The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is set to worsen as Israel gears up to intensify airstrikes to prepare the ground for an all-out ground offensive. Hamas’ attack on Israel and the retaliation has claimed nearly 5,800 lives so far, UN estimates say.
Here are the 10 latest developments:
A key objective of Israel’s ground offensive is to free the 200-odd hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 attacks. Israel’s military spokesperson Daniel Hagari has said the bombardment in Gaza will be intensified to minimise risks to troops when they enter the Strip, news agency AFP reported. The officer called upon Gaza city residents to move south for their safety.
Palestinians have received renewed warnings from Israel’s forces to move to the south of Gaza Strip, news agency Reuters has reported. The fresh warning adds that they could be identified as sympathisers with a “terrorist organisation” if they stayed put. The message was delivered in leaflets marked with the Israel Defense Forces name and logo from Saturday and also sent to people via mobile phone audio messages.
Hamas on Friday released two hostages — US citizens Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan. The mother-daughter pair was kidnapped from Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border on October 7. They were reportedly visiting Israel on a holiday.
Hamas has now claimed that they had offered to release two more hostages on humanitarian grounds, but Israel declined. A Reuters report has quoted Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing, as saying that the organisation had informed Qatar of its intention to release two more hostages. Qatar mediated the release of the US citizens Friday.
The Israeli government has termed the Hamas claim as “propaganda”. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement: “We will not refer to false propaganda by Hamas. “We will continue to act in every way to return all the kidnapped and missing people home.”
As the unrest in the region spirals, Israel’s bombings also put two airports in Syria out of service, AFP reported quoting Syrian state media. Government-controlled airports in Damascus and Aleppo are out of service and Syria’s transport ministry has said flights were re-routed to Latakia.
The airstrikes in Syria are being seen as a warning to its ally Iran, seen to back groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israel across its border with Lebanon and has warned of a bigger role in the war. Israel has said Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon “into a war that it will gain nothing from”.
Israel today bombed a mosque in the West Bank, under the control of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Tel Aviv has said the strike on Al-Ansar mosque in Jenin had killed “terror operatives” from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, AFP reported. The Palestinian health ministry said two men were killed in the strike. About 84 people have been killed in the West Bank area of Palestine since the war began.
Hamas’ stronghold Gaza is facing unprecedented devastation as Israel strikes back. The narrow Strip that houses about 2 million people was under complete siege as Israel cut off all supplies following the Hamas attacks. Yesterday, Tel Aviv allowed 20 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza, but UNICEF described this as a “drop in the ocean” considering the situation in the Strip.
Over 40 per cent of housing in Gaza has been damaged or destroyed, a UN report said, quoting local authorities. More than half of Gaza’s population has been displaced due to the airstrikes in the densely populated Strip. With sanitation facilities hit by Israel’s blockade on supplies, cases of chicken pox, scabies and diarrhea are being reported, the UN has said. The UN has called for an immediate end to violence. “Gaza was a desperate humanitarian situation before the most recent hostilities. It is now catastrophic. The world must do more,” five UN bodies have said in a statement.