Israel’s military said on Saturday it was intensifying attacks on Hamas-controlled Gaza ahead of a planned ground invasion, as UN agents warned of a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in the besieged territory.
The first drop of aid from Egypt entered the Palestinian territories on Saturday, but the 20 trucks allowed to cross were described as “a drop in the ocean” given the needs of the 2.4 million residents.
According to Israeli officials, the military has hit Gaza with relentless strikes in response to Hamas’s murderous October 7 attack.
According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, the bombing campaign killed 4,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and reduced the densely populated area to smoking ruins.
More than 40 percent of all homes have been damaged or destroyed, and Israel has cut off supplies of food, water, fuel and electricity, according to the UN, citing local officials.
Israel will now intensify its bombing to reduce the risks to its troops when they launch a ground invasion, military spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said.
He said that we are reducing the risk by increasing the strike from today.
“We will increase the attacks, so I urge the residents of Gaza City to continue moving south for their safety.”
Israel has warned more than a million people living in the northern part of Gaza to move south for their own safety, and the UN
Bombing continued in the southern parts of the Strip, with Hamas officials reporting nine people killed in an overnight airstrike in Khan Yunis.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to remain in and around Gaza City in the north, unwilling or unable to leave.
Qatar is negotiating the release of the hostages
Israeli troops are massed along the Gaza border and commanders went to frontline units on Saturday to mobilize troops.
“We will enter Gaza,” said Commander-in-Chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi during a visit to an infantry unit.
“Gaza is densely populated and the enemy prepares a lot of things there – but we are preparing for them,” Halevi said.
A ground invasion presents myriad challenges for Israeli troops, who may be confronted by Hamas mines and tunnels in a densely packed urban environment.
Another complicating factor is the safety of the more than 200 hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 and held in Gaza.
Two American hostages were freed Friday evening, after mediation by Qatar, which it said could be released “very soon.”
“We are taking a path that will lead to the early release of hostages, especially civilians,” Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid al-Ansari told the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Saturday.
“We are currently working on an agreement under which all civilian hostages will be released early,” he added.
After negotiations and US pressure, 20 trucks carrying food and medicine, but no fuel, left Egypt for Gaza on Saturday.
The crossing was later closed, and UN officials warned.
“Gaza was a desperate humanitarian situation before the recent hostilities,” the five UN agencies said in a statement.
“It’s a disaster right now. The world needs to do more.”
‘Something to do’
At a peace summit organized by Egypt, UN chief Antonio Guterres again appealed for a humanitarian ceasefire “to end this nightmare”.
However, in a sign of international divisions, the meeting was unable to accept any joint call, with Western officials demanding a clear condemnation of Hamas and Arab participants wanting to issue their own statement criticizing world leaders.
Inside Gaza, shell-shocked residents said they did not know where to go or how to protect their families.
“Even in my worst dreams, I never thought this was possible,” said Rami Abu Wasna, looking out at the destruction in central Gaza’s al-Sahra neighborhood.
About 40 unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave in Gaza City on Saturday as the scale of the blast left basic systems inoperable and the cold storage ran out before they could be identified, the UN said.
On the border of Israel’s Kibbutz Biri, where Hamas militants killed 10 percent of the population, funeral arrangements were underway on Sunday.
Romy Gould, 70, said residents were still struggling to comprehend the horror of their experience.
“All around us whole families were shot or slaughtered or burned alive,” he told AFP.
Like many, he feels the ground invasion of Gaza “can’t come fast enough. Something has to be done.”
“There needs to be some kind of guarantee that it won’t happen again,” he said.
‘Better leave now’
The conflict has fueled fears of a wider outbreak as Israeli attacks and settler attacks in the West Bank have killed dozens of Palestinians.
Israel’s military said Sunday it targeted “terrorists” with an airstrike on a mosque in the West Bank town of Jenin, where Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group said they were planning new attacks.
One person was killed and three wounded in the strike, Palestinian news agency Wafa said, citing the local Red Crescent.
Firefights also continued along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where the army has traded attacks with the militant group Hezbollah.
In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah said four militants were killed, along with a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Three soldiers were wounded in anti-Hezbollah tank fire in the village of Baram, Israeli officials said, one of them critically, and two Thai farm workers were injured.
Western leaders have warned Hezbollah against meddling in the conflict, but the group’s No. 2 said it was open to increasing involvement.
“Let’s be clear as events unfold, if something comes up that requires us to intervene more, we will,” said Naim Qasim.
Israel has evacuated dozens of northern communities, and nearly 4,000 people in Lebanon have fled border areas to the southern city of Tyre.
“My children are all small. If disaster strikes, how can I get them out in one fell swoop?” Mustafa al-Sayed said one classroom had desks removed and dotted with thin cushions.
“So I thought, I better get out now.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)