GAZA HOLDS ITS BREATH

GAZA HOLDS ITS BREATH

Fears mount of imminent ground assault; Gaza without power, hospital supplies dwindling, humanitarian crisis unfolds.

Joseph Krauss Wafaa ShurafaUpdated: Thursday, October 12, 2023, 06:15 PM IST
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GAZA HOLDS ITS BREATH | PTI

Gaza is bracing for an all-out war, with Israeli troops and tanks taking positions on the border. The Benjamin Netanyahu government is under intense public pressure to topple Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007 and remained firmly entrenched through four previous wars. In the run-up to the expected invasion, Israeli air strikes on Wednesday demolished entire neighbourhoods, even as Gaza’s only power plant ran out of fuel, forcing it to shut down.

Israel cuts off power, food & water supplies to Gaza

In a bid to ‘choke’ the tiny enclave, Israel has cut off power, food and water supplies to the region; that leaves Gaza a densely populated area -- with only generators but they also run on fuel that is in short supply. Airstrikes smashed entire city blocks to rubble in Gaza and left an unknown numbers of bodies beneath mounds of debris. The bombardment raged on even though militants are holding an estimated 150 people snatched from Israel as human shields.

In a new tactic, Israel is warning civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods rather than just individual buildings then inflicting devastation, in what could be a prelude to the ground offensive. An Israeli Defence Forces spokesman said they will soon be deploying 'infantry, armoured soldiers, artillery corps', plus 300,000 reservists, close to the Gaza Strip to execute their mission. As fears mounted inside the enclave of an imminent assault, an Israeli defence official vowed that Gaza will become a 'tent city' and every building will be razed. In the early hours of Wednesday, Israeli forces conducted 250 airstrikes in just one houracross northern and eastern parts of the Gaza strip.

War is escalating

The war, which has already claimed at least 2,200 lives on both sides, is expected to escalate and compound the misery of people living in Gaza; already, a humanitarian crisis is unravelling in the 140-square-mile territory with hospitals struggling to treat the injured with dwindling medical supplies. "There is no safe place in Gaza right now", journalist Hasan Jabar said after three Palestinian journalists were killed in the bombardment of a downtown neighbourhood, which is home to government ministries, media offices and hotels.

"I am genuinely afraid for my life." Israeli airstrikes late on Tuesday struck the family house of Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of Hamas' military wing, killing his father, brother and at least two other relatives. Undeterred by the strikes, militants continued to fire rockets at Israel, including a heavy barrage at the southern town of Ashkelon on Wednesday.

Antony Blinken headed to Aviv

Exchanges of fire over Israel's northern borders with militants in Lebanon and Syria, too, continued and pointed to the risk of an expanded regional conflict. US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned other countries and armed groups against entering the war. Meanwhile, the first shipment of US weapons has arrived in Israel, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is heading to Tel Aviv to assess the country’s needs.

Blinken will also be discussing the hostage situation. In an apparent warning to Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, which support Hamas, Biden said, To any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of the situation, I have one word: Don't. Hamas responded to Biden, saying his administration should review its biased position and move away from the policy of double standards over what it said was the Palestinians' right to defend themselves against Israeli occupation.

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