed residential blocks and high rises in multiple areas of Khan Younis on Monday, causing significant destruction.

Heavy fighting continues near Nasser Medical Complex and Al Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, “jeopardizing the safety of medical staff, the wounded and the sick, as well as thousands of internally displaced persons,” according to UN OCHA.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said on Tuesday that Israeli forces had intensified the siege on Nasser Medical Complex, where there is a “severe shortage of surgical supplies and sutures and there is an estimated four days left of the amount of fuel needed to power hospital generators,” OCHA said.

Meanwhile, initial screenings of thousands of young children indicate that acute malnutrition has sharply increased in Gaza, according to OCHA. “This sharp rise in acute malnutrition suggests that, without adequate preventive and curative services, the situation will worsen,” the UN office said.

“We will reach Rafah”

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, met with Qatari officials in Doha on Tuesday.

Blinken said that he would discuss Hamas’ response to a proposed ceasefire with Israeli officials during his visit to the country on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The secretary of state said that “there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible, and indeed essential.”

However, an Israeli government source told the country’s state broadcaster that it would reject Hamas’ demand for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the siege on Gaza as part of any prisoner exchange.

While diplomats worked to secure a deal, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, told troops that “we are completing the mission in Khan Younis, and we will reach Rafah as well, and eliminate every terrorist there who threatens to harm us.”

Three prominent Palestinian human rights groups – Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – warned that an expansion of Israel’s ground operations in Rafah, the southernmost area of Gaza, appears to be imminent.

Such an escalation “would significantly exacerbate the ongoing genocidal acts perpetrated by the Israeli military and authorities against the Palestinian population in Gaza,” the rights groups warned.

Some 1.3 million Palestinians – more than half of Gaza’s population – are currently concentrated in Rafah after being displaced from other areas of the territory.

Given the current population density of the area, an attack on Rafah “could result in an unprecedented loss of Palestinian lives,” the rights groups stated.

It may also force hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza to flee to Egypt, “which would constitute the crime of forcible deportation,” the rights groups added.

“The potential scenario could surpass the number of Palestinians forcibly expelled by Zionist militias and the Israeli military during the 1948 Nakba,” they said.

A spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a similar warning on Tuesday, stating that “intensified hostilities in Rafah in this situation could lead to large-scale loss of civilian lives and we must do everything possible within our power to avoid that.”

Sinai for Human Rights, an organization based in Egypt, said on Tuesday that Israel had been bombing the border area in recent days.

UNRWA, the embattled UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that a convoy carrying food aid was hit by Israeli naval gunfire while waiting to move into northern Gaza on Monday.
Officials with the agency said that no one was injured.

One day earlier, a group of people waiting for aid trucks in southern Gaza City, located in the northern area of the territory, came under fire. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it was the fifth instance of reported shooting towards people gathered to obtain humanitarian aid.

Humanitarian agencies say they are unable to reach northern Gaza, where levels of hunger are reaching a situation of famine.

Last week, Sigrid Kaag, the UN senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, told diplomats that humanitarian access remains severely restricted.

She called for the opening of more crossings and the resumption of commercial activities in Gaza, where some 300,000 civilians remain in the north in increasingly dire conditions.

Forced evacuation

Thousands of people moved to Rafah from Khan Younis after Israel issued evacuation orders and escalated its military offensive in the area.

Israel erected a checkpoint on the evacuation route after closing side streets, forcing people to move along al-Bahr street west of Khan Younis refugee camp.

At the checkpoint, Palestinians were forced to pass through one by one, leaving their belongings behind, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

Women, girls and young boys were allowed to pass but men and boys over the age of 15 were required to show their IDs and have their irises scanned, the rights group said.

Some men and boys were allowed to pass while others were “arrested, forced to strip naked and held in an open area amid the rainy weather,” according to Euro-Med.

Palestinians who fled from Khan Younis to Rafah via the Israeli-controlled corridor “were forced to chant slogans against Hamas,” according to +972 Magazine. “Many had their belongings confiscated, and men were separated from their families, stripped and subjected to hours of physical abuse and deprivation.”

Those who made it to Rafah “are forced to stay in an open area in appalling humanitarian conditions, waiting for assistance,” Euro-Med said.

Most newly displaced people have only 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day for drinking, cooking and bathing, and there is a spike in cases of diarrhea among children, according to UNICEF.

Around two-thirds of Gaza’s territory, home to nearly 1.8 million Palestinians, has been placed under evacuation orders by Israel.

Some two million people are internally displaced in Gaza, where there is no safe area or assurance from Israel that they will be allowed to return to their homes, Euro-Med added.

Ajith Sunghay, the head of the UN Human Rights Office in Palestine, said after a week-long visit to Gaza that civilians “are constantly on the move from places they have been told are safe, living in constant fear.”

“People make tents with plastic bags and wood they can find,” Sunghay added. “People are living on one meal a day if they are lucky.”

Widespread destruction

The majority of all buildings in Gaza have likely been damaged or destroyed, according to an analysis of satellite data.

The UN estimates that more than 650,000 displaced Palestinians in Gaza “will have no home to return to, and that many more will be unable to return immediately, due to the level of damage to surrounding infrastructure, as well as the risk posed by explosive remnants of war.”

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that it had reviewed hundreds of videos recorded by Israeli soldiers in Gaza and posted on personal social media accounts.

Some of that footage is mundane. But other videos show troops “vandalizing local shops and school classrooms, making derogatory comments about Palestinians, bulldozing what appear to be civilian areas and calling for the building of Israeli settlements in Gaza.”

The publication added that it had “traced more than 50 videos back to Israel’s military combat engineering units, showing the use of bulldozers, excavators and explosives to destroy what appear to be houses, schools and other civilian buildings.”

Last week, The New York Times published an analysis of controlled demolitions undertaken by Israeli forces that have “destroyed hundreds of buildings – including mosques, schools and entire sections of residential neighborhoods” in Gaza since November.

The paper said that most of the 33 demolition sites that had it identified were well outside of the approximate area of the “buffer zone” proposed by Israel along Gaza’s eastern and northern boundary. There may be more controlled demolition locations than those it was able to confirm with the available visual evidence, The New York Times said.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to housing has coined the term “domicide” to describe widespread or systematic destruction of homes, such as the case of Gaza.

The Palestinian culture ministry says that Israeli bombardment had destroyed more than 200 buildings of cultural or historical significance in Gaza.

“The damage has also included an ancient Roman cemetery and the Commonwealth war cemetery, where more than 3,000 British and commonwealth soldiers are buried after dying in battles during the first and second world wars,” according to The Guardian.

The UN cultural organization UNESCO “warned that more sites are at risk of damage, including one of the region’s oldest Christian monasteries, the Saint Hilarion complex, which it said had not been damaged yet but was in an area of intense fighting,” the publication added.

Red Crescent program director killed

Medical facilities are among the civilian infrastructure destroyed by Israel in Gaza.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society published footage of its badly damaged headquarters in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. The video shows crushed ambulances in the road and blown-out and bullet-riddled walls in its building.
The Red Crescent said that Hedaya Hamad, one of its program directors, was shot and killed by Israeli forces during the siege on its headquarters and the adjacent Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis.

The Red Crescent added that Hamad was killed while attempting to rescue displaced people sheltering at the facility after they were shot by soldiers.

“Hedaya embodied the meanings of sacrifice, humanity and volunteerism” until her last breath, the Red Crescent said of their slain colleague.

Israeli forces summoned and forcibly disappeared Dr. Haider al-Qaddura, a member of the Red Crescent’s executive committee and the general manager of Al-Amal Hospital, and the hospital’s administrative director Maher Atallah.

The Red Crescent said that the disappearance of the two men came after Israel approved the safe passage of displaced people sheltering at the hospital and its adjacent headquarters “after a two-week siege.”

Hundreds of families left the hospital and Red Crescent facility, the humanitarian group said on Monday. Forty elderly displaced persons and around 80 patients and injured people remain, along with some 100 administrative and medical staff.

Meanwhile, the Red Crescent said on Tuesday that after more than a week, the fate of a 6-year-old girl and two paramedics who attempted to come to her rescue after her family came under Israeli fire was still unknown.

Last month, the International Court of Justice issued an interim ruling stating that Israel was plausibly carrying out a genocide in Gaza and ordered it to “take all measures within its power” to prevent violations of articles of the Genocide Convention, to which it is a state party.




Appreciate this very important, yet painfully sad, article, Clair. hedaya Hamad's murder needs to be publicized globally. Appreciate all of you conscientizing this world, at EI.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.