Foreigners Evacuate Gaza as Death Toll Rises: Could Israel’s Attacks be War Crimes?
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, more foreigners are preparing to leave the besieged Gaza Strip. The Hamas-run government in Gaza has reported that at least 195 Palestinians have died in Israel’s attacks on the Jabalia refugee camp, strikes that UN human rights officials believe could be war crimes.
Evacuations have already begun, with at least 320 foreign citizens and dozens of severely injured Gazans crossing into Egypt on Wednesday. Passport holders from countries such as Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the United Kingdom, and the United States were among those evacuated. The Gaza border officials have announced that the border crossing will reopen on Thursday to allow more foreigners to exit. It is estimated that around 7,500 foreign passport holders will leave Gaza over the next two weeks.
Despite the initial evacuations, there are still over 20,000 wounded people trapped in the Gaza Strip, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The organization has called for a greater number of people to be evacuated and for a cease-fire to be implemented. MSF’s Palestinian staff members are still providing care in the territory, and another international team is waiting to enter as soon as the situation allows.
Among the first group of foreign citizens to leave Gaza were twenty Australians. Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts confirmed their safe arrival in Egypt via the Rafah border crossing. However, there are still 65 Australians trapped in Gaza, and the government is urging them to move towards the Rafah crossing as soon as possible.
Israel has been conducting a relentless offensive against Hamas militants, bombing Gaza by land, sea, and air. The Israeli government claims that Hamas has command centers and other “terror infrastructure” intentionally located within civilian buildings, putting Gazan civilians at risk. In response to Israel’s strikes, Gaza’s Hamas-run media office reported that at least 195 Palestinians were killed in the attacks on Jabalia, with 120 missing under the rubble. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed serious concerns about the high number of civilian casualties and the scale of destruction, suggesting that these attacks could amount to war crimes.
As the situation in Gaza worsens, international calls for a humanitarian pause in hostilities are growing. Conditions in the enclave have become increasingly desperate due to Israel’s assault and tightened blockade. Shortages of food, fuel, drinking water, and medicine are exacerbating the crisis. Hospitals are struggling to cope, with fuel shortages forcing shutdowns, including Gaza’s only cancer hospital. Israel has refused to allow humanitarian convoys to bring in fuel, citing concerns that it could be diverted for military purposes.
The United States is also getting involved in the conflict. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to depart for his second visit to Israel in less than a month. He plans to meet with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to express solidarity and emphasize the need to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Blinken will also visit Jordan and discuss efforts to secure the release of all hostages held by Hamas.
In the US, the House of Representatives is considering a bill that would provide $14.3 billion in aid for Israel. However, the bill is unlikely to become law as it faces opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has threatened a veto. President Joe Biden is pushing for a $106 billion bill that would fund Ukraine, border security, humanitarian aid, and support for Israel.
As the conflict rages on, the international community continues to call for an end to the violence and a return to peace negotiations. The situation in Gaza remains dire, with innocent civilians bearing the brunt of the violence. It is crucial that all parties involved prioritize the protection of civilian lives and work towards a sustainable solution that brings lasting peace to the region.