Desperation grows among Palestinians trapped with little aid as Israel battles Hamas in Gaza
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Desperation grew Thursday among Palestinians largely cut off from supplies of food and water as Israeli forces engaged in fierce urban battles with Hamas militants. Strikes in the southern Gaza town of Rafah sowed fear in one of the last places where civilians could seek refuge.
United Nations (UN) officials say there are no safe places in Gaza nearly a week after Israel widened its offensive into the southern half of the territory. Heavy fighting in and around the city of Khan Younis has displaced tens of thousands of people and cut most of Gaza off from aid deliveries. More than 80 per cent of the territory’s population has already fled their homes.
Two months into the war, the grinding offensive has triggered renewed international alarm. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres used a rarely exercised power to warn the Security Council of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe,” and Arab and Islamic nations called for a vote Friday on a draft Council resolution demanding a humanitarian cease-fire.
Gutteres explicitly cited Article 99 of the UN Charter, which allows the secretary-general to bring to the council’s attention any matter that he believes threatens international peace and security. The power has only been used a handful of times in the history of the world body.
The United States (US), Israel’s closest ally, appears likely to block any UN effort to halt the fighting. Still, US concern over the devastation was growing. Before the southern offensive, US officials told Israel it must limit civilian deaths and displacement, saying too many Palestinians were killed when it obliterated much of Gaza City and the north.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said casualties are still too high in a call with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, a senior State Department official said. Blinken told Dermer that Israel must also do more to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private diplomatic discussion.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Blinken said it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection.
“And there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there (last week) between the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” he said.
Israel says it must crush Hamas’ military capabilities and remove it from power following the October 7 attack that ignited the war.
In photos and video published Thursday, at least 100 Palestinian men are seen sitting in rows on a street in northern Gaza, stripped down to their underwear with their heads bowed as they are being guarded by Israeli troops. The Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news outlet said its correspondent Diaa Al-Kahlout was among those detained and had been taken to an unknown location.
The images were the first showing such detentions in the Israeli-Hamas war. Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said troops have detained and interrogated hundreds of people in Gaza suspected of militant links.