A Week of Devastation
JERUSALEM (AP) — As the latest Israel-Hamas conflict enters its seventh day, over a million people in the northern Gaza Strip have received orders to evacuate southwards. This development has created panic among civilians and aid workers who are already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a longstanding blockade of the Hamas-ruled region. International aid groups are warning of a worsening humanitarian crisis as Israel has prevented the entry of essential supplies from Egypt to Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.
In just one week, this latest Israel-Hamas conflict has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people on both sides since Hamas launched a surprising attack on October 7. Let’s delve into some of the key takeaways from this ongoing crisis.
WHAT HAS OCCURRED SINCE THE START OF THE LATEST ISRAEL-HAMAS CONFLICT?
Reporters Under Attack: In a devastating incident, a blast from an Israeli artillery hit a group of global journalists documenting the intense clashes along the southern Lebanon border. This tragic event resulted in the loss of a talented Reuters videographer’s life and left six other journalists wounded.
Siege and Scarce Resources: Gaza finds itself ensnared in a siege enforced by Israel, resulting in a severe shortage of vital necessities such as sustenance, fuel, power, and medical supplies. Furthermore, the lone border crossing connecting Egypt and Gaza was shuttered in the aftermath of nearby Israeli aerial strikes. Adding to the plight, the internet connectivity in Gaza City has dipped to a meager 20% since this past Tuesday.
Forced Migration Dilemma: Trapped between sealed borders in Gaza, residents have limited options, primarily heading south towards Egypt. Yet, this escape route is fraught with challenges as Israel persists in airstrikes across Gaza, and Egypt strives to maintain border security, grappling with the potential influx of Palestinian refugees.
International Evacuations: Governments across the globe have been relentless in their endeavors to bring home their citizens and dual nationals entangled in the turmoil, facing formidable obstacles due to the widespread cancellation of commercial flights.
Israel’s Response: Faced with mounting public pressure to confront the longstanding rule of Hamas in Gaza since 2007, Israel has initiated the mobilization of 360,000 army reservists and has issued a stern warning of an unprecedented retaliation against Hamas’ recent incursion.
Casualties: The Gaza Health Ministry has reported approximately 1,800 individuals in the region who have lost their lives. Meanwhile, the Israeli military has confirmed that over 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, have tragically lost their lives in Israel. This marks the highest death toll in Israel since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria. According to the Israeli government, approximately 1,500 Hamas militants also perished during the conflict.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN GAZA?
Amid ongoing airstrikes relentlessly targeting the area, families in a variety of vehicles, from cars and trucks to even donkey carts, are making their escape from Gaza City, clutching their meager belongings and blankets. Meanwhile, countless other Palestinians throughout the region are confronted with the heart-wrenching decision of whether to remain or heed the Israeli evacuation order.
Before the evacuation orders were issued, the United Nations reported that 423,000 residents of the Gaza Strip had already abandoned their homes. Gaza, a slender strip of land spanning just 40 kilometers (25 miles), finds itself nestled between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea. For many Palestinians, this dire situation awakens haunting memories of the massive displacement they endured during the 1948 conflict surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel.
HOW HAS THE WORLD RESPONDED?
United States: President Joe Biden has placed a strong emphasis on addressing the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip as a top priority for his administration.
Reassurance from the United States: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provided Israel with a firm commitment, affirming, “You can count on us,” as America’s foremost diplomat engaged in discussions with both Israeli and Arab leaders.
United Nations: The United Nations Security Council faced challenges in reaching a unified stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict during their second closed-door meeting in less than a week.
Russia’s Innovative Approach: Amidst escalating tensions, Russia has introduced a groundbreaking proposition—a “humanitarian pause.” However, gaining approval might prove challenging, given Israel’s imminent ground operation against Hamas insurgents in Gaza.
EU Alert: Charles Michel, a prominent European Union figure, has issued a stark warning regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict. He cautions that this ongoing conflict might trigger a significant influx of refugees towards Europe, potentially stoking anti-immigrant sentiments and further widening divisions within the region.
Regional Concerns: The Iranian foreign minister sounded a warning, emphasizing that unless Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip cease forthwith, there’s a palpable risk of an escalation in turmoil across various corners of the Middle East. Meanwhile, Syria’s president has urged nations around the globe to join forces in preventing “the injustices that Israel is perpetrating against the Palestinian population.”
WHAT PROMPTED HAMAS’ ATTACK ON ISRAEL?
Hamas, an organization labeled as a terrorist group by several countries, including the United States, European Union, Canada, and Israel, asserts that it is defending Palestinians’ right to freedom and self-determination. However, their surprise attack on October 7 has led to significant devastation, raising concerns about their strategy and objectives.
The Palestinian population is facing growing desperation due to ongoing Israeli control, expanding settlements in the West Bank, the blockade in Gaza, and perceived global indifference. Hamas officials have pointed to a continuing dispute over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, as a contributing factor. This dispute, also known as the Temple Mount to Jews, has previously escalated into violent conflicts, including the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.
The Israel-Hamas conflict remains intricate and dynamic, carrying substantial consequences for the region and the international community. Efforts to find a peaceful resolution continue to be elusive, prompting global concern as the situation develops.