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Israel Increases Airstrikes on Supposed “Safe” Zones on 11th Day of Bombardment

Ahead of Biden’s visit to Israel, a crisis looms with less than 24 hours of water, electricity and fuel left in Gaza.

Civil defense teams and residents launch a search and rescue operation around the buildings that were destroyed after Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip, in Khan Yunis, Gaza, on October 17, 2023.

Key Developments

  • White House announces U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Israel and then Jordan on Wednesday.
  • Humanitarian aid convoys have arrived at the Rafah crossing in Egypt, but there is no confirmation they will be allowed to enter Gaza. The Rafah crossing has also been bombed repeatedly since October 7, rendering it increasingly difficult for any aid to enter.
  • Israel says it killed a senior Hamas leader, Osama Mazini; allegedly responsible for the direct attacks against Israel.
  • Israel is conducting mass arrests across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At least 400 have been detained since October 7.
  • Less than 24 hours of water, electricity, and fuel is left in Gaza; World Health Organization warns of “a real catastrophe.”

Gaza Conditions Worsen by the Hour

The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate as the population enters its 11th day of ongoing bombardment from Israel.

The humanitarian situation is dire, as necessities continue to be blocked by Israel’s complete siege of the area, preventing food, water, medical supplies, and fuel from entering the Gaza Strip. The UN warns that the population is facing an alarming humanitarian crisis.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a statement on Monday saying there are only “24 hours of water, electricity and fuel left,” at which point “a real catastrophe” will set in.

Approximately 600 Palestinian Americans in Gaza have been told by official embassy warnings to go to the Rafah crossing using safe routes, all of which have been targeted and bombed by Israeli airstrikes.

The Israeli military said they launched over 200 airstrikes overnight and early Tuesday across the Gaza Strip targeting Hamas. Palestinians in Gaza reported that the majority of Israeli shelling was in the south of Gaza, where Israel told Palestinians to take refuge.

Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent Tareq Hajjaj reported that “in the southern Bureij region, designated a ‘safe’ zone by the Israeli army where civilians were directed to flee, Israel committed a massacre in a school where refugees were seeking shelter.”

“In Khan Younis, another family was also targeted by an airstrike, in which 30 people were killed as their house was brought down on top of them,” Hajjaj continued. “These massacres are being committed on a daily basis. Civilians are being clearly targeted in their homes, in schools, and in public streets.”

Palestinian media reports at least 71 Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded during airstrikes that hit homes in Rafah and Khan Younis, south of Gaza.

Tareq Hajjaj reports that by now 100 people have been killed in the airstrikes, all in the supposed “safe” zones where the army had directed people to flee. It has become a clear and consistent pattern, whereby “the Israeli army tells residents to flee to the area and then bombs it,” according to Hajjaj.

While ambulances rescue people from the rubble and transport them to overcrowded hospitals, medical teams report that the death toll is expected to rise as many people are still trapped.

Al Jazeera reported that the medical team in Khan Younis’s Nasser Hospital is struggling to keep up with the surge of injuries and the constant stream of patients.

“There’s a shortage of medical supplies and they are asking for a humanitarian corridor as well as medical help,” said the Al Jazeera correspondent.

Mondoweiss’s Tareq Hajjaj also reports that the Gaza health ministry has called upon citizens who have stockpiled fuel to donate it to hospitals so that “they may continue to save the lives of the injured.”

According to the WHO, at least 11,000 people are injured in Gaza, half of whom are women and children.

There is no safety and security for Palestinian medical care in Gaza or the occupied West Bank; the WHO recorded at least 115 attacks on health facilities across the Gaza Strip.

More Delays in Emergency Aid to Gaza Will Be Catastrophic

On Tuesday morning, trucks carrying aid for the Gazan population arrived at the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing. While the US, Israel, and Egypt agreed to a deal allowing emergency aid into Gaza, there has yet to be a confirmation on when the assistance will be allowed.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for convoys to enter from the Rafah border crossing logistically as Palestinians and Israeli media both report that Israel has bombed the crossing several times, most recently on Monday, allegedly to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza’s population.

The UN health agency’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, says the aid convoys stuck in Egypt at the Rafah border crossing must be allowed in. If they are not, he said doctors must “prepare death certificates for their patients.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim have called for a humanitarian corridor and unimpeded access to Gaza.

“Given the dire situation in Gaza, I strongly advocate for the immediate cessation of bombardment and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor in Rafah,” said Anwar.

“It is crucial and paramount to prioritize the well-being and safety of all individuals affected by this crisis. In this spirit, we are committed to delivering humanitarian aid, particularly in the form of food and medicine, to alleviate the suffering of those in need,” he continued.

On Monday, Israeli politician Avigdor Liberman tweeted against allowing aid to Gaza’s population of over two million people until the Red Cross can visit the Hamas-held captives and “make sure they are kept in proper conditions as required by international law.”

According to Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, there are currently about 200 to 250 captives in Gaza. They also report that 22 captives have been killed in Israeli airstrikes.

Abu Obeida says they are being treated well and per “the Islamic faith.”

In terms of the non-Israeli captives, he says, “We consider them our guests. The second the circumstances allow, we will release them,” he said.

Russia drafted a Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the safe evacuation of civilians, and the release of captives held in Gaza. However, it was rejected on Monday after a U.S.-led opposition accused Russia of giving “cover” to Hamas, as the group was not mentioned in the resolution.

Mass Arrests Across the Occupied West Bank

As Israel’s blockade is starving and carpet bombing the two million Palestinians living in Gaza, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are protesting.

Palestinian media reports that the Israeli army in the West Bank is conducting mass arrests in an effort to prevent uprisings in the West Bank which have had deadly results.

On Tuesday alone, Israeli forces killed two Palestinains during their military raid, bringing the death toll in the West Bank up to 60 since October 7. 17-year-old Mohammad Nidal Melhem was killed during a military raid in Hebron and 72-year-old Samir Sabra was shot dead in Nablus.

According to the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Authority, since October 7 there have been 680 detainees,25% of whom are minors and the elderly. Videos circulating social media show young men being rounded up by Israeli soldiers, blindfolded and verbally abused.

On Tuesday alone, a wide-scale detention operation in several areas of the occupied West Bank took place. Israeli forces arrested 115 Palestinians, including 50 workers from the Gaza Strip taking refuge in the West Bank after being forced to leave their workplaces in Israel.

Amani Sahrna, the media official at the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said, “the arrests were distributed in all governorates of the West Bank, and among those detained were former representatives in the Legislative Council.”

Biden Announces Visit to Palestine

The U.S. President, Joe Biden, plans to visit Israel on Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says ther president’s trip is to affirm his solidarity with Israel. Following his trip to Israel, Biden plans to meet with King Abdullah, the Egyptian president and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan. It is expected that Biden is in the region to discuss plans Israel’s next steps in Gaza, including a possible ground invasion.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Kirby said Biden will also “reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination, and he’ll again discuss the humanitarian needs of all civilians in Gaza.”

In addition to the $3.8 billion in annual military assistance the U.S. provides to Israel, the Democratic Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, announced he is working with the Biden administration on “an emergency supplemental [spending bill] that will give Israel the tools it needs to defend itself”.

“That means military assistance, intelligence assistance, diplomatic assistance, and humanitarian assistance to care for innocent civilians. We want to move this package quickly,” Schumer said.

The U.S. is deploying at least two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean. Reuters has also reported that around 2,000 U.S. troops, including medical assistance, have been told to prepare to deploy within 24 hours. However, the Biden administration has repeatedly said they have no plans to put “U.S. boots on the ground.”

The Wall Street Journal reported the troops would not be used for combat but assigned to advise and offer medical support to their Israeli counterparts.

“What we have done is sent experts from across our government to the region to consult and advise with their Israeli counterparts,” said the White House principal deputy national security advisor Jon Finer to MSNBC last week.

Mondoweiss‘s Tareq Hajjaj reports that in Khan Younis, people speculate that Biden’s visit to Palestine will give Israel the green light to wipe Gaza out, “especially in light of recent news that there is going to be a ground invasion starting Sunday.”

“People in Khan Younis are viewing Biden’s expected visit with foreboding,” Hajjaj continued.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, who has described the U.S. as a “great ally,” said the attack on Gaza “will be a long war; the price will be high.’

Meanwhile, in the U.S., progressive legislators have introduced a congressional resolution urging “an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.”