Israeli air strikes are pounding the Gaza Strip for a sixth consecutive day as fears of a humanitarian disaster in the besieged Palestinian enclave mount.
Israel on Thursday said it has dropped 6,000 bombs weighing 4,000 tonnes on Gaza in the past six days, killing more than 1,400 people.
Officials in Gaza said the dead included 447 children, 248 women and 10 healthcare workers. More than 150 people were killed on Thursday alone.
Entire neighbourhoods in Gaza – home to 2.3 million people, half of them children – have been destroyed by the incessant bombing, forcing 338,000 Palestinians to flee their homes and take shelter.
The death toll in the occupied West Bank has also surged to 31 while more than 600 people have been injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
On the Israeli side, at least 1,300 people have been killed since the armed Palestinian group Hamas attacked southern Israel and took at least 100 people captive on Saturday.
Israel has imposed a complete siege of Gaza, cutting access to food, water, medicines and fuel, as its forces prepare for a possible ground assault.
Here is a recap of the latest developments:
Gazans rendered homeless by bombing
The United Nations humanitarian office said Israeli bombardment of Gaza has levelled more than 1,000 homes since Saturday while another 560 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.
More than 12,600 homes have sustained damage due to Israeli air strikes, said the agency, called the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It said the reduction in water supplies due to Israel tightening its siege on the strip has resulted in dire water shortages for more than 650,000 people.
Sewage systems have been destroyed, OCHA added, sending fetid wastewater into the streets and posing a health hazard.
Israeli air strikes have made cemeteries in Gaza dangerous to reach so mourning families are burying their dead in informal graveyards dug in empty lots, reports said.
Hospitals ‘risk turning into morgues’
Human rights groups said Gaza’s health system, already stretched to its limits by a 16-year blockade, is on the verge of complete collapse. The enclave’s only power plant was forced to shut down on Wednesday after it ran out of fuel.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Gaza’s hospitals “risk turning into morgues” as severely wounded civilians, including infants, are rushed inside its crowded wards, where beds and medical supplies are running out.
“As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director.
OCHA said all 13 hospitals in the territory are only partially operational due to severe shortages of fuel and crucial medical supplies.
Israel on Thursday said there would be no humanitarian exceptions to its siege of Gaza until all its hostages are freed by Hamas.
“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be lifted, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said in a social media post.
Egypt says facilitating aid flights to Gaza
Egypt on Thursday said it was directing international aid flights for Gaza to an airport in northern Sinai although Israeli bombardments along the border have so far hampered the delivery of the relief.
The Rafah border crossing between the Sinai and Gaza remained open, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, adding that Egypt asked Israel to avoid targeting the Palestinian side of the crossing after strikes prevented normal operations there.
Israel’s bombing and total siege on Gaza has caused alarm in Egypt, which shares a border with the south of the narrow coastal enclave.
El Arish airport in northern Sinai, about 45km (28 miles) from the Gaza border, was prepared to receive aid deliveries from Qatar and Jordan, but these would not leave the airport until humanitarian corridors had been established, Egyptian security sources told the Reuters news agency.
US secretary of state in Israel
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Thursday as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to send a message of unequivocal support to its ally Israel and deter regional forces hostile to it from joining the fight alongside Hamas.
Blinken addressed reporters in Tel Aviv, saying the death toll for US citizens killed in the attacks by Hamas has risen to at least 25, up from 22 on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Thank you, America, for standing with Israel today, tomorrow and always.”
Also on Thursday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he expected Israel’s military to “do the right thing” as it prepares for a ground assault on Gaza. He said the US has placed no conditions on military assistance to Israel.
Rights groups worry that, facing little outside pressure, Israel’s assault on Gaza could move forward with little regard for civilian casualties or adherence to international law.
Palestinians killed by settlers in West Bank
While the world’s focus has been fixed on events in Gaza and Israel, tensions in the occupied West Bank are also at a boiling point with an Israeli lockdown in place and Israeli settlers killing several Palestinians in a series of attacks over the past week.
On Thursday, a Palestinian father and his son were shot dead by Israeli settlers and soldiers taking part in a funeral procession held for four Palestinians killed in a settler attack the day before.
Also on Thursday, two Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces in a shooting near a police station in occupied East Jerusalem.
Israeli police said they opened fire at a group of Palestinians after one man allegedly shot at the police station.__Courtesy aljazeera.com