SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 2 March 2024, Saturday |

Israeli bombing of Gaza intensifies, refugee camp reported hit

 Israel forces bombed wide areas of the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, as civilians in the besieged territory sought shelter in an ever-shrinking area of the south.

Among the sites hit was the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the Hamas-ruled enclave. A Gazan health ministry spokesperson said several people were killed and dozens wounded by an Israeli air strike.

Al Jazeera television broadcast footage it said showed the aftermath of the strike. People, including a child, were covered in grey dust as smoke rose from piles of rubble and huge chunks of cement from collapsed buildings.

Bombardments from war planes and artillery also concentrated on Khan Younis and Rafah cities in Gaza’s south, residents said, and hospitals were struggling to cope with the flow of wounded.

 

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the reported actions.

The renewed warfare followed the end on Friday of a seven-day pause in the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants to allow an exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

It took place despite growing calls from the United States – Israel’s closest ally – for Israel to avoid further harm to Palestinian civilians.

More than 15,200 have been killed as of Saturday, according to Gaza’s health ministry, in nearly two months of warfare that broke out after a Hamas cross-border raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and more than 200 taken hostage.

Israel says it is acting to annihilate Hamas, saying it poses a mortal threat to the Jewish state’s very existence. The initial Hamas attack and the ensuing war amount to the bloodiest episode in the decades-old wider Israel-Palestinian conflict.

GROUND OFFENSIVE FEARED

Gaza residents said on Sunday they feared an Israeli ground offensive on the southern areas was imminent. Tanks had cut off the road between Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, effectively dividing the Gaza Strip into three areas, they said.

The Israeli military ordered Palestinians to evacuate half a dozen areas in and around Khan Younis. It posted a map highlighting shelters they should go to west of Khan Younis and south towards Rafah, on the border with Egypt.

But residents said that areas they had been told to go to were themselves coming under attack.

Israeli tanks shelled the eastern sector of Rafah on Sunday morning, residents said. There was no immediate comment from Israel on that.

There was hardly any space for more displaced people in the south after hundreds of thousands had fled the Israeli ground invasion in the north of the enclave, the residents said.

“Before, we used to ask ourselves whether we will die or not on this war, but in the past two days since Friday, we fear it is just a matter of time,” said Maher, a 37-year-old father of three, who spoke to Reuters by telephone.

“I am a resident of Gaza City, then we moved to Al-Karara in southern Gaza Strip and yesterday we fled to deeper shelter in Khan Younis and today we are trying to flee under the bombardment to Rafah,” he said.

U.N. officials and residents said it was difficult to heed Israeli evacuation orders because of patchy internet access and no regular supply of electricity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel was coordinating with the U.S. and international organisations to define “safe areas” for Gaza civilians.

The Palestinian health ministry said that, as of midday on Saturday, at least 193 people had been killed and 650 wounded in Gaza since the truce expired. Health officials said on Sunday that some areas could not be reached by phone so it was not possible to give an updated death toll.

TUNNELS HIT

The Israeli military said on Sunday its war planes and helicopters had struck Hamas targets including tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities. Naval forces had hit Hamas vessels on the coast, it said.

The military declined to give figures on the number of air strikes carried out.

Palestinian health officials said air strikes destroyed several houses in the Al-Karara town near Khan Younis overnight, killing several people including children.

Residents and Hamas media reported intensive bombing east of Zeitoun in Gaza City and in Tel Al-Zaatar in northern Gaza Strip. In Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and others were wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house. Bombing in Tel Al-Zaatar destroyed the houses of two families and caused casualties, medics said.

Journalists on the border between Gaza and Israel said huge plumes of smoke were rising from a wide area, turning the sky gray.

Hamas said it targeted the coastal Israeli city of Tel Aviv with a rocket barrage. There were no reports of damage, but paramedics said one man was treated for a shrapnel injury in central Israel.

It also said its fighters attacked two Israeli tanks with rocket-propelled grenades Beit Lahiya in the north of Gaza.

Israel said several soldiers were wounded when an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon hit a vehicle in the Beit Hillel area of northern Isarel.

Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.

‘MORAL RESPONSIBILITY’

Indicating growing U.S. concern about the human cost of the war, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Saturday too many innocent Palestinians had been killed in Gaza, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin deemed it a “moral responsibility” for Israel to protect civilians.

Speaking in Dubai, Harris said Israel had a right to defend itself but international and humanitarian law must be respected.

“Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering, and the images and videos coming from Gaza, are devastating,” Harris said.

About 1.8 million people, or 80% of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes since Oct. 7, the United Nations says.

More than 400,000 displaced people have sought shelter in Rafah and nearly 300,000 have taken shelter in Khan Younis, according to the U.N. humanitarian office.

Disease is spreading through overcrowded shelters and makeshift housing in schools, the World Health Organisation said.

    Source:
  • Reuters