Status: 04.12.2023, 11:42 a.m.
Israel's ground offensive against Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip continues. Israel provides escape cards for Palestinian civilians.
AMMAN, Jordan – Israel carried out attacks in the northern and southern Gaza Strips on Sunday. Densely populated areas where Hamas militants are believed to be hiding were hit, and civilians were pushed into smaller areas. The opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to seek refuge are dwindling.
The worst casualties appear to have been in the already hard-hit north, where there were new attacks on the Jabalya refugee camp on Sunday. According to local media, this was reported by residents who were still suffering from the shelling of the previous day. Meanwhile, the military leadership signaled an expansion of ground operations in the war in Israel with new evacuation warnings in the southern city of Khan Younis, where Palestinians already displaced from the north had been ordered to move.
Israel Expands Ground Operations Against Hamas
"The Israeli army continues and expands ground operations against the Hamas presence in all parts of the Gaza Strip," Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at a press conference on Sunday.
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Earlier, the head of the Israel Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, told the reservists of the Gaza division that the war against Hamas is moving to the south and that the fighting will be just as fierce as in the north. "Just as we did it strongly and thoroughly in the northern Gaza Strip, we are now doing it in the southern Gaza Strip," he said.
However, aid agencies and fleeing Palestinians say the scattered attack sites and Israel's mixed messages about where to go have created panic and confusion, leaving families unable to find a clear path to safety amid intense bombardment and a severe humanitarian crisis.
Thousands killed after Hamas attack on Israel and ground operation in Gaza Strip
The Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip on Sunday counted at least 316 dead and another 664 wounded in the past 24 hours, adding that the number was likely to rise if the bodies were recovered from the rubble. Since the beginning of the war, more than 15,500 people have been killed and more than 41,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip, the ministry said on Sunday.
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Women mourn in front of the morgue of the Nasser Medical Hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Journalists in Khan Younis released footage showing desperate efforts to recover victims after the attacks in the city, where buildings collapsed and homes were destroyed. © Loay Ayyoub/The Washington Post
"We are killed twice. Once because of the bombing and destruction, and a second time because of the harsh living conditions, fear and terror," said Emad, a 56-year-old teacher who asked not to give his last name for security reasons. He said that his large family, who are housed in a shelter in the center of Khan Younis, had already moved four times. "They told us to move south, and we moved. Now there is no other way than this. Where shall we go?"
80 percent of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are refugees
Where should the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip go? According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 1.8 million people – or 80 percent of the population – are currently internally displaced.
Under increasing public pressure from President Joe Biden's administration and other Western allies, Israel has posted maps online to help Palestinians navigate to a "safer" zone. However, aid agencies and displaced families say the maps do not provide accurate information and take people to inaccessible, overcrowded or shelled areas.
The leaflets include a QR code for more information, but much of the enclave is almost completely blacked out and there are only sporadic phone or internet connections.
Israel Provides Maps for Fleeing Palestinians
"I cannot overstate the fear, panic and confusion that these Israeli maps are causing among civilians in #Gaza, including my own staff," Melanie Ward, director of the aid organization Medical Aid for Palestinians, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "People can't run from one place to another to escape the Israeli bombs, and that's not what international law expects them to do. What is being done here is unscrupulous."
In the maps, Israel has earmarked about 25 percent of the Gaza Strip for evacuation, according to OCHA. According to the aid organization, about 27,352 people lived in one of the zones — an area about 000 square miles east of Khan Younis — before the conflict broke out.
U.S. President Biden appeals to the government over Israel's war
In recent days, Biden administration officials have urged Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties in the nearly two-month war that erupted on October 7 after Hamas militants killed at least 1,200 people and kidnapped numerous more in a devastating attack inside Israel.
Israel responded with military operations that turned the Gaza Strip into what UN Secretary-General António Guterres called "hell on earth." 70 percent of the dead are women and children. Israel regrets the extent of the loss of civilian life in Gaza but blames Hamas, government spokesman Eylon Levy said on Sunday. "The Israeli army has made every effort to comply with our obligations under international law and to get civilians out of the danger zone," he said.
On Sunday, local journalists in Khan Younis released video footage showing desperate efforts to recover victims after the attacks in the city. The videos showed collapsed buildings and houses whose facades were knocked off. Men with bloodied, limp children in their arms were filmed running to an ambulance.
Criticism of Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the heavy bombings "petrifying" in a post late Saturday on X. A WHO team that visited the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis found the hospital three times as full as its capacity, with patients being "treated on the floor and screaming in pain."
A Palestinian medic runs after an Israeli attack on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 23, 2023 © SAID KHATIB/AFP
In the northern Gaza Strip there were also bloody scenes following the attacks on the Jabalya refugee camp and the Shejaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City. Al Jazeera reported that an entire block of flats in the Jabalya camp was razed to the ground on Sunday, burying dozens of people. Footage taken by journalists at the scene showed people searching for survivors or bodies in the smoking rubble in the camp, which is often the target of attacks.
Israel Reports Killing of Hamas Commander
In Shejaiya, residents and rescue workers were still working to recover victims of Saturday's attacks, which killed or injured hundreds of people, Palestinian officials said. Israel claimed to have killed a local Hamas military commander, Wissam Farhat, in the attack and said on Sunday that it would continue its operations there.
Mohammad, a 43-year-old resident who asked not to be named for security reasons, said his aunt and her family were among the dozens feared dead in Shejaiya. He recalled hearing explosions so powerful that his house "shook violently."
After the attacks, Mohammad said, he ran to help and saw that the three-story house where his aunt had taken refuge with about 40 other people was "completely under rubble." Dozens of other houses have been destroyed, Mohammad said, and he fears there are still dead or wounded under the rubble. "The sight was frightening and frightening — utter destruction," Mohammad said. "People began to dig up the bodies."
U.S. President Biden criticized for war in Israel
For weeks, representatives of humanitarian organizations have privately — and sometimes publicly — criticized the Biden administration for not relying more heavily on Israel to curb the attacks, which they describe as disproportionate, indiscriminate and a form of collective punishment in violation of international law. Hundreds of new deaths have been reported since fighting resumed on Friday after a brief pause due to an agreement to release prisoners.
On the sidelines of talks with Arab leaders in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris said, "Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed," and she called the scenes from the Gaza Strip "devastating."
For some observers, the recognition of the high losses by the US is welcome, albeit belated.
"Finally, the U.S. is saying what it should have said much earlier," Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, tweeted on Sunday. "The bombing was indiscriminate from the first week."
Balousha reported from Amman, Jordan; Berger from Jerusalem; and Allam from Cairo. Kareem Fahim in Beirut, Heba Farouk Mahfouz in Cairo and Rachel Pannett in Sydney contributed to this report.
About the authors
Miriam Berger covers foreign news for The Washington Post from Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Swiss Post in 2019, she lived in Jerusalem and Cairo and reported freelance-based from the Middle East, as well as parts of Africa and Central Asia.
Hannah Allam is responsible for extremism and domestic terrorism in the national security team.
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English by the "Washingtonpost.com" on December 4, 2023 - in the course of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.