Israel pounds Gaza’s north, steps up ground assault as calls to let in aid intensify

30 October 2023 - 09:22 By Nidal Al Mughrabi
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
A combination picture shows the Palestinian city of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip before and after destruction caused by the conflict between Israel and Hamas, on October 10 and 21, 2023.
A combination picture shows the Palestinian city of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip before and after destruction caused by the conflict between Israel and Hamas, on October 10 and 21, 2023.
Image: Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

Palestinians in northern Gaza reported fierce air and artillery strikes early on Monday as Israeli troops backed by tanks pressed into the enclave with a ground assault that prompted more international calls for civilians to be protected.

Israel's military said it had struck more than 600 militant targets over the past few days as it continued to expand ground operations in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian civilians are in dire need of fuel, food and clean water as the conflict enters its fourth week.

“Israeli defence force troops killed dozens of terrorists who barricaded themselves in buildings and tunnels and attempted to attack the troops,” the military said.

Israeli air strikes hit areas near Gaza's Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals, and Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli forces in a border area east of the city of Khan Younis in the south, Palestinian media said.

There was no comment from Hamas. Reuters was not able to independently confirm the reports.

The bombardments came hours after Israel released images of battle tanks on the west coast of the Palestinian enclave, signalling a potential effort to surround Gaza's main city two days after the Israeli government ordered expanded ground incursions. Some pictures posted online also appeared to show Israeli soldiers waving an Israeli flag deep inside Gaza. Reuters could not verify the images.

Israel's self-declared “second phase” of a three-week war against Iranian-backed Hamas militants has been largely kept from public view, with forces moving under darkness and a telecommunications blackout cutting off Palestinians.

The phone and internet cuts appeared to ease on Sunday, but telecoms provider Paltel said Israeli air strikes had again knocked out internet and phone service in parts of Gaza's northern sections, where Hamas has command centres.

The outages have severely hampered rescue operations for casualties of the Israeli barrages.

The reported strikes near hospitals came after the Palestinian Red Crescent said on Sunday it had received warnings from Israeli authorities to immediately evacuate al-Quds hospital, where about 14,000 people have sought shelter.

Israel has accused Hamas of locating command centres and other military infrastructure in Gaza hospitals, which the group denies.

Palestinian officials said about 50,000 people had also taken shelter in Al-Shifa Hospital, adding they were concerned about Israeli threats to the facility.

Israel has tightened its blockade and bombardment of Gaza since Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel on October 7. Israeli authorities said the militants killed about 1,400 people and took at least 239 hostages.

The military has also stepped up operations against Islamist groups in the West Bank, killing scores of Palestinians and arresting hundreds.

Israeli security forces killed four people during a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin early on Monday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The attacks coincided with a mounting international outcry for a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid in.

Qatar-mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas continued on Sunday, a source briefed on the talks said, and included discussions about the possible release of hostages.

Hamas wants a five-day humanitarian pause in Israel's operations to allow aid and fuel into the Gaza Strip in return for the release of all civilian hostages held by the militants.

More than half the hostages held by Hamas have foreign passports from 25 countries, including 54 Thai nationals, according to the Israeli government.

On Monday, the UN Security Council is due to be briefed on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The 15-member body has unsuccessfully voted four times in the past two weeks on draft resolutions that aimed to take action on the war, but the 193-member UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Friday to call for an immediate humanitarian truce.

US President Joe Biden pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call on Sunday to protect civilians in Gaza and “immediately and significantly increase the flow of humanitarian aid”, the White House said.

Col Elad Goren of Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry agency that co-ordinates with the Palestinians, said Israel will allow a dramatic increase in aid to Gaza in the next few days and Palestinian civilians should head to a “humanitarian zone” in the south of the territory.

Medical authorities in Gaza, which has a population of 2.3-million people, said on Sunday 8,005 people, including 3,324 minors, had been killed.

The Hamas-run Gaza government's media office said 116 medics and 35 journalists have been killed.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the figures.

Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas, a task it described as necessitating protracted ground assaults in, around and under Gaza City, where the militants have an extensive subterranean bunker network.

There are fears too the war will spill over into the region, including in Lebanon, where the Israeli army and Iranian-backed Hezbollah group have been exchanging fire.

On Monday Syrian state TV said Israeli air strikes targeted two army posts in Daraa, leading to “some material losses”.

The conflict has spurred large demonstrations worldwide in support of the Palestinians. On Sunday several thousand people rallied in Beirut to show solidarity with Gaza.

Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters stormed Russia's Dagestan airport in Makhachkala on Sunday after a plane from Israel arrived, forcing security forces to close the airport and divert flights while removing the demonstrators.

The incident prompted Israel to urge Moscow to protect Israelis and Jews in Russia.


subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.