Israel Intensifies Offensive in Gaza, Raising Concerns About Civilian Casualties
Israel has launched a renewed offensive in the southern Gaza Strip, resulting in a significant increase in civilian casualties. Since the fighting resumed on Friday, at least 200 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. The United States has called on Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians, emphasizing the importance of this issue going forward.
Focus on Khan Younis
Many of Israel’s attacks on Saturday were concentrated in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza. The military reported striking more than 50 Hamas targets with airstrikes, tank fire, and naval attacks. Despite dropping leaflets urging residents to leave, there have been no reports of large-scale evacuations. The densely populated south of Gaza, home to almost 2 million people, leaves residents with limited options for relocation.
Confusion Surrounding Evacuation Efforts
In response to US calls to protect civilians, the Israeli military released an online map. However, the map has caused more confusion than clarity. Dividing the Gaza Strip into numerous numbered parcels, it fails to specify where people should evacuate to. Additionally, the lack of electricity and recurrent telecommunications cuts make it difficult for residents to access the map.
Concerns for Egypt’s Border Security
Egypt has expressed concerns that the renewed offensive could lead to Palestinians attempting to cross into its territory. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated that the forced transfer of Palestinians is a red line. Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris, who was attending the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, was expected to discuss proposals with regional leaders to prioritize Palestinian voices in planning the next steps for the Gaza Strip.
Hostages and Prisoner Exchanges
The recent hostilities have also raised concerns for the remaining 136 hostages held captive by Hamas and other militants. During the truce, 105 hostages were freed, but the collapse of the ceasefire dashed hopes for the release of more captives. The Israeli army confirmed the deaths of four more hostages, bringing the total known dead to seven. Additionally, Israel released 240 Palestinians from its prisons during the truce, with the majority being women and children.
Humanitarian Crisis Worsens
The conflict has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, facing shortages of food, water, and other essential supplies. Since the resumption of hostilities, aid convoys and fuel deliveries have been halted, and humanitarian operations within Gaza have largely ceased. The International Rescue Committee warns that the return of fighting will wipe out even the minimal relief provided by the truce and prove catastrophic for Palestinian civilians.
Discrepancies in Casualty Figures
The death toll from the conflict is disputed, with differing accounts from Israeli and Palestinian sources. According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, over 13,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s assault, with two-thirds of them being women and minors. However, Israeli officials claim that they are targeting Hamas operatives and attribute civilian casualties to militants operating in residential areas. Israel also claims to have killed thousands of militants but has not provided evidence to support this claim.
As the offensive continues, there is growing concern about the impact on civilian lives in Gaza. The international community, led by the United States, is urging Israel to prioritize the protection of civilians. Efforts to address the humanitarian crisis and facilitate prisoner exchanges should also be a priority. Ultimately, a long-term solution that ensures peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians remains elusive, but the need for a two-state solution is increasingly emphasized by the Biden administration.