Trapped With Nowhere To Go
6 December 2023, The Australian/AFP, by Adel Zaanoun – Sebastien Berger
Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday after expanding their offensive deeper into the besieged territory, with warnings that an “even more hellish scenario” was unfolding for trapped civilians.
The army has dropped leaflets on parts of the south, telling Palestinian civilians there to flee to other areas.
Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers were seen near the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, which is packed with civilians who fled their homes further north in the territory earlier in the war.
From Rafah, near Gaza’s border with Egypt, smoke could been seen rising from buildings in southern Gaza after Israeli bombardment.
The army said on Monday that it was taking “aggressive” action against “Hamas and other terrorist organisations” in Khan Yunis, warning that the main road in the north and east of the city “constitutes a battlefield”.
Rocket salvos were again fired from Gaza towards Israeli territory.
As the war spreads, international aid organisations have warned that civilians in the densely populated territory are running out of places to flee.
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go,” said Lynn Hastings, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for the Palestinian territories.
“If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond.”
Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant group’s October 7 attacks that killed 1200 people, mostly civilians, and which saw around 240 hostages taken. In retaliation for the worst attack in its history, Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and secure the release of all the hostages.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the war has killed nearly 16,000 people in the territory, about 70 per cent of them women and children.
Three more Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip, the army said on Tuesday, raising the number of troop deaths there to 78.
The Israeli army on Tuesday denied telling the World Health Organisation to empty an aid warehouse in southern Gaza within 24 hours before ground operations in the area render it unusable.
On Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X that his organisation had received a notification from the military “that we should remove our supplies from our medical warehouse in southern Gaza within 24 hours”.
Israel said it was not seeking to force Palestinian civilians to permanently leave their homes, but that it was instead seeking support from aid groups to improve infrastructure in a tiny coastal area of Gaza named al-Mawasi.
“We have asked civilians to evacuate the battlefield and we have provided a designated humanitarian zone inside the Gaza Strip,” an Israeli military spokesman said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, senior Israeli military officials admitted that about two civilians have been killed for every dead Hamas fighter.
The officials said the army was using hi-tech mapping software to track population movements inside the Gaza Strip and issue evacuation orders. The system incorporates mobile phone and other signals, aerial surveillance and word from local sources, as well as AI, to maintain a constantly updating map showing population concentrations. But the UN humanitarian office OCHA has questioned the usefulness of such a tool in an area where access to telecommunications and electricity is sporadic.
On Monday, all mobile and phone services were cut across Gaza “due to the cut-off of main fibre routes from the Israeli side”, according to Palestinian telecommunications firm Paltel. Global network monitor Netblocks confirmed on Tuesday that Gaza residents were experiencing “a total loss of communications”.
According to the Israeli military, at least 137 hostages are still being held in Gaza, but Hamas has ruled out more releases until a permanent ceasefire is agreed.
With several women still among the hostages, the US State Department said one of the reasons last week’s truce fell apart could be that Hamas did not want the women to “talk about what happened to them during their time” in captivity.Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=5f7aa1a2-2e8b-454b-b257-7bd574d494e0
Article source: The Australian / AFP | Adel Zaanoun - Sebastien Berger | 6.12.23