Fierce gun battles and airstrikes continue for third consecutive day
The deadly conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups shows no signs of abating, as intense fighting entered the third day on Monday. According to latest reports, the death toll from the violence has crossed 1500, with over 900 Palestinians and more than 600 Israelis killed since clashes erupted over the weekend.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out hundreds of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip overnight, targeting what it says were Hamas military infrastructure and rocket launch sites. Palestinian authorities reported multiple hits on residential buildings in densely populated urban areas like Gaza City, leading to mass casualties. “The strikes have been relentless. No one in Gaza feels safe anymore,” tweeted Reuters correspondent Ahmed Aldabba.
On the other side of the border, sirens wailed in Israeli towns as over 2000 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israeli cities and villages, according to IDF. Air raid warning systems intercepted many of the missiles, but some managed to hit populated regions including Tel Aviv and Ashkelon, killing at least 10 civilians including two children. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “respond with great force” to the Hamas rocket assaults.
Ground skirmishes also intensified near the border fence separating Israel and Gaza. Hamas militants broke through defensive barriers and attacked civilians in the southern Israeli city of Netiv Ha’asara on Saturday, killing over 250 people including women and children in a grisly ambush. The brazen cross-border attack was termed as “unprecedented” by security experts. Four Israeli armored divisions have now been deployed to stamp out remaining pockets of Hamas resistance.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to broker a truce seem to have hit roadblocks. A high-level United Nations delegation that was scheduled to travel to Tel Aviv and Ramallah was asked by Israel to postpone the visit. The US reaffirmed its support for “Israel’s right to defend itself” and blocked a proposed UNSC statement seeking to end hostilities, signaling Washington’s reluctance to intervene. Tensions continue to escalate with no end to the bloodshed in sight.
Humanitarian crisis mounts as vital supplies cut off
The intensifying conflict has triggered a major humanitarian emergency in the densely populated Gaza Strip according to aid agencies. Israeli authorities announced a complete closure of all border crossings with Gaza and cut off water and fuel supplies to the region, aggravating an already dire situation.
“Gaza was on the brink of collapse even before this latest escalation. The crisis will deepen with every passing day the blockade stays in place,” said Matthew Robinson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Hospitals overwhelmed by casualties continue to face severe shortages of essential medicines and equipment. The sole power plant in Gaza shut down yesterday after running out of fuel. With no generator fuel either, millions have been left without electricity. Several sewage and water pumping stations also stopped working, increasing health risks.
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini warned that essential services sustaining civilians could completely breakdown within days unless the blockade is lifted. His agency opened up several schools to shelter over 500,000 displaced Palestinians who fled bombardments, compounding shelter needs. International appeals have been made to allow emergency aid and reconstruction material into the territory to avert a large-scale catastrophe.
World leaders call for de-escalation but sides remain defiant
As the violence entered its bloodiest phase yet, global leaders intensified diplomatic efforts for de-escalation. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged both sides to “end immediately” military operations and expressed “serious concern” over casualties. He called on the international community to work with the UN on facilitating mediation mechanisms between Israel and Palestine.
However, Israeli political leadership appeared in no mood to cease fire as the country observed days of mourning for victims of Hamas attacks. Addressing bereaved families, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to “extract a very heavy price” from militant groups and “significantly expand” operations. Hardline politicians accused him of being too soft.
Hamas Spokesman Hazem Qassem also dismissed the prospect of unilateral ceasefire until Israel ends its 14-year blockade of Gaza. He warned Israel of more “surprises” if offensives continue in Palestinian territory. Violence thus seems set to escalate further with both sides hardening their stances, threatening more bloodshed in the coming days.
As diplomatic efforts remain deadlocked and violence spirals out of control pushing the death toll over 1500 lives lost, concerned global citizens have taken to social media to appeal for peace using the #IsraelGazaCeasefire hashtag. World leaders maintain intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy to convince key actors to give conflict mediation an opportunity and pull the region back from the brink of an all-out war. But difficult road ahead remains.