Thousands of Gaza residents desperate for food broke into warehouses holding aid from the United Nations as the world body warned that “civil order” was breaking down as Israel’s blockade of Gaza continues.
The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said that wheat, flour, and other essentials were taken from several warehouses in the Gaza Strip.
“Thousands of people broke into several UNRWA warehouses and distribution centers in the middle and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, taking wheat flour and other basic survival items like hygiene supplies,” UNRWA said.
So far, the UN says that 84 aid trucks have crossed into Gaza from Egpt — enough for about 20% of the supplies needed by Gazans, according to International aid experts.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday warned the situation in Gaza is declining and he repeated his call for a ceasefire.
“The situation in Gaza is growing more desperate by the hour. I regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause, supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations,” Guterres said on a visit to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. “The number of civilians who have been killed and injured is totally unacceptable.”
“The world is witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe taking place before our eyes,” Guterres added.
Israel has no incentive whatsoever to stop the blockade. As long as more than 200 hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza, there cannot be business as usual in allowing food, fuel, and medicine to flow unimpeded into Gaza City.
“More than two million people, with nowhere safe to go, are being denied the essentials for life – food, water, shelter and medical care – while being subjected to relentless bombardment. I urge all those with responsibility to step back from the brink,” said Guterres.
The “brink” has already been crossed, and the only ones with responsibility are the Hamas terrorists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference on Saturday — the first since the October 7 attack on Israel. He said the “second stage of the war” had begun.
“This is the second stage of the war, whose objectives are clear: to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home,” he said.
The Israeli military said it was gradually expanding its ground operations inside Gaza, while stopping short of calling it an all-out invasion. Casualties on both sides are expected to rise sharply as Israeli forces and Palestinian militants battle in dense residential areas.
Despite the Israeli offensive, Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel, with the constant sirens in southern Israel a reminder of the threat.
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose Saturday to just over 7,700 people since the war began, with 377 deaths reported since late Friday, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Most of those killed have been women and minors, the ministry said.
An estimated 1,700 people remain trapped beneath the rubble, according to the Health Ministry, which has said it bases its estimates on distress calls it received.
“This is our second independence war,” claimed Netanyahu. “We’re going to save our country.”
Is this the much-anticipated ground offensive in Gaza? The Israeli defense ministry is deliberately avoiding the use of the word “invasion,” instead describing the operation as the IDF “gradually increasing its ground activity in the Gaza Strip and the scale of its forces.”
“The campaign will continue until further notice,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Much hangs in the balance: global perceptions of Israel as it wages urban warfare that further imperils civilians; the resiliency of Hamas, which has had years to booby trap the enclave it rules; the effectiveness of President Joe Biden’s plan to back Israel publicly while pushing for a more limited military operation privately; and the fate of 230 hostages held in Gaza.
There’s going to be nothing “surgical” about Israel’s operation, despite Joe Biden’s pleas that the IDF carry out a limited offensive using precise air strikes and special forces trained in urban warfare. Israel has already rejected that suggestion. But whether Israel can actually destroy Hamas as a fighting force might prove to be a far bigger challenge for the IDF.