Israel is escalating its bombardment of targets in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground invasion against Hamas militants. The war is rapidly raising the death toll in Gaza, and the U.S. fears the fighting could spark a wider conflict in the region.
Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 704 people in the past day, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Israel said it had launched 400 airstrikes over the past day, killing Hamas commanders, hitting militants as they were preparing to launch rockets into Israel, and striking command centers and a Hamas tunnel shaft.
The previous day, Israel reported 320 strikes. The Palestinian official news agency, WAFA, said many of the airstrikes hit residential buildings, some of them in southern Gaza where Israel had told civilians to take shelter.
Hamas’s military arm, Qassam Brigades, said it fired a salvo of rockets on southern Israeli on Tuesday afternoon, including Beersheba, Israel’s largest city in the area. There was no immediate word on any damage or casualties.
Gaza Running Out of Food, Water, Medicine
Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been running out of food, water, and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the Hamas attack on Israeli towns on Oct. 7. The aid convoys allowed into Gaza so far have carried a fraction of what’s needed, and the U.N. said distribution will have to stop if there’s no fuel for the trucks.
The war, in its 18th day Tuesday, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Health Ministry said at least 5,791 Palestinians have been killed and 16,297 wounded. In the occupied West Bank, 96 Palestinians have been killed and 1,650 wounded in violence and Israeli raids since Oct. 7.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians who died in the initial Hamas rampage. In addition, 222 people including foreigners were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, Israel’s military has said. Four of those have been released.
UN Says Humanitarian Situation Is ‘Desperate’
CAIRO — The U.N. health agency on Tuesday called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza to be able to distribute fuel and essential, life-saving health supplies, including to major hospitals in the strip’s northern half.
“For people in the Gaza Strip, the situation is desperate. It will become catastrophic without the safe and continuous passage of fuel and health supplies, and additional humanitarian assistance,” the World Health Organization said in a statement.
The organization said some health facilities in northern Gaza, including the territory’s largest Shifa hospital, were waiting for WHO’s supplies and fuel. Among them is the Indonesian hospital, which suffered a brief power outage and was forced to shutter some critical services due to lack of fuel.
Gaza’s only oncology hospital, the Turkish Friendship Hospital, remains partially functional, putting around 2000 cancer patients at risk, the agency added.
Supported by the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the health agency said it delivered 34,000 liters (8,981.85 gallons) of fuel Monday to four major hospitals in southern Gaza and the Palestine Red Crescent. Such an amount was only enough to keep ambulances and critical hospital functions running for a little more than 24 hours.
It also distributed medicine and other supplies to key hospitals in southern Gaza, as well as the Palestine Red Crescent.
UN Chief: Rules of War Must Be Obeyed
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is warning that “the situation in the Middle East is growing more dire by the hour,” with the risk of the latest Israel-Hamas war spiraling through the region as tensions threaten to boil over.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and appealed “to all to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even farther.”
He told the U.N. Security Council’s monthly Middle East meeting — which has been turned into a high-level event with more than a dozen foreign ministers flying to New York — that the rules of war must be obeyed.
Guterres said the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify “the horrifying and unprecedented Oct. 7 acts of terror” by Hamas in Israel, and he demanded the immediate release of all hostages.
He also stressed that “those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” He called Israel’s constant bombardment of Gaza and the level of civilian casualties “alarming,” stressing that their protection in conflict is paramount.