Gaza crisis worsens as Israel prepares possible invasion | ET REALITY

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Six days of Israeli airstrikes have left more than 300,000 Palestinians homeless in the Gaza Strip, and two million residents face critical shortages of food, water and fuel, as Israeli troops prepared Thursday for a possible ground invasion. after the deadly Hamas attack over the weekend.

In retaliation for the bloodiest attack on Israel in 50 years, Israel is hitting Gaza with a ferocity not seen in past conflicts and has cut off vital supplies to the coastal territory. Health officials in Gaza, home to two million people, said the Israeli bombardment had killed more than 1,500 people and injured more than 6,600.

Israel’s military says it is attacking locations used by Hamas, which controls Gaza, including mosques, homes and other apparently civilian locations. Gazans say the airstrikes are causing indiscriminate damage to civilians and civilian sites, and independent observers have confirmed that schools and ambulances have been destroyed.

The retaliatory attacks began after Hamas terrorists breached the border fence with Israel on Saturday morning and attacked towns, kibbutzim and a military base, killing more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians, wounding about 3,000. more and kidnapping about 150 hostages, the Israeli government reported. the government said.

Gaza’s only power plant stopped generating electricity on Wednesday due to lack of fuel, turning off everything from lights to refrigerators, and much of the region lacks running water. Hospitals are overwhelmed with injured patients and are running out of vital supplies; fuel for generators and vehicles is declining rapidly; food and water are increasingly scarce; and it is unclear when humanitarian aid might be allowed in.

“We are facing a huge disaster,” Adnan Abu Hasna, an official with the United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees, said by phone from Gaza. He described the conditions as “absolutely horrible.”

As the United States steps up its arms shipments to Israel, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a military base in Tel Aviv to reinforce support for Israel “as long as the United States exists.”

“I stand before you not only as Secretary of State of the United States, but also as a Jew,” said Blinken, whose stepfather, Samuel Pisar, survived Nazi concentration camps. “I understand on a personal level the heartbreaking echoes that the Hamas massacres have for Israeli Jews and for Jews everywhere.”

And he added: “This is, must be, a moment of moral clarity.”

But Blinken also suggested the need to exercise caution in Israel’s retaliation. “It is important to take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians,” he said.

Netanyahu has said Hamas shot children in the head, burned people alive, raped women and beheaded soldiers.

In a video conference at NATO headquarters, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant showed a video of the Hamas attacks that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called “horrible.” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III later added: “We are dismayed by the emerging scope of the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists.”

The White House said 27 U.S. citizens were killed in the Hamas attack, and the State Department said there were between 500 and 600 Americans living in or visiting Gaza whose safety it was trying to ensure.

In a televised speech, Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida said the group had achieved more than it expected in its attack, which he said involved a battalion of 3,000 people and a backup force of 1,500 people. He confirmed reports that Hamas had managed to fool Israeli intelligence into believing it did not want a major conflict.

“We are telling the enemy that if they dare to enter Gaza, we will destroy their army,” he said.

Israel has called up 360,000 reservists and is assembling a large force on the border with Gaza, as well as a smaller one near the northern border with Lebanon, amid widespread speculation that it will invade Hamas-controlled territory, which it did for last time in 2014.

The military “is preparing multiple contingency operational plans” for what it expects to be a protracted war, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told reporters. “We are waiting to see what our political leadership decides about a possible ground war. “This has not yet been decided.”

He said Israeli warplanes were concentrating on attacking targets belonging to an elite Hamas unit known as Nukhba, which is believed to have led the attack on Israel. “We plan to capture every one of those people,” she said.

Although Israeli forces retook the entire area overrun by the raid within a few days, Hamas fighters were still trying to enter Israel, including by sea, Colonel Hecht said, adding that two were captured and five were killed on Wednesday.

In Gaza, 338,000 people have been displaced, the United Nations said, and most of them have taken refuge in U.N. schools. Egypt, which along with Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza for 16 years, has refused to allow people fleeing the bombings to enter its territory. US officials said the Biden administration was talking to Israel and Egypt about safe passage for the departure of civilians and the entry of aid supplies.

Israeli warplanes bombed 88 educational facilities in Gaza, including 18 U.N. schools, two of which were being used to house civilians, said Stéphane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesman.

Several medical and emergency workers have been killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza since Saturday, including four Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance drivers and paramedics who died on Wednesday, the group said. saying.

The Israeli siege of Gaza, which cuts off water, food and medical supplies, “is not acceptable,” Fabrizio Carboni, director of the International Committee of the Red Cross for the Middle East, said at a news conference. He added: “We need a safe humanitarian space.”

A constant stream of mangled and lifeless bodies flowed into Gaza’s largest medical center, Al Shifa Hospital. Ambulances, yellow taxis and private vehicles screeched to a stop at the entrance to transport the injured. Adults arrived carrying injured children or pushing people on stretchers or wheelchairs.

Inside, bloodied patients sat or lay on the tiled floor, awaiting treatment. Outside, bodies wrapped in white cloth lined the sidewalk waiting to be identified or picked up by loved ones.

Many of the limestone villas and high-rise buildings surrounding the hospital in Gaza City’s prosperous Al Rimal neighborhood have been reduced to rubble by the bombing. The Israeli military says the neighborhood is a Hamas financial center.

Hamas is backed by Iran, which is eager to derail efforts to normalize relations between its two regional archenemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. U.S. officials say they have so far seen no evidence of Iranian involvement in the Hamas attack.

But on Thursday, the United States and Qatar agreed to refreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues, preventing Tehran from spending them. The Biden administration agreed in August to release the money for Iran to spend on humanitarian needs in exchange for the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran.

The Hamas attack on Saturday was a shocking setback for Israel, with its powerful military and renowned intelligence services. The security apparatus failed to anticipate the incursion, failed to see that its border defenses could be easily defeated, and initially failed to grasp the scope of the attack or coordinate a response. People calling for help waited hours for police officers or troops to arrive.

While Israelis have largely shown solidarity in the aftermath, Israeli politicians have begun to face a backlash. On Wednesday, Idit Silman, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party who serves as environment minister, faced a jeering crowd as she visited the wounded in a hospital.

“You are responsible! Go home,” one person shouted. according to video published by Yneta popular Israeli news site.

Transport Minister Miri Regev was chased to her car and cursed at on Thursday as she tried to visit the injured in a hospital, and security guards restrained a young man who threw objects at her car. She has been widely criticized for not arranging emergency transportation for troops called to work on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, when most public transportation closes.

Economy Minister Nir Barkat also faced a disgruntled crowd at a hospital when he met with the wounded in Tel Aviv, according to video shared on social networks.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 14, a man named Shirel Chogeg grew increasingly angry as he described the injuries his sister suffered when Hamas gunmen invaded the Kfar Azza kibbutz and set fire to his family’s safe room.

“This terrible nightmare is registered in the names of all Knesset members and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, these reckless people who do not even take responsibility,” he said.

Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israeli army, acknowledged Thursday that the army had failed to live up to its responsibilities. “We will learn; we will investigate,” he said, “but now is the time for war.”

Eduardo Wong reported from Tel Aviv, and Hiba Yazbek of Jerusalem. The report was contributed by Samar Abu Elouf from Gaza City; Steven Erlanger, Raja Abdulrahim, Aaron Boxerman and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; nicolas casey from Madrid; Victoria Kim from Seoul; Farnaz Fassihi and Nadav Gavrielov from New York; Lara Jakes from Brussels; Monika Pronczuk From london; and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.

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