In a grim escalation of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli fighter jets unleashed a barrage of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, pounding neighborhoods into rubble and sending residents scrambling for safety in the besieged territory.
On Tuesday, the Israeli response followed Hamas’ surprise weekend attack on Israel, which has now claimed over 1,800 lives on both sides and left the region teetering on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Support organizations have urgently called for establishing humanitarian corridors to facilitate the delivery of essential supplies into Gaza, where hospitals are overwhelmed with wounded and running out of critical medical resources.
Reportedly, Israel’s blockade on the entry of food, fuel, and medicines into Gaza, along with the shutdown of the sole remaining access from Egypt due to airstrikes near the border crossing, compounds the dire situation.
Hamas Militants’ Crossing, Israeli Reservists Mobilized
The conflict erupted when Hamas militants crossed into Israel on Saturday, igniting gun battles in Israeli streets for the first time in decades.
Israel claims that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza are holding more than 150 soldiers and civilians hostage. As the situation intensifies, Israel has expanded the mobilization of reservists to 360,000, signaling the potential for a prolonged and devastating conflict.
The region finds itself in the middle of contention, considering Hamas has governed this territory since 2007—leading to a pressing question: Will Israel launch a ground offensive into Gaza, a densely populated strip of land home to 2.3 million people, wedged between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea?
Ravaging of Rimal: A New Tactic
Also, on Tuesday, a substantial portion of Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood was reduced to rubble after hours of relentless bombardment by warplanes.
Residents were left to survey the wreckage of their homes, with buildings torn in half or reduced to piles of concrete and rebar. Cars were flattened, and streets once bustling with life now resemble moonscapes.
The Israeli military reported striking hundreds of targets in Rimal, an upscale district housing government ministries, universities, media organizations, and aid agency offices.
A concerning development is Israel’s approach to warning civilians to evacuate certain areas before intensively targeting them, effectively making it a tactic to push civilians into central Gaza City, where there is now no safe haven.
The intensification of violence has left Palestinian civilians, including journalists, fearing for their lives. Hasan Jabar, a Gaza journalist, expressed his concerns following the loss of three of his colleagues during the Rimal bombardment, stating:
“There is no safe place in Gaza right now; you see decent people being killed every day,” cited by AP News.
Tensions Escalate: Hamas Rockets and Israel’s Resolve
In response to the Israeli airstrikes, Hamas fired barrages of rockets toward Israeli cities, including Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, on Tuesday afternoon. While there were no immediate reports of casualties, the exchange of fire raises questions about the strategic objectives of Hamas amid Israel’s retaliatory ferocity.
Desperation among Palestinians has grown as they grapple with the unending Israeli control of the West Bank, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the blockade in Gaza, and perceived global indifference.
The senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri acknowledged that the group had prepared for “all-out war” and was ready to endure “severe blows.” He hinted at the potential for the conflict to extend to the West Bank and for Lebanon’s Hezbollah to engage in the north, although significant developments in these areas have yet to materialize.
Hamas has resorted to threatening to kill an Israeli civilian captive each time Israel targets Gaza’s civilian population without prior warning. In response, Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, labeled this a “war crime” that would not go unpunished. Israel appears steadfast in its resolve to crush Hamas, regardless of the cost.
Unprecedented Casualties and International Engagement
The audacity of the militants’ attack on Israel has shocked the nation, with a death toll exceeding anything seen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria. These casualties have occurred over a shorter time frame, featuring distressing scenes of Hamas militants targeting civilians on the streets, at a music festival, and even on roadways, capturing men, women, and children.
US President Joe Biden is set to engage in discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the coordination with allies to “defend Israel and innocent people against terrorism.”
According to local authorities, the toll of the conflict continues to rise, with more than 1,000 people killed in Israel and 830 in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel asserts that hundreds of Hamas fighters are among the casualties. Thousands of people on both sides have been wounded, exacerbating the crisis.
Humanitarian Crisis and the Call for Aid
The Israeli military has reported the discovery of approximately 1,500 Hamas militants’ bodies on Israeli territory, although it remains uncertain whether these figures overlap with previous Palestinian authority reports. Over 187,000 people have been displaced in Gaza, seeking shelter in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)-run schools. The destruction of water and sanitation facilities has cut off services to 400,000 people.
Israel’s announcement of a “complete siege” on Gaza has halted the delivery of essential supplies, leaving the Rafah crossing with Egypt as the only remaining access point. Regrettably, the crossing was shut down on Tuesday due to nearby Israeli airstrikes, leaving thousands of families desperately seeking a means of escape.
Egyptian officials are engaged in negotiations with Israel and the United States, striving to establish humanitarian corridors to provide aid to Gaza. The UN’s World Health Organization has echoed these calls, citing the depletion of medical supplies and the overwhelming influx of casualties in Gaza.
As the conflict rages on, civilians in Gaza and the West Bank continue to bear the brunt of the violence, trapped between the political and military strategies of the warring parties. The international community faces mounting pressure to address the crisis, prevent further loss of life, and provide humanitarian aid to those in need. The future remains uncertain as the region teeters on the brink of a devastating humanitarian catastrophe.